However, what happens if we do not identify those at risk? If we do not, we find ourselves with that hard core whom we cannot reach, and that hard core is reinforced by the factors that I have already spoken about. When you choose a life partner, one of the big things that you tend to look for is that a person has had the same educational experience as you. Two people who can discuss books, theatre and so on, and who at least had a chance to go to university, have infinitely more in common than a couple where one of the two has consistently failed. Increasingly in the dyslexia world, we find that generations of families have all had dyslexia and nobody has passed an exam. We are increasingly finding that the people in the last couple of generations of such families have never had a job, and that contributes to the downward spiral. That happens when you fail to be identified as dyslexic, when you are not given the necessary support and when your parents do not have the desire, the money or the time to make sure that you get the help that you need within the education system. This goes back to

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1903

the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor. It happens when you are not economically active and do not receive the support to catch up.

It should be remembered that one of the problems is that you are on a conveyor belt in the system. You have to hit targets at points in your life that are directly related to your age, and if you are not achieving, you are slipping back. Also, if you are told that you are a failure, you are even less open to that prolonged process of still having to achieve things which you know other people have already done.

Whatever progress we have made in the nearly 30 years since I first spoke about this, unless we concentrate on the early recognition of this problem, we will always compound it. There is an argument within the prison system about whether dyslexics are over-represented by a factor of two or a factor of five. We know that the prison population has the lowest level of literacy compared with any other part of the population, at 50% to 70%. Possibly having some more substantive academic work done in that field would help, but these are the groups where you find the by-product of reinforcing failure by not identifying it.

I hope that my noble friend will have some words of encouragement on this, because unless we start to get to this hard core at the bottom of the pile—this group that reinforces failure—it will always be there. It will always be difficult to reach and to help. People in the education system need to start saying, “I think you have a problem”, as opposed to individuals having to go to the education system and saying, “I think I have a problem”. First, we should remember what some people know as normal—that nobody in their family has passed an exam—and, secondly, we should remember that people do not want to be told one more time that they are stupid. If we do that, we will start to chip away a little at our hard core and make the system a little more accessible to the people in that group. It is not a miracle cure but it might take away some of the problem.

2.05 pm

Baroness Uddin (Non-Afl): My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for the opportunity of this debate and I add my salutation to all those wonderful teachers who go beyond their duty of care. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Greenfield, that an individual teacher can make all the difference. In my own case, I remember my wonderful teacher, Nicolle Freni, who made all the difference to many of the girls whom she taught.

I believe, and have always believed, that through the opportunity of education people enhance their chances of having greater access to improved personal and financial circumstances. That is why many parents like mine crossed the seven seas. At the same time, having myself experienced an English education and other institutions, I can say with confidence that being better educated and becoming integrated into the mainstream of life does not necessarily protect a person from the walls of prejudice. Thus, for some, social mobility through education can never be guaranteed.

I and my cohort of the late 1970s and early 1980s in the East End of London fought for the notion that not only do we have to address the quality of schools and

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1904

equality in education but we also have to tackle head on the structural and societal deficits and inequities to kick-start a generation of communities who are stuck simply because of where they came from and where in the inner city they and their families settled.

As an activist in the very exciting period of the 1980s, I remember how I and others hoped that social policy changes enveloping poverty, poor housing, education, health, employment and childcare would have a significant impact on improving people’s life chances. Although it has taken many more decades than we had envisaged and anticipated, our intervention has produced some positive developments, although those are far from meeting our expectations. Overall in the same population, poverty, unemployment and health inequalities remain deeply embedded, and social mobility is, at best, stagnant. Indeed, for the poorest in our society, opportunities to get on and prosper have probably shrunk.

Far from creating social mobility, the variable provision of primary and secondary education too often compounds social immobility according to available resources and, sadly, postcodes. Just as the Americans mythologise a land of opportunity that is a fallacy, we are guilty of speaking in favour of a social mobility that is truly out of reach for too many in this country. The OECD study, which has already been mentioned, found in 2010 that Britain had the lowest intergenerational income mobility of all the developed countries in the study. This pattern can be found in relation to attainment throughout the life cycle. Taking GCSEs as an example, in 2011 34% of pupils on free school meals achieved five good GCSEs including English or maths, compared with 62% of pupils from more prosperous homes. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, that it is not necessarily about social circumstances; it is what is provided in many schools that can make a fundamental difference to pupils.

Take the top universities—five elite schools sent more pupils to Oxford and Cambridge than 2,000 schools comprising two-thirds of the entire state sector. We know the statistics. Take the professions—more than two-thirds of the public servants and leading lawyers studied by the Sutton Trust were privately educated, while the thousands of graduates in Tower Hamlets and neighbouring boroughs cannot access the hundreds of thousands of jobs on their City doorstep and the increasing number of our home-grown graduates are staffing the rising pockets of areas which have local branches of Sainsbury and Tesco. As Sir John Major observed last year:

“In every single sphere of British influence, upper echelons of power in 2013 are held overwhelmingly by the privately educated or the affluent middle class”.

He said that, counterintuitively, our education system is not an engine of social mobility and that too often it reinforces social division.

The truth is that there is scarce room at the top for accommodating diversity and for disadvantaged groups. We are not an equal society when it comes to men and women, majority and minority groups, the able bodied and the disabled. Social mobility will remain cloth that is cut by the elite and a matter for the conjecture of social scientists rather than of social ambition or

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1905

justice. Higher spending on primary and secondary education over the past decades has not succeeded in rectifying this. Money alone will not create opportunities unless we root out institutional and societal prejudices and inequalities.

The gentrification of east London and the docklands has had little impact on the social mobility of the longer-established Bangladeshi, Chinese and Somalian families. Most second-generation people born and educated here can look in awe at the skyscrapers, penthouses and townhouses which are beyond their financial capacity. With too little in the way of mobilising the consciousness of the large corporate businesses that occupy these neighbourhoods, most workers commute in daily. The ongoing regeneration has certainly not catapulted the British-born generations into social mobility or given them the opportunity to take up any meaningful leadership position and senior jobs in the neighbouring square mile.

Even the magnificence of the Olympics and its aftermath has had only little, limited and peripheral benefit for the local communities—bar catering and retail jobs. The stagnant social mobility of past decades has revealed that economy, growth and higher overall educational performance will not create social mobility when accompanied by inequality. Intervention targeted at the most disadvantaged is required to open up opportunities still enjoyed by only a few.

Needless to say, children with special needs are eight times more likely to be permanently excluded than those without SEN. Among children with autism, 27% have been excluded from school compared with 4% without autism. The Children and Families Act, which has concluded its passage through this House, will replace special educational needs statements with education, health and care plans. I welcome the Bill’s attempt to reduce the labyrinth of bureaucracy that confronts children with special educational needs and their carers by co-ordinating the provision of schools, NHS and social services. But removing the legal obligation for services will, I believe, further alienate the vast numbers of already disadvantaged students in the education system, and it is regressive. I am particularly concerned about those who are autistic and their carers; our mishaps will almost certainly create another underclass for whom social mobility is out of the question. I wonder whether the Minister will take on board social mobility in the upcoming review of strategies for people who are autistic.

As someone who has struggled and fought against apartheid in the education system, I understand that no Government or institution alone can root out inequality totally. However, as someone who has local government and parliamentary experience, I also believe that we must make our best efforts to erase structural inequalities so that all children have equal opportunities, at least in terms of the result that they leave school with, and that when they face the prejudice and barriers in their adult life, we will have equipped them with the skills, strength and aspiration for them to develop sufficient tools to compete in the workplace and in life as an adult generally.

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1906

Social engineering of the education system, depending on the Government of the time, uses mainly already disadvantaged children as pawns to trade statistics. We know that in reality any impact on the state of education would have been accumulated over decades, not over the term of any particular Government.

Raising the Bar: Closing the Gap is an admirable ambition. The panacea of upward social mobility will remain an ambition unless the best that primary and secondary education has to offer is constructed with equity and social justice. I agree with the comprehensive analysis of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle that we have to be all-encompassing in our response to unlocking the full potential of all our children.

2.16 pm

Lord True (Con): My Lords, it is a privilege indeed to take part in this debate, not least because it was initiated by my noble friend Lord Nash, for whom I have enormous respect. I did not find his speech rhetorical or partisan—I found it compelling and impressive, and his logic was unarguable.

I declare an interest as leader of a London borough. Perhaps I should also say, in the light of some of the things that have been said implying that the grass was once so green, that in the 1990s I was for a good time a member of Sir John Major’s Policy Unit at No. 10, with responsibility for education—a sort of precursor of the noble Lord, Lord Adonis. There, like him, I had experience of the tenacity and, at times, ferocity of those who opposed the kind of reform that Mr Major wanted in terms of creating opportunity for all—the creation of Ofsted, the publication of school results, and so much else. Rarely, in a life of public service, have I found such a shocking lack of humility or indeed any sense of responsibility, as was displayed by some of those who had peddled and clung to nostrums in education which were manifestly failing and have manifestly failed. Many were complicit in what I think were lost opportunities and the waste of young lives. Some, at best, washed their hands week by week in the Times Educational Supplement as Beveridge’s “giant of ignorance” stirred. England slid down the tables of international competitiveness and a generation and more of young people, almost invariably the least privileged and most disadvantaged, were let down by those who underasked of them, attacked knowledge-based learning and dumbed down standards. My noble friend Lord Nash is right to be angry about this, and I believe that that feeling is shared by many on all Benches in this House and outside. I wholly agree with what he said about examinations, curriculum content, the tyranny of politically correct methods and so much else.

It has always been the case that reformers such as my noble friend Lord Baker of Dorking, the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and my right honourable friend Michael Gove are accused of acting in haste or out of ignorance. But we need urgency; we need determination. I speak as a strong admirer of what Mr Gove is seeking to do. I say to the House and to many who criticise him that his life story and his humane intellect speak to us of what good education can achieve. He is right to act quickly and decisively. The Prime Minister

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1907

is not here to listen, but I trust that Mr Gove will remain in office to complete the work that he has begun.

I think that this debate’s title is something of a truism. As other noble Lords have said, social mobility is the essence of all education. Is not the purpose of education to show young people the best, teach them the best and bring out the fullest potential in all? The great betrayal is not to ask the best and the most of all and to stretch every child. I owe all that I have done in my life, after my parents, to those who taught me. Like the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle, I was the first in my family to go to university. Like the noble Lord, Lord Baker of Dorking, I do not necessarily think that a university education is the be all and end all, but my teachers got me there. I was taught by a remarkable group of people, from my year 2 primary teacher who recognised that my love of books and precocious reading did not make me strange but opened up a great thing in reading and those teachers in my secondary school. The other day I came across a yellowing prize day booklet. All their names were in there—it made for wistful reading. Almost none of them had a formal education qualification, although they had degrees in subjects about which they were passionate. They would never be allowed to set foot in a maintained school now as they would not have so-called qualified teacher status. Frankly, I cannot think of a more qualified group of teachers to bring out the best in young people and I honour what is sadly now mostly their memory, as I honour all good teachers who seek to bring on the young.

I support what my noble friend said about training and the freedom given to free schools and academies to employ those without qualified teacher status. We need diversity in education, including the best teachers wherever they come from. Diversity also means a wider range of schools and choice. Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the topping-out of a new sixth-form school in my borough where we have invested £25 million or more in bringing sixth-form choice to young people in all our secondary schools. If your Lordships will allow me a whimsical aside, I must say that this change has been bitterly opposed at every stage by my Liberal Democrat colleagues on the council who have voted against sixth-forms at every stage—a quite bizarre policy from that party, although I do not expect my noble friends here on the right of me to defend that.

Some youngsters will still choose to go to FE colleges; some will want the technical course that is so wisely and brilliantly being opened by my noble friend Lord Baker. It also must be right to offer the option of sixth-form choice with the attraction that that offers to specialist teachers and the example that successful more mature youngsters offer to younger children. We need to help young people to move on in the best way for each of them, and I believe that inspiring peer models within schools are incredibly important in education. Had I more time, I would also say how much I support, in the cause of diversity, faith schools which do outstanding work in primary and secondary schools often, as we heard from the right reverend Prelate, in some of the toughest inner cities. I deplore the attacks now being made on faith schools. How

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1908

perverse it is to wish to destroy such islands of excellence and their ethos, as if we are not all taxpayers mutually contributing to the diversity of free education for all.

As part of diversity, I welcome academies and free schools. All our secondary schools in Richmond are now academies, but most have become so in informal partnership, working as a local family of healthily competing but friendly schools. I am a little suspicious of very large chains of academies. Again, like the right reverend Prelate, I believe that the spirit of place is important in a school. A good school should be at the heart of its community; it should not be remote-managed from afar. I was pleased to hear my noble friend speaking about more multischool academies where local primary and secondary schools work together, pooling their experience for the benefit of their area. We are working actively on these concepts locally now and I hope that my noble friend will reiterate his support for that.

The independence of schools is something that people in local government and everywhere must accept as a great benefit. In my Downing Street days we worked to support the new grant-maintained schools, whose parents actually voted for self-government. How sad it was to see those parental hopes snuffed out by an incoming Government after 1997, along with a number of other things which offered opportunity. It is good to see many academies, CTCs and free schools now recapturing that self-governing spirit, following on from the work of the noble Lord, Lord Adonis. I thank him and my noble friend for that, and I hope that we will hear unqualified support for academies and free schools from the Front Bench opposite in the wind-up.

Having spoken strongly in support of my noble friend’s policies, I hope he will allow me a couple of more qualifying comments. First, the system is too loaded against local authorities. I understand the suspicion of local authorities. I well remember in the 1990s how some councils worked to thwart and even threaten self-governing schools. But the world has moved on. Not all local authorities are hostile to academies, CTCs and free schools—quite the reverse. We still have a statutory duty to provide school places and welcome good schools from any source.

I understand why successive Governments might want to stop local authorities preventing or hampering new academies or free schools, but the law now even hampers their creating them. It seems absurd that department officials do not always openly discuss with local authorities sites for free schools. That makes it much harder for free schools and planning school places alike. It is absurd that councils seem the only institutions not able to propose new academies or free schools, except at the fringes. We would not want to do this to run them; running schools is for others. I believe in the support of academies and local authorities have a contribution to make. I hope that my noble friend will consider that as the law evolves.

Perhaps I may make a special plea from the point of view of the London area. Will my noble friend on the Front Bench beat the drum at the door of the Department for Communities and Local Government to stop its damaging policy of allowing the uncontrolled change

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1909

of offices into residential flats? We are seeing blocks going that could have been free schools and prices are being forced up to residential levels beyond the Education Funding Agency’s pocket. This is happening for quick financial gain, with the developers required to contribute not one penny towards new schools for the children of the new residents they are packing into former offices. It is a destructive policy with a potentially bad impact on medium-term education provision in London. I do not expect an answer now, but I plead with my noble friend and Mr Gove to use all their powers of persuasion to stop this soon.

I will not trouble your Lordships further. I am enormously heartened by the courageous steps being taken by my noble friend and Mr Gove. They have my strongest personal support in all they are striving to achieve to improve the life chances of all.

2.28 pm

Lord Graham of Edmonton (Lab): My Lords, it is a great pleasure to make a contribution to the Thursday debate club because many, like me, look forward to the relaxed opportunity that we have of speaking without the Whip and about our own experience. If we are talking about social mobility, there is no better place to start than at the bottom. That is where I started on my social mobility. I was the eldest of five children, born in the 1920s. My dad was unemployed in 1930 and finally got a job in 1939, when the war started. He was on what we would call the dole, and in 1937 he received the state benefit of 37 shillings a week. I remember discussing this with him. It was two shillings for each child and there were five of us, so that 10 shillings was very important.

Of course, I remember most the love and affection that I received from my brothers and sisters and from my parents. However, let me give two illustrations of the extent to which being at the bottom of social mobility occurred to me. One day I dashed home with a piece of paper in my hand and said to mam and dad, “Mam, dad, I have passed the exam, the 11-plus”. Dad laughed and mam cried. They reacted in that way because they could do nothing about it. There was little discussion about whether I would be able to go to the other school. Having earned the place and shown that I had some ability, that was it.

I finished up at school as head boy. When people ask, “What kind of a school was it?”, I say, “Well, it was not a secondary school or a grammar school; it was an elementary school”. I took an exam to move on from the elementary school, which I passed, but I was unable to go. Later on I got the opportunity to take an exam to go to Atkinson Road Technical School—my friend from Newcastle who sits on the Benches opposite will understand the geography—which I passed, but of course I did not go. In time, mainly through my own efforts but thanks to the good work of the National Council of Labour Colleges, the Workers’ Educational Association and the Co-operative College, I finally landed here.

I know that my friend from Newcastle will enjoy this extract from the Newcastle Chronicle which, under the heading “Remember When”, states:

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1910

“Haven’t you come a long way, my Lord?”.

That was me. I have not changed. It tells my life story and says that eventually I went on to the Open University. I remember that in the first class I was associated with was an 82 year-old lady who was taking advantage of the opportunities.

When we talk about social mobility, we must remember that there are many illustrations—I was delighted by the contribution of my noble friend Lady Taylor—of the reasons why people who have potential fail to take advantage of it because of circumstances. She mentioned a good friend of hers who left school at 15 because there was no incentive or opportunity to go on even though she could have done. The only question I want to ask the Minister, which I have asked before, is whether we can have a 2014 comparison with the days I am talking about. I am convinced that many people would have had the opportunity to go on last year and this year but failed to take advantage of it, not because they were unable to do it but because, primarily, their parents needed their wages to come into the house.

I can remember when I dashed home with a pair of boots and said, “Mam, dad, look, I have got a pair a boots”. At the age of 10 or 11, I had never had a pair of boots in my life. Dad said to me, “Where did you get the boots from?”. I said, “A policeman came to the school and gave me this pair of boots”. He hit me around the head. He said, “Tell the truth”. I said, “Mam, I am telling the truth”. What had happened is that two policemen had come into my classroom, whispered to the teacher and the teacher pointed out different people—Tommy, Willy, Wilfie, Charlie, Teddy. We all went out and we were all fitted with a pair of boots. Years later I spoke about this to my mam and dad and said, “Mam, when I told you about the pair of boots, you cried”. She said, “Yes”. I said, “Why did you cry, mam?”. She said, “Because I knew that the teacher had selected the poorest pupils in the class to get a pair of boots”. In those days, all I ever wore were plimsolls, sandals and sand shoes, but I got a pair of boots. When things like that have happened to me and other people, social mobility becomes meaningful.

I was grateful to get the Library brief on this. It is an excellent document, which lays out the various interpretations of social mobility. The greatest illustration of it, to my mind, is opportunity. If you have it in you and you take advantage of the opportunities, you may or may not get some of the rewards. I would welcome from the Minister—not today because I realise research may have to be undertaken—a statistic that will tell me, fairly and honestly, the number of people who fail to go on with their school education and drop out at the earliest opportunity, and which shows the intelligence that informs the teachers and others that this is because of economic circumstances.

I do not wish to extend the politics involved in this debate—which is primarily about education but involves politics as well—except to say that there are undoubtedly many children in school now who have demonstrated that they could go on but will leave as quickly as they can. This is not because they cannot go on but because their parents have decided to pull them out of school. I think this is a crime. We are talking about young

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1911

boys and girls who may not be as fully aware as we are of what lies ahead, but who are denied the opportunity of going on.

The opportunity to debate these topics is very good. In his opening remarks, the Minister used the phrase, “Our brilliant teachers”. I know that the teachers’ unions will be grateful to have the endorsement that in the mind of the Minister they are brilliant. They do a fantastic job under circumstances which are far from ideal. I hope that out of this debate there will come a better understanding not only of aspiration but of achievement.

2.38 pm

Baroness Tyler of Enfield (LD): My Lords, it is always a huge pleasure and privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Graham, whose powerful personal testimony brings vividly to life the rather dry term “social mobility”. I thank my noble friend Lord Nash for calling this debate. Certainly there can be no overstating the importance of this subject for both the long-term prosperity of the UK and a fairer society, by which I mean equal chances for all irrespective of background.

I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that if we want to give everyone an equal chance to succeed in life, our education system needs to function as an instrument of social mobility. However, as other noble Lords said, I fully accept that education has a wider purpose. Alan Milburn, the chair of the Child Poverty and Social Mobility Commission, said recently that when it comes to school, an “energetic focus on reform” is needed to narrow the educational attainment gap and “drive social mobility”. As we have already heard in this debate, some of that important work is going on.

A contribution to the thinking to which I would like to draw the attention of noble Lords is set out in the recent report of the All-Party Group on Social Mobility—here I declare an interest as vice-chair—called the Character and Resilience Manifesto. The report was drawn up in collaboration with CentreForum and the Character Counts! programme. It highlights the increasingly convincing case for how important attributes such as character and resilience are in terms of improving social mobility. The fundamental argument of the report is that in order for all children to have a fair chance of succeeding in life, character and resilience need to be given a stronger priority within the education system and should become the core business of all schools, as they are already becoming in some. It is this crucial piece of the social mobility puzzle, which has already been alluded to by other noble Lords, that I will focus my remarks on.

What do we mean by character and resilience? I think that language can sometimes get in the way in this area. It is really a shorthand phrase for a set of traits that are sometimes called the soft or non-cognitive skills. In my view, both terms are somewhat misleading as some of this is definitely tough stuff which involves a lot of cognition. Character and resilience traits are closely aligned with social and emotional skills—emotional intelligence, empathy, self-awareness and the ability to forge relationships with others. All of these are important.

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1912

It also encompasses traits such as self-esteem, self-worth, confidence, a sense of well-being and the belief that one has a degree of control over one’s life, as well as things like mental toughness, application, delayed gratification and self-control.

All the evidence shows that character and resilience involve having the drive, tenacity and perseverance to stick with it when the going gets tough, to make the most of opportunities, to bounce back from life’s inevitable setbacks, not to accept second best and to be able to deal with failure. I have laboured that point slightly because I hope to get across the message that we are not talking about pink and fluffy things here; this stuff really matters. The other key thing the evidence tells us is that these character traits are not innate or genetic—a common misconception—but can be taught, and that, significantly, you can learn and develop them throughout your life.

While the core academic skills are of course an indispensable component of education, character skills have been empirically shown to be an equally important predictor of future success across all socioeconomic groups. The work of Nobel prize-winning economist James Heckman builds a strong case for the correlation between character traits and life chances. This is true not only because children with good character skills tend to do well at school—which they do—but because many of the skills that are valued in the jobs market such as self-reliance, teamwork, customer empathy, enthusiasm and being able to communicate well, are ultimately more about character traits than any particular academic skill set.

John Cridland, the director-general of the CBI, said recently:

“There is a danger that schools become exam factories, churning out people who are not sufficiently prepared for life outside the school gates … alongside academic rigour, we also need schools to produce rounded and grounded young people who have the skills that businesses want”.

That point has already been made by the noble Baroness, Lady Massey. In light of this evidence, the question must be asked: how do we ensure that all students, regardless of their background, have access to an education that prioritises both academic development and character development? I want to stress that both are important. It is not a case of either/or; they are mutually reinforcing.

I am not someone who buys into the simplistic argument that if only state schools were more like private schools, the world would be a better place. Many state schools are doing a fantastic job in very difficult circumstances and facing various challenges. They have hugely talented and dedicated teachers who often work with significantly fewer resources than are available in private schools, but I do believe that both sectors could and should learn from each other and collaborate. As others have said recently, the so-called “Berlin Wall” between the two sectors should come down. That is true when you look at some of the differences between private and state schools. The former tend to put more emphasis on character and resilience, which is reflected in the wide range of extracurricular activities that are offered, as well as providing the resources to do so.

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1913

That leads me to the first major policy recommendation made in the all-party group report that I should like to highlight. We need to ensure that the Ofsted inspection framework, which we all know is a key driver of behaviour in schools, takes more account of the efforts made and activities offered in a school to develop these key non-cognitive skills. That means evaluating the extent to which a school provides opportunities for participation in character-building activities as part of its ethos. I agree with other noble Lords that competitive sports and links with the uniformed organisations can be highly beneficial. It might also include engaging with local charities or taking part in social action projects. It may indeed be part of the way the curriculum is taught, perhaps by providing leadership and debating classes alongside more traditional subjects, as well as ensuring that students are helped to deal with both success and failure, and attending to their own emotional well-being. I would contend that the way we evaluate our schools is the strongest policy lever we have for effecting change in education.

A model I want to mention briefly is that of the Bedford Academy, a charitably funded academy school in a deprived area that is modelled on the Knowledge is Power programme that was first implemented in the United States. Students at the academy receive marks not only for their academic performance, but in seven key areas: grit, zest, optimism, social intelligence, gratitude, curiosity and self-control. Although it will be many years before we can measure the full effects of these methods, students are already reporting feeling more aspirational and having a sense of possibility for the future.

As other noble Lords said, the greatest resource we have at our disposal for building character in all students is the teachers who are currently working in primary and secondary schools around the country. Our nation’s teachers are incredible people with wide-ranging interests and talents. If a maths teacher is an excellent chess player, if an art teacher has some previous training in fashion design, or if a science teacher plays football at the weekend, we ought to encourage them all to share these skills with their students.

In light of that, the second policy recommendation I want to highlight is that of incorporating extracurricular activities into teachers’ employment contracts. Just to be clear: this is not about asking teachers to take on extra work for no reward. It is primarily about rebalancing the school curriculum and allowing more time for these activities in the school day. Alongside this, we also call for an understanding of character and resilience to be incorporated into both initial teacher training and continuing professional development.

I should say at this point that I recognise that private schools have resources that state schools do not have. For example, in terms of extracurricular programmes, a state school is not likely to be able to do very much if it does not have adequate playing fields, drama rehearsal spaces, musical instruments and the like. That is why I would like to see private schools being encouraged to share their facilities for extracurricular activities. Many private schools have first-rate facilities in these areas, and, given their charitable

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1914

status, it surely makes sense and serves the public interest to share facilities that are often underutilised with students in the state sector. This would be a significant step forward in terms of equalising life chances.

My final point concerns the geographical disparities in the quality of primary and secondary education. As the all-party group’s report, Capital Mobility, stresses, London has gone from having some of the worst state schools in the country to outperforming other areas in almost every category relevant to social mobility. One reason cited in the report for this imbalance is the visibility of potential opportunities. Students in London, regardless of their background, see opportunities for success all around them. Translating that positive thinking into all geographic contexts will require radical and innovative thinking, but it is essential in order to achieve the goals we are aiming for.

There is much more that I could say, but I think I have used all my time. I look forward very much to hearing the Minister’s response to some of the recommendations I have highlighted today.

2.49 pm

Lord Sutherland of Houndwood (CB): My Lords, I will be the 18th to thank the Minister for ensuring that we have this debate, although my thanks are none the less heartfelt for that and are very sincere. This is such an important topic and it is much appreciated that he succeeded in finding a slot that gave us more time than the usual two or three minutes.

The debate has focused on a wide variety of things. I have agreed with some of the points of view expressed, but I would vary from some of them. One of the opening points made by a number of noble Lords, and indeed in some of the briefings I have had, related to what we mean by social mobility. I find this a bit tricky. When I hear the two options of “absolute” or “relative”, I am reminded of Garrison Keillor introducing the mythical Lake Wobegon, that town in the far, far Midwest in which all the eggs laid by chickens were larger than normal and all the children were above average. That is one of the risks when we start to talk about social mobility. We need to try to understand not what the statistics are, but what Johnny would achieve if he were liberated and opened up to the future and what Mary would succeed in that she might not have otherwise. That is social mobility.

I had two versions of notes for this speech. One, in case I was called early, is packed full of statistics. Happily—as I suspected—most of those have already been produced, and I will not bore your Lordships with them again. The version that noble Lords will get now is, I fear, slightly autobiographical. I do not think I can match my noble friend Lord Graham of Edmonton but I will do my little best. I am from the north-east of Scotland, not the north-east of England, and we are a little less forthcoming with our emotions up there. None the less, I wanted to point your Lordships to a school and a date.

The date is 5 January 1946, and the school is called Woodside Primary School. That was my first day at that state primary. It was just after the war, with my father not yet out of the military, when we all fronted

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1915

up to this state school. It was right at the edge of the north end of Aberdeen—which now extends for another four miles—and surrounded by council estates and old-fashioned tenement-type rented accommodation. That was its catchment area and the population it served. We went along as part of a three-class intake on that first day. My class had 48 pupils in it and our teaching location was a nissen hut that looked as if it had been used to store tanks during the war. It had a coke stove in the middle, which I am sure was a health hazard—there is no doubt that you would not get away with it today. The lavatories were outside and required more of a triumph of mind over matter than anything else even to contemplate going near them.

That was the physical context. Among the 48 of us and the other two classes that arrived at the same time at the school, there were no better-off families, just those who ended up with one shilling and eight pence in their purse at the end of the week and those who did not manage that. That was the difference financially between the children in the class and their parents. It was wartime but, happily, we mostly ate a reasonable diet because food was rationed. We did not have a lot of choice and could not go and buy expensive food, but you got your ration. Most of us, in one way or another, found that that was more than adequate. We wore our brothers, hand-me-downs and read the comics that they discarded towards the end of the week.

That is a picture of a state primary school that apparently had all of the disadvantages that we fear. Did it have anything by way of social mobility to offer? Where did the pupils end up? I will give some examples. Two of us became professors, one of electronics and one of philosophy—the electronics man was the smart guy. One became a Guardian features writer and one became a solicitor. Two became heads of school departments in excellent state secondary schools in Scotland, one in mathematics and one in English literature. One became a Fleet Street printer in the days of hot metal and, from what I remember of him, I dare say that he was one of those who caused Rupert Murdoch most trouble in getting out of Fleet Street. That was a big step, from the north end of Aberdeen to Fleet Street, but he wanted to become a printer and he did it. He was very successful. One became a radio and TV engineer in the early days. He was happy in his work and very good at it; if you had something flickering on your television screen, it was Colin you went for.

The whole range of careers, futures, jobs and professions came out of that class. The range was huge, which allowed some form of social mobility. Was this then some sort of urban idyll, which we could create again? Of course it had one huge flaw, referred to several times in this debate, which is the great divide between what came next: senior secondary and junior secondary. We did not have the 11-plus up in Aberdeen—they are tough guys there—we had an exam named “the control”. You were allocated. Occasionally, one parent would not allow their son or daughter to go on to senior secondary, which was a real tragedy, but there were those who moved through the system. That was a large—perhaps the biggest—flaw in the system but there were forms of upward mobility for all of us. A number went into the construction trade. You still

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1916

had shipbuilding in Aberdeen then; later there was the oil industry and so on. They had the opportunity to move forward.

What allowed this? Was there anything different about that school? Just the obvious things: we had excellent teachers, who were absolutely superb. They were not soft; they were tough, and if Miss Paul called you out in front of the school, you walked shaking towards her. However, tough as they were, they taught us the core skills that an education should teach. We became competent in mathematics, reading and writing; perhaps less so in articulation, but that is a local, social thing. Perhaps if we had had to learn another language, that might have improved things, but we learnt skills that were basic to what we eventually all became. We had supportive parents, who were not involved that much but did care. My parents read books and had books around the house. They read books to me and took me to the local library—originally set up, interestingly, through philanthropy of one kind or another.

There were some other, some might say softer, skills. Football was quite good. I was not especially good at it, but the shining example was held up, as an aspiration for all of us, of an older pupil, Graham Leggat, who had signed professional forms for Fulham Football Club. He might as well have been going to Real Madrid as far as we were concerned. For us, that really was hitting the high spot, at least until a few years later, when we discovered that the guy down the road who kept engineering the defeat of our football team—a spotted youth with national health specs—was actually called Denis Law. That was good, in that we had competitive sport of a good order.

That was education and social mobility at work, and I do not see why we cannot do that now. There are different problems today, and we did not have schools with 39 and 40 native languages to deal with, but we did have a degree of poverty in the place. We did not have the possibility of overseas trips, holidays elsewhere or even visits to the farm. Occasionally, on the odd day when the sun shone, we went for a walk through Persley Den, doubtless slashing at the weeds as we walked down the road without caring about the future of the ecosystem, but that was it.

Are there any lessons to be learnt or is this just sheer self-indulgence? I think there are lessons, such as the excellence of the teachers and the grittiness of the head teacher, who was too old to go to the war but extended his working life to provide opportunity. He was great. He was tough but he was very good. We inherited the problem of the junior and senior secondary. Comprehensivisation was eventually brought in to solve that. I have to say it failed and it is because it failed that we are where we are in the OECD league tables. There are good comprehensive schools but we cannot all be Holland Parks—nor were we.

The education system has had to change and I salute those who have been bringing about that change, not least the noble Lord, Lord Baker, who is with us today, and the Minister and his colleagues in the current Government. The one lesson we take from comprehensivisation is that there is not a single solution. There is not a quick switch in the structure that will

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1917

mean that all will be well and there will be social mobility. That is why I think we have yet to exploit the full richness of the possibility of giving more power to the schools and the head teachers; for example, through the excellent UTC system. We have to give these opportunities and allow schools to develop new ways. There will be failures and there will have to be a decent regulatory system, which, happily, I think we have in Ofsted, but we have to keep working with it.

All the drivers that we have had outlined to us, such as the excellent pupil premium, are necessary but are not sufficient. Eternal vigilance in the education system is all that will be sufficient. We place our hopes and expectations on the teachers, good leadership in schools and commitment to high standards.

3.02 pm

Lord Lexden (Con): My Lords, it is very good to follow the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland. I remember doing so in a previous education debate, when he drew most interestingly on his reminiscences, and it was immensely instructive to hear more from his work of autobiography again today. I will speak chiefly about independent schools and social mobility in this debate, which we owe to my noble friend Lord Nash and which he introduced so brilliantly to us.

My noble friend will always be remembered in connection with the Children and Families Bill, which, by happy coincidence, receives Royal Assent today, as the noble Lord, Lord Storey, told us. None of us who took part in the debates on the Bill—in my case it was only a small part—will forget the immense care and skill with which my noble friend dealt with the protracted proceedings through this House, which resulted in major changes and major revisions to this most important piece of legislation.

The impression of independent schools and social mobility that I would like to give the House differs from that conveyed briefly by the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler. I declare an interest as president of the Independent Schools Association, the ISA, and of the Council for Independent Education, CIFE. The association represents the interests of some 330 independent schools. The council acts on behalf of 18 colleges of further education, which offer a wide range of A-level subjects in extremely flexible combinations.

These schools and colleges, whose success year by year is reflected in the impressive examination results of their students, do not exist to serve a narrow band of well-off families. As a result of the truly excellent education they provide, ladders of opportunity are placed before children of families in all manner of different circumstances. The ethos that these institutions possess makes them profoundly conscious of the contribution they can make to the wider community in general and to social mobility in particular.

My colleague, Mr Neil Roskilly, the chief executive of the ISA, has summed up the predominant features of our member schools as follows:

“The 330 schools within ISA are often small and tend to cater for their local communities. Many of their pupils come from socially deprived backgrounds. A large number of our schools are heavily involved in working with local maintained schools. In

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1918

some cases the fees represent not much more than the cost of places in the maintained sector. An open access scheme backed by the Government would enable us to realise our aspirations—and particularly our contribution to social mobility—even more fully”.

The essential basis of an open access scheme of the kind to which Mr Roskilly refers would involve the transfer of funds equivalent of the cost of a place in the maintained sector for each pupil taking up a place in an independent school participating in such a scheme. My noble friend the Minister has made it abundantly clear that the Government have no plans for such a scheme, but the House will understand that it is widely supported among independent schools, which want to serve their communities more fully.

The characteristics so prominent in ISA schools can be found throughout the independent sector, as I discovered during my seven years as general secretary of the Independent Schools Council, the ISC, which works on behalf of seven member associations—of which the ISA is one—and their 1,220 schools. These schools are firmly committed to the values of a meritocratic society, not those of a privileged elite. They are firmly attached to an idea commended to them nearly 75 years ago. In 1940, the year in which our country faced the severest trials, Churchill declared that,

“after the war, the advantages of the public schools must be extended on a far broader basis”.

Two years later, he said that he wanted 60% to 70% of the places to be filled by bursaries. Like many others at that time, he envisaged that the bursaries would be provided by national and local government to create an enduring partnership between the state and the great public schools, as he always referred to them.

If Churchill’s vision had been carried into effect, the history of post-war education in our country would have been very different, but no great scheme linking the independent sector with the state in the way in which he proposed was ever implemented. From time to time, ambitious plans were drawn up but the results were extremely limited until the introduction of the assisted places scheme by Mrs Thatcher’s Government. The scheme was widely mourned when the Labour Government abolished it in 1997, yet progress towards Churchill’s ideal—access to independent schools on a far broader basis—has taken place.

Wider access is being secured as a result of determined action by the schools themselves. The families of more than a third of pupils at ISC schools now receive help with the fees. The total value of that help is more than £730 million a year and more than 85% of it comes from the schools themselves, even though nearly all of them have little or nothing in the way of endowments on which to draw. Increasingly, fees are being reduced through means-tested bursaries, to the benefit of less well-off families and with the objective of contributing to greater social mobility over the years ahead.

How should the process be carried forward to make independent schools as open and accessible as possible? The headmaster of Eton College, Mr Tony Little, has recently pointed the way. He wrote:

“Schools should state their intent by publishing targets for increasing means-tested bursaries. At Eton at present, 263 boys receive means-tested financial assistance averaging 60 per cent remission of the fee, with 63 paying nothing at all. The short-term target is to raise that number to 320 with 70 on full remission –

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1919

and then move on to the next target, with the ultimate goal of being, in the American phrase, ‘needs-blind’: in a position to take all suitable candidates irrespective of their family’s financial situation”.

The words of the headmaster of Eton make plain the extent of the ambition that can be found in the independent sector, particularly among the great public schools today, ambition which, if given practical effect, would have a profound impact on social mobility even in the absence of a government-backed open access scheme. Already, nearly 30% of pupils at independent day schools in England come from ethnic minority families, a figure uninfluenced by overseas pupils who study in ISC boarding schools. That 30% compares with some 26% from ethnic minority families in English maintained schools.

Widening access to highly successful schools is the most obvious way in which the independent sector can assist the increase of social mobility in our country, but there is a second way: through partnership with the maintained sector, to which my noble friend Lady Tyler referred. She mentioned the frequent references that are made by journalists and by politicians of all parties, including, I am sad to say, recently by the Secretary of State for Education, to a “Berlin Wall” separating independent and maintained schools. Such references create an utterly misleading impression of two antagonistic sectors interested only in exchanging insults. Whatever may have happened in the past, I assure my noble friend Lady Tyler that there is no such Berlin Wall today.

Up and down the country, partnership between independent and maintained schools is flourishing. There are myriad examples; I shall mention just one, well known to my noble friend the Minister: the London Academy of Excellence in Newham, east London, set up in 2012 and sponsored by a group of seven independent schools, including Eton. Yesterday, it was reported in the press that 100 students of the academy had received offers from top universities. Mr Little, the Eton headmaster, is an enthusiastic supporter of partnership because of the mutual benefits it brings. He has said that,

“our teachers and students have something to learn and something to give. Their understanding and skills are enhanced as much as those in the partner state school, if perhaps in different ways”.

Partnership is one of the unsung success stories in education today. When the House is not in session, this Chamber is used for various purposes connected with young people. I suggest that there could be no better purpose than to bring here students and teachers from both maintained and independent schools who have participated so enthusiastically in partnership work. Such an occasion might be organised under the auspices of the independent/state school partnership forum, with which my noble friend and I are connected.

There are some who say that independent schools are part of the problem of stunted, arrested social mobility in our country. I would like to suggest that they could be part of the solution.

3.14 pm

Lord Shipley (LD): My Lords, I am one of three speakers in today’s debate with roots in Newcastle upon Tyne. All three of the speeches may have had

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1920

different content, but the broad argument is the same: it is about enabling all young people to succeed. I therefore thank the noble Lord, Lord Nash, for the opportunity to discuss the role of schools in promoting social mobility.

I think that all speakers in the debate so far have acknowledged that, for social mobility to be a reality, a good education relevant to the career possibilities for each young person is an essential building block. Many have pointed out that a good education has to include experience not just of the world of work but of all the opportunities that could be available to that young person. As we know, career choices often need specific qualifications, not least in STEM subjects, but these career choices can be more limited if the right subjects are not taken at the correct time in a young person’s education.

Raising the participation age means that, next year, young people will have to stay in education or training until they are 18. After the age of 16, young people can study full time, do full-time work or volunteering together with part-time education or a training course, or they can undertake an apprenticeship. In addition, since last September, secondary schools and academies have had a duty to prepare young people for post-16 education and training and provide an individual plan for them. They have to engage with local employers and work-based training providers to offer young people the opportunity to consider options they may not have thought about. It is reasonable to ask how things are going with careers guidance given the raising of the participation age.

An Ofsted report published last September said that,

“the new statutory duty for schools to provide careers guidance is not working well enough”.

It reported that three-quarters of schools are not executing their statutory careers duties satisfactorily—that figure is very high. It identified the problem that links need to be much stronger between schools and businesses. That is a fairly obvious thing to identify because it is about the transition from the world of school to the world of work, but it has nevertheless caused me much concern, not least because there is a very real and fast-growing skills gap that is proving very frustrating for employers. For example, in the north-east of England, my home region, it is reported that there will be too few young people ready and trained to take over from skilled workers now in work but due to retire in the next five years, never the mind the growth in key sectors of the economy demanding more skilled young people. In a region with higher than average unemployment, this is an unacceptable situation to be in, and it is quite unnecessary.

I want to draw the House’s attention to a recent report by IPPR North published in January and entitled Driving a Generation: Improving the Interaction Between Schools and Businesses. The IPPR concludes:

“Today’s secondary school pupils are being let down by careers services that are not equal to the task of helping them navigate the increasingly difficult transition from school to work”.

In essence, it echoes the Ofsted report. The IPPR report makes three important proposals, to which I want to draw your Lordships’ attention: first, that the remit of the National Careers Service should be expanded

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1921

to enable it to perform a capacity-building and brokerage role for schools; secondly, that careers advice should be more fully embedded in the curriculum for pupils beginning in year 7; and, thirdly, that all secondary schools’ careers services should be required to take the lead in developing stronger relationships with major employers and that all employers, especially those with skills shortages, need to be proactive in this process. This amounts in practice to something similar to what is taken for granted in Germany and from which we must learn.

The IPPR has emphasised that the trend towards skills hubs, currently being developed in some of our urban areas and which provide a central information resource, is increasingly important. Basically, they involve information hubs to show key contacts for each business online, what visits they would host and what advice they could offer schools in specific subject areas. As the IPPR says, making those resources easily accessible would enable careers services to spend less time finding local employers to engage with and more time giving face-to-face careers advice to older pupils and arranging the logistics of visits for younger ones.

I have come to the conclusion that we can turn the current problem into an opportunity, because this is not just about money. The cut in funding, amounting to £200 million made available annually to the Connexions service, has not helped but, on the other hand, we have the pupil premium which, as the Minister reminded us in his opening speech, amounts to £2.5 billion. That money is available but there is also the extra £300 million to which the Minister referred, the extra allocation. I am pleased to say that Northumberland Council has received £10.6 million of that, which I hope will be used to increase opportunities across the county to enable young people to be more mobile in gathering work experience.

However, it is not just a matter of money; it is a matter of culture, organisation and leadership. Increasing social mobility starts in primary schools, as a number of speakers have emphasised. Preparation for post-16 education and training should not be considered entirely a matter for key stages 3 and 4. From an early age, children should be encouraged to think about careers and the appropriate ways in which ambitions can be achieved. That means that children need to be taken out of their school and local environment at that stage, encouraged to see a variety of ways of earning a living and to develop their personal aspirations. As we have heard from a number of speakers, that is particularly important for children living in areas of deprivation, where their parents may not themselves have had the opportunity to develop their ambitions. Those children need to be taken to visit their local universities and colleges, to visit local businesses, to visit rural areas, if they live in urban areas and, perhaps, to develop links with schools in other countries or other parts of the United Kingdom that are very different from their own.

The critical issue is this: many young people are unaware of the opportunities available and what educational qualifications are needed to take up those opportunities. Conversely, not enough employers are taking up the chances to invest time in helping young people make the right choices.

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1922

In conclusion, I return to the IPPR report that I cited earlier. What is particularly interesting about its report—I hope that, following our debate, the Minister will look closely at it—is that it tested its conclusions. It arranged for four secondary schools to receive talks from local employers in the automotive industry and for pupils to visit local plants to learn more about the industry and the careers within it. It surveyed young people’s thinking about available careers and found that pupils had insufficient knowledge about which careers did and did not have science qualifications as prerequisites. As a case study, that is very important, because it demonstrates the gap that exists and points to a way to bridge it.

If one of the aims of raising the participation age is to enable young people better to understand the job opportunities that could be available to them and thereby to improve social mobility, the responsibility for achieving that needs to be shared between schools, careers advisory networks and business, but we must be very clear that the leadership role lies with a school’s careers service. I do not know when Ofsted will return to the issue, but I hope that the Minister will be able to say something further about that in his response. We cannot have another Ofsted report which says that three-quarters of schools are not fulfilling their statutory role.

3.24 pm

The Earl of Clancarty (CB): My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for giving us the opportunity to participate in this debate. I thank the House of Lords Library for an excellent briefing paper. I want to talk about two things: social mobility generally and, secondly, the area of education that is my specific concern: arts education. I declare an interest as a vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Art, Craft and Design Education.

A number of your Lordships have carefully called social mobility “tricky”. I intend to be more critical about the term, which is today widely accepted as a social policy and, indeed, perhaps even as a goal in itself for many individuals. However, I read carefully the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, in the debate initiated by the noble Lord, Lord McFall, on social mobility on 6 February, which challenges social mobility as a major social policy, and indeed questions whether social mobility, in the sense in which it is usually meant, operates in anything other than a limited manner.

The noble Lord, Lord Giddens, gave an education example which is worth citing. He said that,

“you might introduce a policy to help kids from an inner-city school to get into a higher level of the system, but middle-class parents can easily mobilise to negate that because they are not stupid and they know what is going on, too”.—[

Official Report

, 6/2/14; col. GC 166.]

In other words, they are more powerful and school education is today a significant site of competition in itself.

That is an important point about the intransigence of the system as it stands, but it also seems to me that social mobility in the sense that it is commonly understood is necessarily predicated not only on the existence of

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1923

but the acceptance of a hierarchical society, because the journey taken from A to B of those who in theory become socially mobile involves moving up rungs, including rungs perceived to exist within the educational system itself, which of course will leave people behind. That is the assumption that has to be made—otherwise there will be no journey.

To me, one of the big problems with social mobility as a policy is that it is too narrow; it is not ambitious enough; it is too piecemeal. Social mobility is not about society, it is specifically about individuals. There is nothing wrong with wanting all people to do better at the thing that they enjoy or are good at—alongside knowledge of the opportunities possible, as the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, pointed out—but a policy that highlights material gain, makes money the god and its accumulation the only worthy pursuit, which social mobility also does, is inevitably flawed and ethically questionable.

What of the people who are left behind: for instance, the children in those schools at the bottom of the league tables? Do we really want “getting on”, to use the old colloquial expression, to be the overarching social policy of our time, when perhaps we should be fundamentally challenging the structure of society itself—the extreme income differences that now exist and the shaming food banks? I would say that social mobility, because it makes unacceptable assumptions about our society, is not a solution to the problem but, unfortunately, part of it.

That is of relevance to school education not least because all sectors impinge on each other. Families that are poor, struggling to survive and feel disfranchised from or neglected by society—I believe that social mobility as an underlying social principle will further promote that sense—will have school-aged children who will grow up within that culture, so the job of good education, particularly in the early years, will be made harder at those levels within society, as the noble Lord, Lord Storey, and the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, made abundantly clear.

The 2012 Institute for Public Policy Research report, A Long Division, by Jonathan Clifton and others states that,

“the problem is not just that a group of the poorest pupils fail to reach a basic level of education … Rather, there is a clear and consistent link between deprivation and academic achievement wherever you are on the scale”.

The overriding problem, then, is not bad education in itself, but greater and greater deprivation, which is something that league tables by themselves will not analyse but will in many cases reconfirm.

The comments in his blog of Peter Brant, head of policy at the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, about bright working-class children believing that they will not fit in at university, which were reported last week in the Daily Telegraph, made me feel how much social mobility has become an end justifying the means, and how badly we need an education system that is understood to be geared to all individual needs, rather than trying to create a normalising effect within society. It is not the gap between educational outcomes that we should primarily be attempting to close but the gap between rich and poor.

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1924

More specifically, I believe that good education should be broad-based education for all students, particularly up to age 16, and also—this may be a high ideal but it is worth fighting for—that every pupil deserves an education that is beneficial to them individually, which, ideally, means as much choice as possible, particularly at secondary school level, including vocational training, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Baker, pointed out, has been so successful in Germany.

On the point about a properly broad-based education, it is for that reason that I would support STEM becoming STEAM. This is one of the major recommendations of last year’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee report, Supporting the Creative Economy, and is supported by Maria Miller, who made this clear in her speech at the British Library in January. Is the message getting through to the DfE that art and design subjects should have the same level of support in the core curriculum as STEM subjects, and is the department giving this serious thought? Having said that, though, and having listened earlier to the passionate and convincing arguments from the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, in favour of greater take-up of foreign languages, I wonder if there is not an excellent case to be made on strong cultural and economic grounds for extending STEM to STELAM, where L could stand for languages and A for art and design.

Choice, however, is also important. I want to take the opportunity to expand a little on the issue of discount codes, which I raised with the Minister in an Oral Question last month. The arts education community is very pleased with the decision to separate dance from drama at GCSE level so that they do not now count together as a single unit towards the performance tables. However, the GCSE art and design subjects, many of which carry the same code, JA2, need to be looked at as well. The Council for Subject Associations states that it is,

“unreasonable and illogical to assume that the differences between an endorsed Photography GCSE and Fine Art GCSE are of little significance”.

It seems fundamentally unfair that these two subjects, alongside others including textile design, should have the same code when the perhaps more closely related mathematics and statistics have different ones.

The National Society for Education in Art and Design says—the Minister may be particularly interested in this as the evidence that he is seeking—that:

“We have had teachers telling us that some art courses will no longer run in their schools, or that different art courses are put in one option block so that students can only pick one when previously they could pick two”.

It seems entirely logical that because of the enormous influence of performance tables, there will be a tendency for schools quite quickly to seek to mirror the performance criteria themselves to achieve the best outcomes in those tables. I hope that the Minister will review the GCSE codes for art and design subjects, and perhaps agree to meeting with interested parties on this issue.

3.33 pm

Baroness Berridge (Con): My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for this wide-ranging debate and particularly for its focus on social mobility. I am not an expert in

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1925

the field of social mobility; I am a case study. I am so fiercely proud of the state education that I received that my title, The Vale of Catmose, was the name of my state comprehensive school. It is now called Catmose College, and in its 2012 Ofsted inspection it received “outstanding” in all four categories as well as overall. I warned your Lordships—I am fiercely proud.

I am the first generation of my family to go to university, and sometimes I still pinch myself to think that from a great-grandmother in service, to a mother who worked the most punishing shifts in a local factory, to my being on the Conservative Benches in the House of Lords is quite a journey. However, I am sure that I am not alone in becoming more and more grateful as time goes by for all the education that I received. A quick glance around the globe, particularly at girls’ education, should make us all appreciate the level of primary and secondary education available in this country at no cost to the child. Such education is pivotal and is the key foundation stone of all social mobility.

I have to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, and the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, that I have some unease myself with the term “social mobility”, as education is important for all human flourishing, and social mobility has somehow come to imply rising up some kind of economic ladder or even a class system. I have appreciated the Government’s focus on vocational education and apprenticeships, as I believe that good education will mean that someone at Eton who wants to be a plumber will be encouraged just as much as a budding brain surgeon in Brixton.

However, education enables children to be socially mobile in this limited sense, and the OECD report in 2010 marked us as the worst among the developed countries. Secondary education is particularly important to social mobility as this is when exposure to the workplace begins, particularly through work experience placements. It is so often a teacher who acts as a talent scout, spotting the gifts of their pupils, opening up horizons and offering them advice. When I began, at 16, to enjoy the more extensive freedom that existed at a sixth-form college, I was advised by a teacher that if I stopped skipping lessons I might get to a land called Oxbridge.

Before global technology brought the world to your smartphone, many rural children needed the world opening up for them. I recently had my nephew Kyle in for a week’s work experience. He lives in deepest rural Derbyshire, and he commented that he had never met so many people from different countries before. None of his friends did anything like as adventurous as coming to London for a week, but I could not help wondering how to ensure that such work experience was opened up more equally to children. Your first work experience placement is often the first rung on the ladder of your CV. As a former lawyer, I was interested to note the recent comments of the Supreme Court judge, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Hale, about the “startling leap” in the proportion of privately educated and Oxbridge lawyers now entering the profession. She said:

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1926

“One of the causes of this, apart from … the networks that their parents have, is the”,


“of work experience and internships in today’s recruitment criteria”.

So although primary and secondary education is one factor in social mobility, it is not the only one. Law is not alone as a profession in this regard; fashion, the creative industries, the media and of course politics all suffer from this. It is through the Twitter campaign, Intern Aware, and friends who work at the BBC that I have been told that you can no longer get work experience at the BBC through knowing someone who works there; everyone goes through a central system and is selected on merit. Could this be a model to be adopted for all public institutions? I understand that some commercial firms, such as Deloitte, are also adopting that strategy. Would it not be possible for the wonderful Peers’ outreach scheme somehow to connect that to the work experience placements offered in your Lordships’ House? I do not just mean with Peers ourselves, as I have outlined.

Recently I was on a train to Cambridge when I stumbled across two 18 year-olds, who were clearly going for the day, sitting opposite me. Obviously, their parents were on the opposite side of the carriage, being embarrassing. They got into a conversation and one of them happened to mention that she had been here to do work experience. At an appropriate juncture I interjected into the conversation and asked for some feedback about that, and inquired where she had been. She mentioned some department to do with seals that I had never heard of. She had had a wonderful time, which I thought was great. I asked her, “How did you happen upon your placement?”. She replied: “My daddy knows the person who runs the department”. When the taxpayer is paying to keep the lights on and to keep the place running, I wonder whether we should be looking at a more objective system of selection.

Secondary education will also be aided to enhance social mobility with what I consider to be this Government’s most radical and exciting policy: to get rid of the divide, however one wants to term it, between private and public schools. However, I believe that this change and partnership began under the previous Government with the significant change to the Charities Act so that no longer is education presumed to be a charitable benefit. One has to produce some evidence to receive gift aid.

I am pleased to note the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, that schools have much to learn from each other. I commend Future First, which was mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, which is bringing in something that private schools have been good at: keeping in touch with your alumni. The state system has lost much by not keeping records and not calling on the experience of those who have been through the system, which Future First seeks to introduce.

I grew up in Oakham, a small market town where, in relation to this divide, there is a context to look at. Oakham is dominated by one private school, but has a state comprehensive school. Over the years, when people have asked, “Where did you go to school?”, and I have answered, “Oakham”, they have immediately leapt to the assumption that I went to the private

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1927

school. Back when I was being educated, there was complete separation. It was not safe for us to play sport against each other. We went to different bakeries at lunchtime, and we were instructed to use different newsagents. I know that things are changing, but the Minister would do well to look at geographical—

Lord Phillips of Sudbury (LD):I hate to interrupt the noble Baroness, but I cannot resist asking her whether she is aware that Oakham School and Uppingham School were founded by Archdeacon Robert Johnson in the 1580s for poor boys and poor girls.

Baroness Berridge: Yes, I am aware of that. Indeed, when Oakham was a grammar school my father passed the 11-plus to go there. I say that that was when I grew up. I believe the context is changing, but there are sometimes particular geographical issues which matter to children growing up in such small areas. There can be that divide between children at the private school and children at the state school. It perhaps does not matter if you live in London.

Most encouraging for this fiercely proud state-educated Baroness is that it seems that the daughters of the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister will follow in my footsteps.

Will the Minister outline how we are going to sort out the key problem of work experience placements on the “mummy and daddy know” basis? As I have outlined, I confess to my involvement in that system.

3.42 pm

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab): My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for tabling this debate today and to all noble Lords who have contributed to what has been a wide-reaching and thoughtful debate. I have to confess to being a little surprised that the Government chose to have a major debate on social mobility because, putting it kindly, I would not have thought that this issue was their strongest suit. After all, the latest evidence shows that, if anything, the education attainment gap is widening.

However, many noble Lords have quite rightly made the point that a proper assessment of the influences on social mobility requires a rather longer-term perspective and is rather more challenging than a simple statistical snapshot would imply. This point is echoed by John Goldthorpe, an eminent professor at Nuffield College, Oxford, who has argued that the rate of relative social mobility, which measures the chances of a given person escaping their class origins, has not changed for a century. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Graham for reminding us of some of the problems that he experienced over that century and which continue to exist today.

Of course, what has happened is that the structure of the labour market has changed, with a rapid growth in white-collar, middle-class employment, which, when combined with a change in women’s employment opportunities, created an upward curve in relative mobility, which unfortunately has now tapered off. It is a challenging issue. In this context, we need to be

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1928

realistic about what government can achieve through education policy alone, but this does not mean that we should not be ambitious.

The previous Labour Government were certainly ambitious and, like my noble friend Lady Taylor, I am very proud of the changes we made to tackle the attainment gap, improve standards and raise aspirations. For example, we spearheaded a relentless focus on raising the status and quality of the teaching profession, delivering the best generation of teachers ever. In 2007, there were 42,400 more teachers than there were in 1997. We invested in Teach First, attracting a new generation of education leaders and teachers with a social mission, bringing the brightest and the best into the most challenging classrooms. The pioneering sponsored-academy programme of my noble friend Lord Adonis transformed schools that for decades had let down the most vulnerable. In the period 1999 to 2008, literacy and numeracy improved, and schools with the highest proportion of free school meals saw a 36% improvement in the number of pupils achieving five good GCSEs. We created the London Challenge, which has been widely credited with turning around many of the London schools and creating the narrowest attainment gap in the country. Reflecting on the point made by my noble friend Lady Massey, we created a network of children’s centres and Sure Start centres to address inequality at the very earliest point, from birth through early years.

All these measures, and many others, were aimed at reducing educational inequality, and we are proud of what was achieved. Our success has been confirmed in a recent LSE evaluation of our time in office, although we are, of course, still committed to reflecting on and learning what more we could and should have done and would do in future.

You would have thought that an incoming Secretary of State committed to addressing social mobility would have taken time to look at the research and learn from the evidence, but, as we know, that is not his style. Instead, there was a ceremonial ripping up of most what had gone before, to be replaced with a glossy new set of untested policies in pursuit of greater social mobility. So, how are they doing so far? Well, we know from Alan Milburn’s social mobility commission report of October 2013 that the Government are missing their targets by a long way. For example, he said that the,

“ambition to end child poverty that the previous government set is going to be missed by a considerable margin, possibly by as much as 2 million children in relative poverty”.

On education, his report finds that:

“The most deprived areas still have 30 per cent fewer good schools and get fewer good teachers than the least deprived. Schools in London are improving most but other places are falling behind for disadvantaged students, including parts of Middle England”.

Meanwhile, other statistics show that under this Government nearly a million young people are not in education, employment or training; and the number of people starting an apprenticeship fell in 2012-13 for the first time since 2005-06. This has been compounded by the Government’s decision to scrap the education maintenance allowance, to sideline constantly vocational education and to create a schools-based careers service

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1929

which is widely acknowledged not to be fit for purpose. That very much echoes the concerns raised by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley. In terms of access to higher education, a 2012 report shows that young people from the richest fifth of families are still three times more likely to go to university than the poorest fifth.

What are we to make of the Government's flagship policies? Of course, we welcome the additional funding that the pupil premium has delivered, but Ministers should not spend too much time patting themselves on the back. The recent report from Demos shows that the attainment gap widened in 72 out of 152 local authorities last year. In 66 areas, the gap was larger than it was two years earlier, before the pupil premium was introduced. This problem is highlighted by the recent Ofsted report which showed schools using the money inconsistently, often to plug holes in other budgets.

Meanwhile, the Government’s obsession with their flagship free schools programme has distracted attention and resources away from the most important thing, a theme which we have heard consistently today: the importance of the quality of teaching. That has led, for example, to West Sussex County Council being forced to put aside £285,000 to ensure that pupils from the failed Discovery free school in Crawley can continue their education back in the state system.

The new education landscape is also leading to greater social segregation, with middle-class parents better equipped to play the game. This includes the financial resource to move house to high-performing catchment areas, to buy additional tutoring or to pay for additional travel. In the words of David Laws, the Education Minister, there is nothing wrong with the sharp-elbowed middle classes dominating the system and pushy parents and those who pay for private education are worth emulating. Well, in contrast to that view, we remain absolutely committed to improving access to good high-quality education for everyone. We will build our policies on evidence, not dogma.

I thank the Minister for his statement on school funding. We will, of course, take time to scrutinise the detail and will want to address the concerns of the Institute for Fiscal Studies that, among the winners and losers, it may be that those in the most deprived areas will lose out disproportionately. We will also want to ensure that it properly addresses the 250,000 extra school places needed as a result of demographic changes, an issue on which the Government have so far shown considerable complacency. We hope to return to that debate at a later point.

Looking forward to a future Labour Government, we recognise that the importance of early-years education would be underlined by expanding free childcare for three and four year-olds to 25 hours a week as part of a wrap-around early years and childcare package. In contrast to the Government’s obsession with school structures, we will concentrate on raising the quality of teaching by ensuring that all teachers have, or are working towards, qualified teacher status. Teachers will have to be revalidated on an ongoing basis and will have new career routes to keep the best teachers in the classroom. We will take steps to repair the morale of teachers, which has fallen so far through the constant

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1930

criticism by this Government. Echoing the significant points made by the noble Lord, Lord Baker, we will create the tech bacc, a rigorous and accredited vocational qualification, on a par with academic qualifications, that will command the respect of employers. We will give young people hope again by eliminating long-term youth unemployment by introducing a compulsory job guarantee for young people, combined with a proper expansion of apprenticeships, including to young people leaving school.

As I said at the outset, there is only so much that an education policy can contribute to improving social mobility. Unlike the opening contribution from the Minister, I think that this debate has got to the heart of what needs to be done. Key themes have been repeated time and time again, such as the vital importance of early years provision; the many pathways to success, not just the academic route; the need for better careers advice; the importance of soft skills, of character, resilience, self-confidence and self-belief, and of communication skills; the need for schools to educate rounded and grounded pupils, not just those drilled to excel in exam factories.

I hope that when the Minister responds, he will be able to demonstrate a little more reflection and a little less certainty, taking on board the many wise points that have been made in the debate today and recognising that we all still have a lot to learn about what truly impacts on social mobility, a cause that I know we all want to address. I look forward to hearing his response.

3.53 pm

Lord Nash: My Lords, it has been a privilege to participate in today’s debate, and I am grateful to all noble Lords for their valuable and insightful contributions. This has been a fascinating and instructive discussion, which has demonstrated once again the range of experience, knowledge and passion that this Chamber offers. I would like to join the ranks of noble Lords who said that they are of the first generation in their family to go to university. However, my grandfather was the professor of oil engineering at Birmingham University, although he got there via night school while working for years on an oil rig. How likely is that to happen today?

I will attempt to deal with noble Lords’ points in order, but so that I can perhaps end on a rather happier note, I will start by addressing some of the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones. I disagree with the noble Baroness that the attainment gap is widening; it has narrowed for pupil premium pupils in primary schools from 17% to 13% under this Government, and is narrowing in secondary schools. I do not wish to say that the Labour Party did not try with its educational reforms, some of which noble Lords will know I am a great fan of. However, between 2000 and 2009 on the OECD tables we fell from eighth to 28th in maths, fourth to 16th in science, and seventh to 27th in literacy, while other countries in eastern Europe and the Far East overtook us. Under this Government we have come off the bottom by a few points in maths and literacy, but we still have a very long way to go. Among our school leavers we now have the lowest level of NEETs for many years.

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1931

As far as free schools are concerned, we have closed one and a half of them. The total number of pupils in those one and a half free schools was 200. The closure of those schools is very significant to those pupils and their parents, and we are working closely with the relevant local authorities to ensure that they find alternative places. In the case of Discovery virtually all of them have. However, those children’s places represent 0.1% of the total 150,000 free school places we have created to deal with the shortage of places we inherited.

So far as unqualified teachers are concerned, I am delighted that we are having this discussion. It is such a red herring, and if that is the best criticism we are going to get, I am delighted. That shows that we are truly reaching a consensus on the future of our education system. The number of unqualified teachers has fallen under this Government from over 18,000 to just under 15,000. It is not true to say that there are more unqualified teachers in academies and free schools; it is only a couple of per cent, and many of those are drama teachers working part-time, support teachers or teachers on their way to qualifications.

I agree entirely with my noble friend Lord Storey, the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, and other noble Lords that a person’s background should not decide their life chances. My noble friend Lord Storey made a brilliant analysis of early years and primary education based on his extensive experience for many years as a primary head in Liverpool. He identified the importance of early identification and the lack of words that pupils from more disadvantaged backgrounds experience. That is why we are putting such an emphasis on early years and primary education. There has been far too much focus on GCSEs, and we all, particularly parents, need to appreciate that it is in primary years that things can go so badly wrong or so right.

I agree entirely with the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, about languages, particularly about the wider benefits of studying a language. That is why we are making such teaching mandatory at key stage 2. I am grateful for her comments about the increased take-up of languages, particularly for less privileged pupils. I will commit to study in detail the Language Trends survey to which she refers, particularly as regards the point she made about take-up, and to consider further what we can do to improve language take-up. We continue to highlight the importance of recruiting high-quality linguists in teaching through our extensive bursary programme, and of course academies now have the freedom to recruit from a much wider field and can bring in native speakers of a language to enthuse and inspire children’s learning, even where they do not hold qualified teacher status. Through the free schools programme we have opened the Bilingual Primary School in Brighton, which delivers the curriculum in both English and Spanish, and the Judith Kerr Primary School in Southwark, where the curriculum is delivered in both English and German.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle spoke eloquently and movingly about the success of the Northumberland Church of England Academy. I agree entirely with him about the importance of links with business, professions, the forces and the wider world. All schools should provide their pupils with a

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1932

direct line of sight to the workplace. That was also mentioned by my noble friends Lady Garden and Lord Shipley, and other noble Lords.

All good schools should involve their local businesses and professional communities to give young people a broad experience of the careers open to them, opening doors, as the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, said. I have been incredibly heartened to see many examples of that developing across the country; for example, Business Class, a programme organised through Business in the Community, brings schools and businesses together. There are now just under 300 partnerships in 59 clusters across the UK, under which pupils gain access to work experience, work placements and careers-focused activities, while businesses have the opportunity to influence the curriculum and skills being taught in schools.

There is also Inspiring the Future, Speakers for Schools, Barclays Life Skills and, in my own school, a huge Raising Aspirations programme involving businesses and charities. I have seen with my own eyes the dramatic effect it can have on pupils who come from incredibly narrow backgrounds to see and mix with people from work. We have two people full-time employed on this programme; I believe that all schools should have at least one person full-time on the programme. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, took me to the Morpeth School in Tower Hamlets recently, where there is a highly successful “speed dating” career service. Tomorrow, I shall be in Leeds, visiting Make the Grade, another organisation that provides schools with a bespoke programme for employability and skills. The remit of the National Careers Service will be expanded to encourage links with businesses.

The noble Lord, Lord Baker, spoke passionately about the UTC programme, and I pay tribute to his relentless determination in this regard. He mentioned NEETs. Our destination measures will, I hope, result in the NEET percentage for schools becoming an increasingly big driver of parents’ choice and school behaviour.

The noble Baroness, Lady Massey, talked about entrenched elitism and the concentration of power in a few hands. It seems odd to some that a party that is sometimes—although it may be rather exaggerated—criticised for being run by a bunch of toffs is so concerned about the future of the most disadvantaged, but we are. Indeed, compared to the home circumstances of many of these young people, we are all toffs, and I know that we all share a concern to make sure that the playing field is levelled. Private school students are 55 times more likely to win a place at Oxbridge and 22 times more likely to go to a top-rank university than students at state schools on free school meals. The life chances of a child are still far too determined by their background, and that is unacceptable.

The noble Baroness mentioned mentoring programmes, of which there are many good examples such as Chance UK, Mosaic and the mayor’s mentoring programme in my own school. We have a large mentoring programme and a separate one to mentor those boys and girls in gangs. The noble Baroness asked whether the Government will survey mentoring and support schemes, and I undertake to look at that.

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1933

We have discussed PSHE at great length, and I am greatly looking forward to speaking at the PSHE Association’s annual conference on 26 June.

My noble friend Lady Garden, and the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, spoke about the impact that poor parenting can have on a child’s life chances. The parenting classes trial known as CANparent is running until spring this year and is delivering high-quality parenting classes benefiting parents from all backgrounds. It aims to test how a market in parenting classes can be established and to remove the stigma from attending such classes, which often puts off young parents in particular. We want all families to be able to access and benefit from parenting classes if they choose, creating a culture of seeking help and strength from parenting classes to be the norm. Parents who attend good parenting classes find that they can be life-changing. I was intrigued by the suggestion from the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, that books should be put in the baby bags that new parents receive. That is certainly something that I shall look at.

My noble friend Lady Garden talked about schools advertising the number of pupils that go on to apprenticeships, and I certainly hope that our new destination measures will encourage this.

The noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, talked about hope and the very early years of children. He mentioned a number of initiatives. Of course, we are also doing a huge amount of work in our programme on families with multiple problems. The noble Lord also mentioned soft skills in secondary schools; I have sent a message at every opportunity about the importance of this and that all schools should have this right at the forefront of what they do. As my noble friend Lady Perry said, good teachers and academy sponsors get this big time—the importance of confidence and inspiration. I do not know a single successful person who does not have that essential confidence and a positive attitude.

My noble friend Lady Tyler reminded us that character and resilience are other important features of a rounded education that are too often overlooked, and that they can be learnt. I am a great believer in characteristics such as learnt optimism. Schools play an important role in providing character-building activities for their pupils, and we encourage all schools to have those programmes. I shall consider the point that she made about taking more cognisance of these. I am also delighted to hear about her recommendations about teachers being involved in extracurricular activities and that character-building skills should be incorporated in ITT and sharing facilities with private providers.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester made some observations about School Direct. In 2013-14, School Direct attracted more applications per place than any other training route, with three applications for every place compared with 1.8 for provider-led provision. It is a struggle to recruit for some of the shortage subjects but this has also been the case for other types of places. All School Direct places are delivered in partnership with an accredited ITT partner and 71% of places have been allocated to schools working with a university provider. The expansion of School Direct has provided opportunities for universities to maintain, or even increase, their ITT market share.

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1934

The quality of ITT training is, however, very patchy. We believe that we need to create other training options, and that competition will improve the situation. Those institutions which do provide good-quality ITT should have nothing to fear from competition. Those that do not—and they exist—need to raise their game, but we believe in a mixed economy in teacher training and greater research into the effects of education measures, which is why, for instance, we have funded, with some £100 million, the education endowment fund.

My noble friend Lady Perry made some very kind remarks about the success of the academies programme and paid tribute to the chain of my noble friend Lord Harris. She mentioned that there are now many other successful chains, including Ark, Greenwood Dale, Outwood Grange, REAch2 and Aldridge.

I was delighted to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, mention that we are moving towards more of a consensus on education. She talked about an overemphasis on structures. I agree that we can talk too much about structures; the key is what happens in the classroom. However, I believe it was Tony Blair who said that you have to free up the structure to get the autonomy for schools to deliver. The noble Baroness mentioned failure. Of course, there are failures in the academy system. We have, in fact, issued 41 pre-warning notices to academies that are failing in their achievement, but 25 of those concern academies approved by the previous Government. I see no point in highlighting that because it is still a very small percentage. Overall, the performance of academies and academy chains far outstrips that of other schools.

The noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, mentioned the 16 to 19 free school we have approved led by Bolton Wanderers Football Club, which will be a continuation of the excellent work it is doing with young people in its community. I was interested to hear first hand about its work when I met the club with the noble Baroness last year.

My noble friend Lord Lingfield spoke about the institute for further education, which he described so eloquently. It is a fantastic way of helping FE institutions celebrate their success, build their reputation and status and gain recognition for what they have achieved in their communities. I look forward to its formal launch later in the year.

My noble friend Lord Addington spoke with his customary eloquence about the problems encountered by children with hidden disabilities such as dyslexia. The Children and Families Bill—which is, as of today, an Act, I am delighted to say—makes it clear that schools and colleges must use their best endeavours to secure support for pupils with special educational needs. We have taken steps to improve teachers’ skills in recognising and supporting young people with dyslexia and other types of SEN. We support systemic synthetic phonics, which has been shown to be effective for teaching dyslexic pupils to read and write. We have supported 3,200 teachers to obtain specialist qualifications in dyslexia and, since 2009, the Government, and the previous Government, have funded the training of more than 10,000 new SENCOs. We are also developing specialist resources for initial teacher training and new advanced-level online modules on areas including

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1935

dyslexia, autism and speech and language skills. Reasonable adjustments must also be made for examinations and assessments. As a result of my noble friend’s powerful intervention during the passage of the Children and Families Bill, we now have this incorporated in the Act. I hope that this will now happen.

The noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, talked powerfully about autism. Transition to adulthood is something that many young people with autism find particularly difficult. They will benefit in particular from the change to a zero to 25 system and the opportunity to keep their education, health and care plan in place as they transfer from school to college. I will look carefully at the other points the noble Baroness made.

My noble friend Lord True made an impressive point about the danger of adults involved in education putting their interests, dogma and prejudices ahead of those of children—something which we are eradicating but which, sadly, still exists in increasingly isolated pockets of failure. I reiterate my support for clusters of secondaries and primary schools coming together in local multiacademy trusts. So far as the role of local authorities is concerned, we are of course involving them extensively in our targeted, basic-needs programme.

The noble Lords, Lord Graham and Lord Sutherland, spoke powerfully about their experiences, and I will look for the statistics that the noble Lord, Lord Graham, is after.

My noble friend Lord Lexden spoke with great knowledge based on his experience of the independent sector, which has a long history of increasing social mobility through bursaries, scholarships and collaboration with the state sector. Indeed, in 2013 Independent Schools Council schools provided more than £300 million in fee discounts for pupils, which benefited almost 40,000 children. This is something that I absolutely applaud and welcome. I know that the independent/state schools partnerships programme has been particularly successful—notably at King’s Wimbledon and in Southwark, which have had remarkable improvement in the achievement of the state schools involved. I know from my experience as a trustee of the Eastside Young Leaders Academy in Newham, where we have sent more than 15 children—15 black boys who were right on the edge of exclusion—under full bursaries to schools such as Rugby, Wellington and Eton—how powerful this can be. However, we are not currently looking to initiate an open-access scheme. Our priority is to invest our resources in making sure that all state schools provide an excellent education for their pupils, which, in the end, will be the greatest means of achieving much higher levels of social mobility and ensuring that every child fulfils their potential. However, we wish to encourage ever greater co-operation between the independent and state sectors.

I know that the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, was particularly concerned about discount codes for the arts subjects. I should like to reassure him that we take this very seriously. A recent review of discount codes for dance and drama has led to our decision to separate them, meaning that they will be counted separately in performance tables, as he knows. We are also taking evidence on the decision to discount art and design

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1936

GCSE with art and design and photography GCSE. We will review this decision in the light of that evidence, and I would be delighted to meet the noble Earl to discuss that further.

My noble friend Lady Berridge is right about inspiring children to aspire to university and work experience, and make sure that this is not a province of only Daddy and Mummy’s friends. I look forward to introducing her to David Johnston, who runs the Social Mobility Foundation, which organises work experience and other connections between state school pupils, business and other outlets.

I am delighted to say that that I sense an emerging consensus across the House and all parties as to the future of our education system, which is so important, bearing in mind that the future of our children and of our country depends on this.

I conclude on the subject of teachers. As the noble Baroness, Lady Greenfield, said, there is no substitute for good teachers. There has never been a more important time in the recent history of our country to be involved in education. We must continue to raise the status of teaching because of the importance of education to our children and our country’s future. Teachers are performing the most important job in our country at this time. I thank them most warmly, as I thank all noble Lords who have participated in this excellent debate.

Motion agreed.

Regenerative Medicine: S&T Committee Report

Motion to Take Note

4.13 pm

Moved by Lord Patel

To move that this House takes note of the Report of the Science and Technology Committee on regenerative medicine (1st Report, HL Paper 23).

Lord Patel (CB): My Lords, I invite noble Lords who have just taken part in the education debate to stay, if they want to enrich their education. However, while they make a decision on that, I am pleased to introduce this debate on the Science and Technology Committee’s inquiry into regenerative medicine.

Our chairman of the committee and of the inquiry, the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, could not be here but, on behalf of the committee, I thank him for his brilliant chairmanship. I also thank our special adviser, Professor Fiona Watt FRS. The committee was well and expertly advised by her. I also thank our clerk, Mr Chris Atkinson, all the staff of the committee and all its members, some of whom are taking part in this debate. I thank all noble Lords who are taking part, particularly the Minister, the noble Earl, Lord Howe, and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, on the Opposition Front Bench.

I declare my relevant interests. I am a professor and chancellor of the University of Dundee, a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and of the Royal

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1937

Society of Edinburgh, and I have previously chaired various stem cell committees in the United Kingdom.

Regenerative medicine is an umbrella term for the medical specialty of the regeneration of human tissue, organs and cells. It has the potential to treat or cure disease. Possible treatments range from curing neurological disorders to eventually repairing hearts. Our inquiry sought to pinpoint the UK’s strengths in regenerative medicine, identify barriers to translation and commercialisation—in the case of commercialisation, primarily dealing with treatments in the healthcare market—and recommend solutions.

The UK has an enviable potential resource in the National Health Service, with access to hundreds of thousands of patients in one system and a strong science base in this field. The Government have also been paying significant attention to developing this field. Together, these factors could combine to benefit patient well-being and the health of the UK economy. Basic science translation and commercialisation in this field are being well supported in other countries. However, there are growing concerns that, despite positive progress so far, the UK could fall behind in this area and miss out on opportunities to translate basic science into commercially viable treatments as the science develops. The opportunity cannot be missed. The UK could and should be a world leader in this field.

It is for that purpose that the committee chose to limit its inquiry to the regulatory framework for the translation of science and commercialisation. The key areas of inquiry were the research base, the application of science, barriers to translation, barriers to commercialisation and international comparison. The call for evidence was issued in July 2012. The committee was informed by a seminar held prior to our inquiry at King’s College, and during the inquiry some members of the committee visited the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine in San Francisco, often referred to as CIRM, for three days of intensive seminars and discussions. CIRM is an impressive organisation and, in many aspects, is quite special—in its inception, its funding and its delivery and scale—and is likely to deliver regenerative treatments in the near future.

We published our inquiry report and the voluminous evidence in July 2013 in HL Paper 23, and I now turn to the report and its findings and recommendations. The term “regenerative medicine” is used to refer to methods to replace or regenerate human cells, tissues or organs in order to restore or establish normal function. This includes cell therapies, tissue engineering, gene therapy and biomedical engineering, as well as more traditional treatments involving pharmaceuticals, biologics and devices.

Perhaps I may give some examples. Bone marrow transplantation, which is well understood by many, is the original stem cell therapy. Another is the use of pancreatic islet transplantation for certain types of difficult-to-control glycaemia in type 1 diabetes. Another is the use of skin cells to treat burns. Less well known perhaps is the use of gene therapy to treat lipoprotein lipase deficiency and autologous cell therapy to treat cartilage defects in knees. Treatments likely to be

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1938

available in the next four or five years are those that support the body’s own regeneration and repair mechanisms. Others are treatments using cells, including embryonic stem cells, for certain eye conditions, such as retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration, which affects 30% of the population over the age of 60. The hope is that eventually there will be treatments for Parkinson’s disease, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and cures for diseases for which we currently have no treatment.

Through their various publications on regenerative medicine and life science strategy, and funding for research, the Government have recognised the potential of regenerative medicine and life sciences generally to improve both health and the UK economy. This is valued, and our report says that we value the Government’s support. The UK has a strong science base, reflected in the number of much-cited publications, multiple academic centres of excellence and the three Nobel laureates of recent times: Sir Martin Evans, who is still working in the field of cell biology, Sir Robert Edwards and Sir John Gurdon.

The UK currently has nearly 40 early-phase clinical trials involving stem cells. There are more than 76 projects funded in basic science and early-phase trials. So far, it is good news. However, when it comes to translation, the theme that permeated our inquiry was that of uncertainty. Those who gave evidence asked for proportionate regulation and a clearer path from bench to bedside. The current system was described as a sort of great frustration. We make recommendations for improvement. Similar comments were made about clinical trials, despite the recognition that the NHS affords the best environment for clinical trials. The Government need to address the issue to make the UK more effective.

The Cell Therapy Catapult reported delays in starting trials, and similar comments were made by others. Furthermore, the delivery of regenerative medicine treatments, particularly involving living cells, produces challenges for manufacture and delivery on a large scale. If the UK is to be competitive and be attractive to companies from outside, both investing in the UK and using UK facilities, the Government need to support and invest in infrastructure development. The committee recognised that setting up the Cell Therapy Catapult has significant potential but to achieve it, alternative funding channels will need to be explored.

We make some suggestions. We make several recommendations for evaluation and pricing of treatments and look to NICE to devise suitable models, including value-based pricing. Covering all the areas, we make 24 recommendations to help ensure that the potential of regenerative medicine is realised. To bring it all together, we asked that an expert working group be set up with an independent chair. On the whole, we welcome the Government’s positive response to our report and hope that they will ensure that the recommendations will be taken forward. However, I do have some questions.

What progress has been made to ensure that the regulatory process for clinical trials is simplified? What plans do the Government have to encourage investment in large-scale manufacturing facilities for regenerative medicine products? What action has UKTI taken to

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1939

improve the chances of the UK being the location of the development and manufacture of regenerative medicine therapies?

Although the Government did not accept our recommendation of an independent chair for the expert working group, they accepted the establishment of such a group, and we are pleased that Sir Michael Rowlands is to chair it. What terms of reference have been given to Sir Michael’s committee, and when is it expected to report?

In conclusion, regenerative medicine has the potential not only to save lives but, with the NHS as a resource, also to support the UK economy. We can be the world’s centre for developing regenerative medicine. I commend the report and beg to move.

4.23 pm

The Earl of Selborne (Con): My Lords, the whole House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Patel, who speaks with great authority on the subject and was a fellow member of the committee. He speaks as a very distinguished professor in this area; I speak as a layman, but one who learnt a lot during the course of this inquiry into a fascinating area of very fast-moving technology and science.

This is a highly appropriate subject for a Select Committee report. Where science moves so fast, the regulatory framework will inevitably lag behind and it is a challenge for Administrations to ensure that there is the appropriate regulatory framework and fiscal support for what everyone will recognise has enormous potential. The technology has enormous potential in the longer term to produce new treatments for the plethora of diseases mentioned in paragraph 18 of the report, which lists Parkinson’s disease, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. I am sure that many people will wish to add to that list.

In the shorter term, a number of treatments can be seen coming over the horizon or are indeed almost available. One example, in paragraph 15, is a therapy which seeks to reverse the damage caused by a stroke. Given an ageing population—which is common to pretty well every developed economy—given that healthcare as practised at present with the tools available to us is forecast to require ever larger proportions of our economic resources and given the international interest, let alone our own national interest, in novel and innovative treatments that may have great economic and social benefits, there will be enormous rewards to those countries that put in place successful policies to promote these opportunities.

As the noble Lord, Lord Patel, reminded us, we have a strong science base at present and we need alongside it a suitable regulatory framework which gives confidence to patients, investors and, of course, the scientists and those conducting trials. We will need to ensure that public funds can complement funding from other sources, such as charities and commercial interests. We will have to negotiate the so-called valley of death, which is the difficulty, so often experienced in this country, in commercialising research findings. That is being addressed by the Cell Therapy Catapult, about which more anon. We will have to ensure that we make best use of those advantages derived from

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1940

the National Health Service. The noble Lord, Lord Patel, reminded us that we have the great advantage of access to much valuable data on a scale not available to some of our competitors.

The Government have identified regenerative medicine as one of their eight great transforming technologies. Other reports, as well as our own, have alerted the Government to the critical importance of identifying barriers to development. The Government’s own report of July 2011, Taking Stock of Regenerative Medicine in the United Kingdom identified,

“steep technological, regulatory and strategic barriers to realising regenerative medicine’s significant potential”.

Our report emphasised the frustration that some scientists and clinicians have experienced negotiating the various regulatory hurdles. The Government response recognised the need for regulatory simplification in the long term and help to get through the existing minefield—perhaps I should call it labyrinth—in the shorter term. The establishment of the Regenerative Medicine Expert Group, tasked with developing a regenerative medicine delivery readiness strategy and action plan, is certainly a positive response to the report and is to be welcomed. However, at the risk of seeming grudging in my praise for the Government’s response, I draw attention to the rapidly changing international competition for recognition as a global leader. We refer in our report to the high level of investment in the United States and to the rapid progress in countries such as China and India.

Since we published our report, Japan passed legislation in November last year that revised its pharmaceutical affairs law, with the intention of establishing Japan as a global leader in regenerative medicine while continuing to protect patient safety and confidence. Last month at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Japanese Prime Minister made it clear that this legislation redefines the regulatory framework and gives the opportunity for new therapies to move more rapidly from an early-stage clinical trial towards conditional approval, which enables the product to be brought to market and therefore to obtain reimbursement for the product in an accelerated manner. In the light of such responses from our competitors, it may well prove necessary to look more fundamentally at our own regulatory framework, as indeed we recommended.

On pages 42 and 43 we say that we will revisit the regulatory aspect of the inquiry to ensure that progress has been made. I am absolutely sure that it will be essential to monitor progress, although we all hope that the Regenerative Medicine Expert Group can facilitate simplification without, at least for the present, the need for further legislation.

I want to say a word in support of the catapult centres in general and the Cell Therapy Catapult centre in particular. For years we have complained in this country that we allow others to reap the rewards of commercialising scientific research. The previous Administration are to be congratulated on asking Hermann Hauser to make recommendations on how we should address this long-standing problem. He concluded that what was missing from the United Kingdom’s innovation landscape was a network of centres working at the commercialisation stage of

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1941

technology, matching scientific research to industrial needs. His recommendation was that we should follow the model of the Fraunhofer institutes in Germany.

One of the seven new catapult centres is the Cell Therapy Catapult established in 2012 through the Technology Strategy Board and is designed to create a world leading cell therapy industry in the United Kingdom through innovation and collaboration. It is early days and we do not yet know how successful the centre will be—we will not know, probably, for a decade or so—but meanwhile we should allow the centre to build up its dedicated cell therapy teams, bringing together scientists, investors, manufacturing interests, regulatory experts and other interested parties from around the world. We must resist all temptation to interfere or change—it will need a good long period for bedding down—but it must be a highly appropriate subject for a catapult centre.

What is now needed is continuity of funding and support from us all. This catapult centre is exactly what is needed if we are going to emerge in the next decade as a global leader in this exciting sector.

4.31 pm

Lord Turnberg (Lab): My Lords, I am delighted to reiterate the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Patel, in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, on chairing our Select Committee so ably, and on the support of his expert adviser and secretariat. I also commend the noble Lord, Lord Patel, for introducing this topic and for explaining so clearly the enormous potential of regenerative medicine to cure diseases that are hitherto incurable, and for pointing out the considerable benefit we have from our expert scientific base in the UK.

I express my interests as scientific adviser to the Association of Medical Research Charities, many of whose members have strong interests and involvement in regenerative medicine.

It is worth noting that our report was produced last summer after taking evidence for more than a year and that things have moved on since then. It is a rapidly moving field and some things have changed for the better while others have been thrown into starker relief. There have been more advances in the science; clinical applications are being developed; the mood in the investment community, oddly enough, has improved—I am told that there is a greater appetite among venture capitalists to take the risks needed to invest in the field; and there is some hope that we will see some of the recommendations of our report being put into action.

However, I want to focus on only three aspects: the complex regulatory framework; the MHRA and MEA approval processes; and our capacity to manufacture and scale up production.

First, on the regulatory framework, I hope to build on the words of the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, and I know that the noble Lord, Lord Willis, will also take up the cudgels on regulation. Under the regulatory framework, a researcher or a small biotech company wanting to take a discovery forward for further development in a clinical trial or commercialisation will be faced with no fewer than 11 regulatory bodies

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1942

that they may have to apply to. This morass of bodies, with a mix of acronyms from the HFEA to the HTA, from GTAC to the MHRA, from the EMA to the HRA—to say nothing of having to jump through the hoops of NICE—is extremely confusing, and not only to the novice. The UK has many more regulators than virtually any other country in the world, and certainly more than the USA, which seems to have one.

Our recommendations focus on the need to take a grip of this complexity and suggest that the Health Research Authority should expand its current role in streamlining the regulatory process. The HRA is doing an admirable job within its limited resources. It is under the expert guidance of Professor Jonathan Montgomery, and in a pilot study that it has already carried out, it has demonstrated that it could do much more. The authority has shown that it could provide a sort of one-stop shop for researchers so that a single application made to the HRA would be fed through a gateway for approval by the authority where it has the competence to do so or distributed to those other bodies that need to give their approval. This would be a remarkable achievement if it could be done and would transform the atmosphere for researchers. However, of course, it requires more funding for the HRA. It would not need vast sums, and could indeed be achieved with a modest investment, while the gains made, both financially and in saving wasted time, would be enormous. My first question for the noble Earl is whether he will examine whether there is some way to find the modest extra money needed. I know that a bid from the authority has gone in to the department, and it would be helpful if he could tell us how far it has got.

I turn now to the processes by which new treatments are assessed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. Here the timescale is almost always very long, and sometimes it can several years and involve large and expensive phase III trials. However, for treatments such as those using regenerative medicines, stem cells and the like, such a lengthy process is quite inappropriate. This has been recognised in Japan and the USA, where a much more flexible approach has been taken. In Japan, as the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, mentioned, the law has recently been changed so that approval for regenerative medicines can be based on phase II trial evidence alone, without the need for phase III trials. In the USA, the FDA has introduced what is called a breakthrough therapy designation that provides a similar phase II-only requirement. I know that the MHRA recognises the need for something similar here, and it would be extremely helpful if the noble Earl could indicate how far the expert group set up by the MHRA has progressed in its efforts to develop an adaptive licensing system to speed up approval of these types of innovative treatment. The Government are paying much more attention to the need for innovation in healthcare, and certainly those in the field would find the efforts of the MHRA encouraging. It would allow us to keep up with our rivals around the world.

Finally, I come to another concern. Our report described a reluctance among venture capitalists to invest in biotech in general and in regenerative medicine in particular, and I mentioned earlier that the situation here may be changing. The so-called valley of death

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1943

between invention and commercialisation may not be as deep as we thought, even though we remain way behind the more adventurous investors in the USA. However, as prospects for investors are now improving and more cell-based therapies appear to be coming on stream, the problem of the lack of manufacturing capacity to take these advances to the market has been shown to be much more obviously rate-limiting than had been thought. We have drawn attention to this problem in several of our recommendations and we have had supportive responses from the Government and others, but much more needs to be done. Our ability to scale up the production of these highly specialised treatments so that they can become available to large numbers of patients is sorely lacking. I feel that the UK Regenerative Medicine Platform, which has been asked to take this on and which could have had all this in hand, has been just a touch complacent. In this light, can the noble Earl tell us how far the Ministerial Industry Strategy Group, which met in November, got with its discussions on manufacturing capacity? What recommendations, if any, emerged as a result of that meeting?

I note that the Cell Therapy Catapult is gathering evidence on capacity, but that alone will not solve the problem if we do not offer some inducement to those who need to build up our manufacturing capacity. It is also the case that the resources available to the catapult are limited and will only go a little way in offering this inducement. Is there any prospect that the Technology Strategy Board will offer more support for this purpose? Will the UKTI Life Science Investment Organisation play a role in helping fill this gap? It will certainly be offering advice and information to potential investors overseas. What practical encouragement will it be able to offer companies that they will be supported if they come here?

The potential for regenerative medicine to transform healthcare in the next few decades is enormous. We must take advantage of the lead we have in basic research and convert it into therapies for patients and economic benefits for the UK. There are encouraging signs, and the Government are clearly aware of the importance of investing in this area, but there is much that remains to be done. In particular, we must make sure that we have a regulatory environment that is efficient and fit for purpose, that we keep up with the competition with a responsive and speedy approval system, and that we are well prepared with the capacity to manufacture to scale these potentially remarkable treatments.

4.41 pm

Lord Willis of Knaresborough (LD): My Lords, as a member of the committee that produced this report, it is a pleasure for me, too, to speak in this debate. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Patel, for the way in which he introduced it and for the very expert advice and guidance he gave to members of the committee throughout the inquiry. It was like having your own personal adviser at your side. In particular, I echo his comments about Professor Fiona Watt, who I thought was an outstanding adviser to the committee. Her standing in the international community gave the report real aplomb when it was produced.

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1944

Having sat as chair of the Science and Technology Select Committee in the House of Commons, and now as member of this committee in your Lordships’ House, I have to say that, although most of our inquiries are interesting—some more so than others, which I find quite difficult—this one afforded us the opportunity to examine an area of medical science that promises significant breakthroughs in the way in which we treat patients with a wide range of medical conditions, where there are currently no effective treatments or no treatments at all. Faced with that sort of scenario, you can understand the huge hope that regenerative medicine gives to tens of thousands of people around our nation.

Equally, the NHS is faced with a funding crisis that will get worse as each year goes by, as an ageing population with multiple long-term morbidities makes increased demands on a decreasing real-terms budget. The need to introduce disruptive technologies into the NHS to treat patients therefore becomes ever more urgent and there are two drivers for supporting regenerative medicine.

The stark evidence contained in the report showing the increase in the number of people with long-term conditions—diabetes up by 25% in the five years to 2011, chronic kidney failure up by 45% over five years and dementia up by 25%—is really sobering. The escalation of these figures over the next five, 10 and 15 years will put a huge burden on our health service but also on the Exchequer. The King’s Fund estimates that by 2070, 20% of the UK’s GDP will be spent managing long-term conditions. That is simply not affordable, nor is it acceptable, unless we can introduce some new disruptive technologies to address the situation.

Will regenerative medicine change this landscape? Probably, but not in the short term. Our report makes the point very forcefully that this is not a short-term fix—this is a long journey. Many of the technologies that the noble Lord, Lord Patel, spoke of in his introduction will not come about within five, 10 or 15 years, but could take even longer than that. However, it is important that efforts by our researchers, funders, regulators, manufacturers, government departments and industry have a clear steer. For me, the central theme of this report is certainty—in terms of the regulatory framework and the funding framework and, irrespective of which Government are in power, that we are going in a particular direction and we are going to keep to it.

The report assessed where we are at present, recognised the global competition and suggested ways in which we could move swiftly and effectively to get promising technologies into clinics. Global competition is strong and that is good. We are aware that in Japan, Germany, South Korea and, particularly, the US, there is a recognition that regenerative medicine has huge potential both for domestic use and in terms of its wider economic impact. Research shows that by 2050, 37% of US GDP will be needed for health and healthcare at current rates of growth. That is totally unsustainable, so the emphasis is on finding solutions because the US cannot afford not to, and I think that is the situation in the UK.

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1945

It was interesting that when we were in California, so great was the reputation of our research base that American researchers—even in CIRM, with $3 billion over 15 years at its disposal—were looking to UK research groups to add to their expertise. Indeed, our Professor Fiona Watt was revered among the researchers that we met.

To be fair, the Government have played their cards well—as did the previous Government, who recognised that this was an emerging destination. Allocating £180 million to the biomedical catalyst fund, the biomedical research centres and units established at leading universities with an £800 million investment, research councils continuing to fund very basic research, and the establishment of the Regenerative Medicine Platform to address technical and scientific discoveries are all going in the right direction. The UK Stem Cell Bank gives us a unique advantage, as does our NHS database. The establishment of the Cell Therapy Catapult, which we have just heard about, with a vision for global leadership, are all things that the Government rightly deserve credit for.

I suspect that our resources will never match those of our competitors, particularly the US, but it is interesting that other sectors, particularly the charitable sector, are beginning to shift their funding into regenerative medicine. The Association of Medical Research Charities, which I chair and of which the noble Lord, Lord Turnberg, is the science adviser, spends 15% of its R&D budget—remember, we raise £1.3 billion every year—on regenerative medicine research. That was in 2011; it has probably gone up since then. It is not surprising that Research Councils UK, the MS Society, the British Heart Foundation, Fight for Sight, the Alzheimer’s Society and, of course, the Wellcome Trust all see regenerative medicine as the real hope for their future as they struggle to find treatments for the most hard-to-reach diseases.

However, if we are to get regenerative medicine treatments into clinics, we have to address the issue of cost. There is, I am sad to say, a somewhat complacent air about the Government’s response to our various recommendations about costing novel treatments. This is a not inconsiderable issue; it is the very essence of getting early treatment for patients. It will not be the NHS or the British Government who actually fund putting the treatments into clinics; it will be the private sector, and we have to make it sustainable and attractive in order for private investment to take those things past the valley of death and into phase 3 trials and patients.

That is why the point in our report about looking at value-based pricing is crucial. Yes, we were perhaps naive to say that within one year we would like to have a report on what the Government are doing on value-based pricing, but the principle is right, and I hope that when the Minister responds he will say when we can expect to see a review and whether regenerative medicine technologies will be part of it.

In their response to the report the Government have been partly helpful, but there is a long way to go. The noble Lord, Lord Turnberg, and the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, have said many of the things that I wanted to say, so I shall not repeat them. UK regulation

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1946

is rightly prized and valued across the world as being the yardstick by which other countries judge their regulatory frameworks. We are rightly proud of that, but I remain to be convinced that, despite the great efforts which the Government have made to make the regulatory framework less complex, it is fit for purpose.

Let us remember that our regulatory framework has grown rather like Topsy; it has been built in parts to respond to new developments in science and medicine. Regenerative medicine needs a bespoke regulatory framework to drive it through. We cannot go on saying that we have a complicated regulatory system and that somebody will help you with it. I found it quite depressing when representatives from the MHRA came to our committee and said, “Well, it’s very complicated science. Therefore, you need very complicated regulation”. That does not follow. With complicated science, you have to be able to drive through that science and have essential regulation which is easy to follow, because many companies and research groups that develop these technologies will not be the large pharma companies of yesterday but small groups with relatively small budgets that need an awful lot of hand-holding. To have, as the noble Lord, Lord Turnberg, said, up to 11 regulatory frameworks to go through—and sometimes you have to go back over the hurdle as well—to satisfy Europe as part of the deal means that we have got to help.

Our proposal that there should be a particular group that looks at regulation was turned down; the Government said that they wanted instead a Regenerative Medicine Expert Group. To be fair, one of the three main strands of that will be a work stream on regulation and licensing. I welcome that; it is a reasonable response. Getting Mike Rawlins to chair that is an excellent move. But who will the expert group report to? I understood that the HRA was going to be the authority which looked at all that, yet what we now have is another expert group with another remit in terms of streamlining regulation. When the HRA comes up with a groundbreaking scheme to bring together ethics permissions and local NHS permissions, and it has sat on a desk at the Department of Health since October awaiting an answer when everybody else feels that it is the right way forward, I genuinely feel that we are missing a trick. When the Minister responds, I hope that he will respond to the question that I have asked today. This is an excellent report. I give the Government at least seven out of 10 for their response, but at the bottom of their report, I would always say, “Could do better”.

4.53 pm

Baroness Greenfield (CB): I add my voice to those of the other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Patel, on bringing attention to this timely and important report. He and others have already spoken eloquently on the wider issues surrounding stem cell research, so I shall restrict my comments to my own particular area: diseases of the central nervous system.

While other conditions such as heart disease and cancer are devastating, we all fear in particular the disorders that destroy our brains. The report discusses the wonderful prospect that in the next five years

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1947

treatments are likely to be available for stroke and multiple sclerosis. However, only under a section on longer-term possibilities is Parkinson’s disease mentioned.

The neurodegenerative diseases of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s target the very essence of what it means to be human: what it means to move freely, to smile, to think, to speak and to have memories—indeed, to be a unique individual. The problem is that, as yet, we do not know why key brain areas in each case embark on the initial cycle of self-destruction or why it occurs only in certain brain regions and not in others. Because we do not currently understand the basic mechanisms, we cannot get to the root of the problem. The best that we can do is to combat the symptoms.

As brain cells die, they release less and less of their essential chemical messengers. Current strategies, therefore, are to offset the dwindling level of those naturally occurring chemicals with drugs, but here the problems are several-fold. First, as with all drugs, the treatment will permeate into areas of the brain and body where it is not needed and hence cause side-effects. For example, with Parkinson’s disease, treatment with the drug in current use, L-dopa, will supply the necessary chemical messenger, dopamine, to the area of devastation, but will also raise levels of the same chemical elsewhere in the brain, and this can often result in psychotic side-effects, with disturbing hallucinations. Even when such treatment offers temporary alleviation of the patient’s basic condition—or slowing down of the deterioration, as in the case of the anti-Alzheimer’s drug Aricept—it has proved hard to convince organisations such as NICE that the costs are worthwhile.

The situation is made even worse when we consider how many more of us are going to need such treatment in the future. Today, nearly a million people suffer from Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s or both, and that number is expected to double by 2050. The total cost of caring for one person with dementia can be up to £30,000 per patient per year—plus the additional costs caused by loss of earnings.

Even more sobering, beyond the mere economics, is the human cost. For every person suffering from either Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, let us say there are 10 people who care about that individual. Hence, as the number in the UK reaches almost 2 million by the middle of this century, almost 20 million lives could be affected by those devastating disorders.

So there is a huge and growing need: a need that is currently unmet. Stem cell therapy offers an exciting and realistic alternative. The rationale is completely different from that of conventional treatments. The idea is not to treat the symptoms, but to harness regenerative biological mechanisms so that new cells are created. That would be a real cure. It would not be merely replacing the chemicals that are lost as a result of cell death, but actually replacing the neurons themselves.

Some cases of Parkinson’s disease have been successfully treated using human foetal cells; however, such tissue is hard to obtain, and the ideal would be switch to human embryonic stem cells. Those cells are derived from very early embryos, at the stage when the embryo is a microscopic ball just a few days old and consisting of only one to 200 cells. Not only are they immortal, they can produce every type of cell in the

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1948

body. By introducing such cells into the appropriate environment within the brain, they will actually become the brain cells that have been lost.

There are, inevitably, potential downsides, As a neuroscientist, I am unable to comment with any authority on the ethical or financial issues, so I will restrict my caveats to technical issues. The first would be immune rejection of the new cells. However, that can be overcome by immunotolerising patients or even by immunosuppression. Such therapies have side-effects, but the risk-benefit ratio compared to that with conventional drugs is greatly shifted in favour of the positive.

A further problem is that stem cells could proliferate out of control in the brain and therefore become a tumour. However, to date, there is no clinical evidence that that has occurred with stem cell therapy and, in any event, it could be circumvented by biochemical chicanery—for example, manipulating stem cells so that they divide at a few degrees hotter than would normally be the case in the living brain.

Another issue is that implanted stem cells may produce excessive amounts of chemical messenger compared to normal levels. In principle, however, once stem cells have repopulated the brain, they should behave like their naturally occurring predecessors and release chemicals within the normal range as and when they are stimulated and interacting in their normal brain environment. In any event, conventional drugs already produce excessive amounts of chemical messenger, but that can be controlled by current treatments.

Finally, we must be careful not to conflate Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. They are very different conditions and are differentially tractable to stem cell therapy. Parkinson’s disease is much more localised in the brain than Alzheimer’s, and therefore it will be much easier to locate where the stem cells should be placed. However, there is often a co-pathology—patients presenting with both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases—so in these cases perhaps the alleviation of the movement symptoms of Parkinson’s may help in the patient’s quality of life, not least because we know that the better that people can move physically, the more that they can sustain a good blood supply to the brain.

There is now a growing body of evidence that physical exercise can enhance the natural growth of brain cells, a phenomenon known as neurogenesis, as well as the proliferation of blood vessels, therefore bringing more oxygen to the brain, which improves its functioning. There are even some claims that Alzheimer’s disease could be less prevalent in those who exercise routinely. So a treatment for patients suffering from both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s that enabled them to move more freely might in the long term be more generally beneficial.

Some might say that introducing the cells into the brain would be problematic, but the brain surgery required is modest. Modern stereotactic surgery is performed under local anaesthetic, with only a small hole made in the skull and a fine needle introduced—a bit like drilling for oil using precise three-dimensional co-ordinates. The area targeted can then be localised.

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1949

In summary, we have reason to be confident that, although not without risks or difficulties, stem cell therapy could be a chance to harness the nervous system’s natural mechanisms to regenerate itself. In the case of neurodegenerative disorders, though, much more research needs to be done.

I commend the authors of the report for increasing the chances that we will,

“facilitate the translation of scientific knowledge into clinical practice and encourage its commercial exploitation.”.

Still, far more money needs to be devoted to research into the use of stem cells in brain disease, which at present is a poor relation to heart disease and cancer. If these recommendations are implemented, the horizons could be very bright, not just for those with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, who are currently condemned to a highly disabled life and an even bleaker future, but for everyone who cares about them.

5 pm

Baroness Sharp of Guildford (LD): My Lords, as a member of the committee, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Patel, for his excellent introduction to the debate. I repeat the thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, who cannot be with us today, who was an excellent chairman, and to Professor Fiona Watt, our specialist adviser.

Working on this report took me back to the 1980s when, in my position in the science policy research unit at the University of Sussex, I was an alien social scientist sitting in as a fly on the wall on an experiment in university/industry collaboration called the Protein Engineering Club, which was an attempt to assist the process of carrying science from the laboratory through to industrialisation and commercialisation. Then, as now with regenerative medicine, there were great hopes about what might be achieved. As we were working with proteins and antibodies, we hoped, for example, that regulation would get easier rather than more difficult because we were working with biological entities rather than chemical entities that were alien to the body.

There was also hope that the rise of the venture capital industry in the United States would rapidly spread to the United Kingdom—there was some indication that it was coming—and that this would lead to a wholesale change in the process of coping with, as they put it, the valley of the shadow of death—the process of financing commercialisation—with a wave of new firms that would be well funded, developed and built up, either contracting to or, as in many cases, being bought up by larger firms.

Looking back on it, the work that was done then has been very much the foundation of the current range of biotechnology medicines that are now coming on to the market, but it was 25 to 30 years ago. It has taken a very long time to get many of these medicines on to the market, and indeed some of them are still working their way on to it. The regulatory process, far from getting easier, has if anything become considerably more difficult and complex. The financing is no easier; venture capital waxes and wanes, largely with the macroeconomy. Big pharma itself has waxed and waned.

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1950

The sort of work that was being done in the Protein Engineering Club has in many senses provided an underpinning for the technology for the two big British pharmaceutical companies, GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca, in their current success. Nevertheless, there have been many ups and downs in the process.

The lesson that comes through clearly in the report is that there are great hopes for these new medicines but much hype. In paragraph 19, we talk about the possibility of regenerative medicine that may provide treatments for long-term, chronic diseases, such as Parkinson’s, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, but we also say:

“Many submissions to the inquiry offered a ‘health warning’, however, that public expectations must be managed as many of these treatments are relatively far from delivery to the wider public”.

As my noble friend Lord Willis said, regenerative medicine is not a short-term fix.

Our report identified the four main challenges to be overcome. Other noble Lords have spoken at some length about some of the issues. One is the science itself. As the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, said, it is moving under our feet. It is a highly innovative area where new ideas are bubbling up and being tested all the time. In no sense is the science stabilised. It is an extremely stimulating environment, but because things do not stand still, it is always a matter of the science moving forward and innovation having to adapt to the new developments that are taking place. The regulatory framework is increasingly complex—perhaps unnecessarily complex, as my noble friend Lord Willis suggested. We were hoping that an expert group could be set up which would manage to find some way to simplify it. Scale up—the shift from the laboratory to larger scale production—is also a considerable problem. There are always completely unforeseen difficulties in such processes. Cells do not behave on a larger scale as they do in a laboratory dish. Finally, there is the business model. It is very important that there should be patient capital. One is looking at 25 years, a whole generation, for such medicines to come on to the market. There has to be capital that is prepared to put its money down and wait for results.

On the whole it seems to me, as it does to others, that the processes the Government have put in place have been appropriate. As my noble friend Lord Willis said, the Government have played their cards well. They have designated regenerative medicine as one of the eight great technologies and have concentrated on the life sciences with the emphasis on investment in the research base, where we have a considerable comparative advantage. In November 2011, they produced their strategy for the life sciences, reinforcing what they call the “life sciences ecosystem”, and, in particular, bringing together R&D in the National Health Service and academic research supported by the research councils and seeking to exploit what other countries see as the UK’s unique advantage in having a unified health service as a platform for assessing the effectiveness of treatments.

Building on this, and into this, indeed, is the Technology Strategy Board. Its April 2012 report A Strategy for UK Regenerative Medicine dealt with the translation from research into commercialisation and concentrated

13 Mar 2014 : Column 1951

in particular on the regulatory framework, manufacturing and industrial collaboration. Alongside the TSB initiatives is the Cell Therapy Catapult, which was originally a technology and innovation centre to help develop an emerging industry to be a precursor to what could be a £10 billion industry. The catapult is working on a five-year plan pulling academic and industry plans together and ensuring a voice for this new technology within government here and within Europe.

All of this is very positive, except when we come to what is happening in California. The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine—CIRM—has been raising $3 billion in 30-year bonds. The National Institutes of Health is spending $1.3 billion on regenerative medicine. In the UK, TSB is spending £16.25 million over the next three years; approximately £5.5 million a year. Catapult has core funding of £70 million over five years—£14 million a year core funding—and is hoping that the third sector will add another £10 million, and industry another £10 million, making somewhere in the region of £35 million a year. However, much of that is still a matter of hope, although both sectors are beginning to put more money into this area. Putting it all together, we are looking at something in the region of £70 million to £100 million a year for this sector, compared with the $3 billion that the Californians have raised through 30-year bonds.