HL Deb 10 June 1976 vol 371 cc891-912

6.50 p.m.

Lord FULTON rose to move, That this House takes note of the Thirty-third Report of the European Communities Committee of this session on Schooling for the Children of Migrants (R/2085/76).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. I do so with some trepidation for, although the title of our discussion seems innocuous, not to say soporific, the European Communities Committee decided that it touched on important issues of domestic policy as well as in relation to our membership of the EEC. The hour is already advanced and I shall try to respect your Lordships' natural desire for brevity.

The proposed draft Directive which, if enacted, would have binding effect throughout the Community defines migrant workers' children as: …children resident in a Member State who are the responsibility of persons working in an employed or self-employed capacity in that Member State, be they nationals of another Member State or of a third country ". As paragraph 2 of the Report explains: The Directive proposes to improve conditions of freedom of movement while maintaining equality of treatment for Community and non-Community migrants by facilitating the gradual adaptation of the children of migrant workers to the educational system and social life of the host country whilst ensuring that the linguistic and cultural links are maintained between the children and their country of origin. The Directive would require Member States to provide free reception classes for the children of migrant workers, including a crash course in the language of the host country. Each Member State would also be expected to provide, as part of the school curriculum, free tuition in the mother tongue and culture of the country of origin throughout the entire period of full-time compulsory education and in accordance with the educational standards normally observed by that state. Finally the Member States shall train the necessary teachers and, where necessary, make use of foreign teachers ".

My Lords, this is of course a debate on education and the House has the good fortune to have as a Member the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, who has unrivalled experience in the practice and administration of school education in this country. The Committee naturally relied heavily on him in the course of its deliberations, and he will speak later in the debate. I shall leave the core of the educational argument in his skilful hands. It may, however, be convenient for your Lordships if I try to put the strictly educational problem in its setting. And to do that one must first turn to the com- plex problems of the migrant workers themselves, the parents.

There are at present over 6 million migrant workers within the Member States of the EEC. Germany has the largest number, over 2 million, primarily migrants from Turkey, Yugoslavia, and Greece; France is next with just under 2 million, primarily from Spain, Portugal and Algeria. The United Kingdom follows with over 1½million, nearly 500,000 from Ireland and nearly I million from the new Commonwealth countries—a large proportion from the West Indies. It therefore will not escape the notice of your Lordships that in the case of the United Kingdom a very large number of migrant workers' children have parents who at least have English as a second language. In addition, of course, the United Kingdom has those from its former territories who, under the varying conditions imposed by current legislation, have entered the country by the right of citizenship, and whose children, for that reason, are formally excluded from the provisions of the draft Directive; although, from the point of view of the schools, they have needs similar in many respects to those of the children whose parents are migrant workers and covered by the proposed draft Directive.

The causes of the displacement—if that is the right word—of these large numbers of workers are at least threefold. First, the Treaty of Rome laid down that there should he free movement between Member States; and in giving effect to this, it has been necessary to ensure that free movement between Member States should not be impeded or thwarted by loss of social benefits and the protection, for example, of a trade union or a professional association. Freedom of movement within the Community for the citizens of the Member States and freedom of establishment for the self-employed were no doubt intended by the authors of the Treaty of Rome to help in building the conditions for a future further advance towards European union as well as to promote the strictly economic aims of the Community.

The second cause is that in the aftermath of the Second World War there has been a lack of balance as between different geographical areas in the distribution of capital and other resources, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the supply of the workers needed to fructify the investment of the available capital. In the United States of America in the three-quarters of a century after 1850 or so, the jobs attracted the men who moved in great numbers from the Old World to the farmlands and the growing industries of North America, where the investment and development was taking place. Something of the sort has happened on a growing scale in the EEC during the 1950s and 1960s. The present economic recession has halted but hardly reversed the process. And the projections suggest that despite unemployment, for example, in Germany, the migrant workers there will number no fewer in 1990 than they do today. Indeed, it is calculated that if Germany closed its doors tomorrow to future migrant workers the numbers would have increased by some 40,000 or 50,000 a year by the natural processes of growth in the families.

Thirdly, two World Wars and the march of history have brought about new power systems in the world: super Powers have replaced the imperial powers of Victorian England; and the British Commonwealth has given way to a new Commonwealth of independent sovereign States. Many of the inhabitants of these new States have moved to the former metropolitan Power (the Committee, I am bound to say, regretted the generally disappointing weakness of the statistical evidence), relying on the constitutional rights conferred upon them under the former political arrangements.

This is a rough and ready picture of the state of affairs in the field of discussion. The present draft Directive is intended to redress, to a considerable extent, the disadvantages suffered by migrant workers hitherto. But so far as I at least have been able to discover there is no step in contemplation which would lead, say, to the Turks in Germany winning full German citizenship in the future; though it is clearly the intention to confer upon them the primary social security benefits which are enjoyed by the full citizens of the Member States of the EEC. The concern for the education of the migrants' children's education is the first step in this programme.

It can, I think, be said that the picture is—no doubt for the historical reasons I have already referred to—significantly different in the United Kingdom. We would have wished to present a more complete statistical picture. Apart from those from the new Commonwealth who have entered as citizens in their own right as holders of British passports, there is an opportunity for those who have spent not less than four years in this country to apply for United Kingdom citizenship and thus, if successful, to enter into a relationship which recognises not merely the economic link with the migrant worker but one which also accepts on both sides the moral, social and political obligations of full citizenship.

I come briefly to the educational issues involved. The witnesses from the bodies representing the teachers felt that their job was to help all children in need in the process of creative adaptation to their stay in this country, whether long or short, permanent or temporary. If they felt that they could best do this by helping them to perfect their knowledge of English and English culture, they certainly did not rule out the importance of using in that process the resources of indigenous language and culture nor undervalue the importance of harnessing the help of the family or the community group to which the child belonged. I would be doing less than justice to the evidence of the teachers if I failed to bring home to your Lordships t heir conviction that the adaptation at which they are aimed, was a creative two-way process, as it had been in the I Jnited States during the historical epoch of the " melting pot ". And they were anxious that, apart from formal teaching, the work of voluntary bodies interested in the welfare of the migrant workers' children should be assisted by appropriate training schemes and the loan of buildings.

Your Lordships must be made aware that, so far as one can understand the position, there are two broad classes among the predominant group of migrant workers' children in this country. There are those who, whether formally or not, have thrown in their lot with us for good and those who, perhaps for long undecided, will decide to return mutually to their countries of origin. The schools must be under immense pressure sometimes from parents who wish their children to he fully equipped to move on, for example to a form of higher education—for whom the attainment of appropriate A levels is a high priority—and at other times from parents who hope that their children will return to their land of origin, fortified by their stay in this country but for whom it is not the final compulsive goal over-riding the claims of contact with the land of parental origin. No clear mark will enable the schools to recognise one group from another, because they cannot predict human choice, except perhaps the ardour with which the second group pursue their informal links with the past.

I am, however, trespassing on the ground that belongs to the noble Lord. Lord Alexander of Potterhill. He will no doubt make clear the concern of your Lordships' Committee about the proposal that by a Community legislative enactment a significant part of the school curriculum should be prescribed. The only existing legislative provision affecting the curriculum of schoolchildren in this country is the requirement in the Education Act 1944 that the schools should offer religious instruction. Our country has drawn from its history a different attitude on this subject of educational authority to that of its fellow Members of the EEC. We have put our trust in the teacher to teach in the interest of the child without interference from political or bureaucratic sources. Thus the teacher's responsibility has not been weakened by the curriculum imposed from outside the school or by the superior status of an authorised doctrine or book. It is therefore an issue of some importance whether what is denied to Westminster and Whitehall should be conceded, as in this proposal, to Brussels.

It was strongly represented to us that the course to be preferred should be a general aim or objective recommended by the EEC rather than a Directive with an obligation to make periodical reports on progress. Certainly the history of our administrative arrangements for the schooling of our children has been one of decentralised control. In this respect we have gone in a direction sharply different from the course taken on for example in France and the substitution of a recommendation for a Directive would enable us to preserve this.

Before I close these remarks I am tempted to go further and ask this fundamental question about the future course of the European Community: is it possible that it could, in the pursuit of a closer union. avoid the fate that has overtaken most, if not all, such efforts in human history? Union throughout history, whether through conquest or consent, has too often been identified with uniformity. But what is Europe if it is not a tribute to the diversity of human genius? The question is whether that diversity is to be nourished or stifled. There can be no doubt about the immensity of the challenge to achieve what has eluded all the empires of history. Perhaps we may claim that the Commonwealth came nearer than any other to realise this ideal. With that experience behind us we should be in a position to enrich the Community, to which we confirmed our adhesion a year ago.

My Lords, if that is our ambition, we cannot achieve it by hanging back until proposals have emerged from the machinery of the EEC. We have only too often in your Lordships' Select Committee on the European Communities during the past months seen this happen, and our country has been put into the uncreative role of declaring that proposals coming forward do not suit us. If we are to contribute, the essence of what our experience of the partnership of people and Parliament in democratic Government has taught us is that it must be brought in at the start as a real ingredient; it cannot be added at the end to a dish already cooked to suit other tastes. Perhaps that suggests too harsh a judgment. Perhaps we are still too recent adherents to have been able to fulfil our whole potential. At any rate, it was encouraging to read in yesterday's Times that the Foreign Secretary regards it as his first priority to assess the role of this country in the European Community, and we must wish him well in that task. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That this House takes note of the Thirty-third Report of the European Communities Committee of this session on Schooling for the Children of Migrants (R/2085/76).—(Lord Fulton.)

7.8 p.m.


My Lords, I am not a Member of the Select Committee whose report we are debating this evening, but I have greatly profited from reading their evidence and from studying what they have presented to your Lordships' House. I agree straight away with the noble Lord, Lord Fulton, that a Directive is an entirely inappropriate instrument for achieving or attempting to achieve what is required here in this field. I say that for three reasons. First, it is impossible for a Directive to reflect and allow for the diversity in the educational systems of the Member countries of the EEC. It cannot allow for the variations in the nature of the problem presented by the individual children of the different kinds of foreign workers, whom many of us have in large numbers. Nor can it allow for the variations in complexity of the problem presented by the different mixtures of children in many classrooms. expecially in the schools of Britain. Flexibility is essential and therefore a recommendation would he far more appropriate than a Directive. Furthermore, I agree very much with the Committee that three years is totally inadequate, especially if it is to be a Directive. and quite unrealistic as a period of grace. even if sufficient funds and qualified staff were certain to be available, and it is reasonably clear that there is no certainty in those important respects.

Although the drafters of the Directive do not seem to recognise it, there are. as the Select Committee was quick to point out, at least two problems here. rather than one. There is one problem with the children of migrant parents who are here for a spell and entirely another with the children of immigrant parents who are here to stay. Nevertheless, the two are lumped together in the Directive. Then there are subsidiary problems in that. although most migrant parents want their families to maintain their mother language and their mother culture, some of the immigrant families may also wish this but large numbers do not and are not concerned that their children should maintain their mother tongue and culture. Therefore, to impose compulsory instruction in those subjects upon immigrant families who do not want it is undesirable. and an attempt to get it done in the standard school curricula is unrealistic. A requirement to make such a provision obligatory on LEAs in this country would be a major departure in British education policy which, in my view, we should not accept. I hope we shall hear the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, confirming that that is also his view.

On the other hand, where migrant or immigrant parents wish their families to be well versed in their mother tongue and mother culture, I agree that provisions should be made. Whatever instrument is finally adopted should give every encouragement for appropriate steps to be taken. In my view, such encouragement can only be given by selecting and publishing a number of examples—pilot schemes—from different Member countries, illustrating the best practical methods that have been adopted for this purpose in a variety of the more acute and the most typical circumstances. My choice for a sample from Britain would be Bedford. Bedford has one of the highest proportions of migrants in its population of any town outside London. These people are Italians. The proportion of Italians to natives in Bedford in 1972 was 24 per cent., which is far higher than in many places which have been in the headlines over immigration problems. The children of these Italian families are taught according to the Bedfordshire curricula at LEA schools alongside children of English families. In addition, five lower schools, seven middle schools and one upper school are made available by Bedfordshire outside normal school hours for Italian classes made up of the Italian children who are taught by teachers employed by the Italian Government. This seems to have been a rational, fair and practical division of costs and labour. It may well he that since the days of Bunyan, Bedford has become particularly adept at persuading Cavaliers and Roundheads, Anglicans and Dissenters. Italians and English to hold firmly to their distinctiveness and at the same time to live at peace together.

There is one rather special example from a place taking the highest number of migrants that I know of outside London which would serve as a pilot scheme. There may be many others but it is quite impossible, with the variety of our problems, to lay down in a Directive what should be done about mother language and mother culture. I hold strongly to the view that it is right to place a firm obligation and to lay it firmly on every Member country of the EEC to give the children of its immigrant and migrant workers as good an education of their own kind as it gives to its own children. On the other hand, each education authority in each Member country should be left free to decide how that is best achieved.

Tuition in mother tongue and mother culture is quite another matter. It is more a matter of choice by the immigrants and is more susceptible to development by way of example. It is quite inappropriate to attempt to provide it by compulsion within the standard curriculum of the host country.

7.17 p.m.


My Lords, I am particularly delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, apparently learned so much about the thinking of local education authorities in his relatively limited period at the Department of Education and Science. He illustrated particularly well the way in which he has understood their thinking. I wish to speak strictly about the education of the children. The noble Lord, Lord Fulton, has put the matter in a wider context, but my concern is solely with the children. There are two aspects of the problem. First, there is the need—and this is equal for migrants and immigrants—to be integrated into the life of this country to which they have come. I think it would be fair to say that we have done this increasingly successfully. Special provision in the English language is generally practised and the courses for teachers coping with immigrant children have been developed quite extensively.

The second aspect of the problem is the one which in my judgment presents a completely impracticable proposition. It is the requirement to maintain as part of the curriculum in the schools the language and culture of the country of origin. I think of a school where 35 languages would be required to be taught. I do not know where one would find the increased number of teachers who would be necessary, and such a step would of course increase the staffing ratio very considerably.

It is therefore the view of the local education authorities that we entirely accept the rightness of enduring full educational rights for every child who comes to this country, whether as an immigrant or a migrant. That is not in doubt and we should take the necessary steps—either by reception classes or by using specially trained teachers who can handle the problem—to secure that. On the other hand, we could not accept any possibility of embodying within the school curriculum provision for the maintenance of the language and culture of the country of origin. It would not be a practical proposition; it simply could not be done.

What we have sought to do—and the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, gave a good example—is, where there is a sufficient group involved, to make provision by making premises available and by giving such help as is possible to enable a community from its own resources to have classes or groups in the language or the culture, not merely for the children but in many cases for the children together with their parents. I am certain that all local education authorities would be glad to give such help.

There is the final point, which I think is fundamental in this country. If my memory is right, when I made my maiden speech in your Lordships' House I devoted a considerable time to the importance of the distribution of power in the education service as the fundamental in my judgment. Any suggestion of a Directive from Brussels, which had to be applied in this country, which prescribed curriculum, would be a major departure from our tradition in education over the past 100 years or more, and would prove to be quite unacceptable. Nor do I think that it would be practical in operation. On the other hand, a recommendation to meet the second obligation would be received perfectly reasonably. As the noble Lord, Lord Fulton, said, our colleagues from the teachers' associations quite clearly sought in some cases to use the language and culture of the country of origin, to the advantage of the school as a whole, where it was a significant group. This is being done, and can be done.

But I hope that your Lordships will support the concept of a recommendation so that we leave, as we have always done in this country, the head teacher of a school to find how best to give the fullest educational opportunity to every child in his or her care. I believe that this will lead to the best results in the genuine purposes of the Community's purpose—but not by prescription. I think your Lordships would find the fullest support from local education authorities and from the teaching profession in the fulfilment of such recommendations. I think, too, that your Lordships would find total opposition to a Directive such as this proposal.

7.22 p.m.


My Lords, I want to be brief. Most of the things which I wanted to say have already been said, and therefore I shall fill in what seem to me to be one or two gaps. Why are we talking about this draft proposal? One of the witnesses to the sub-committee (of which I am not a member) put his finger on it very well when he gave evidence on the 10th March. Mr. Hudson said: I think there was a had conscience in parts of Europe about the conditions under which guest workers were living, and the extent of their participation in the social services of the host countries. This is the feeling that has led to the proposal which we are discussing this evening. Our experience of these guest workers is different because of our Imperial past and the complications of our citizenship law, and the history of our immigration control is different from that of almost every other Member State of the Community, with the possible exception of Holland.

So it is hardly surprising that something coming from the Community, when we have not been a Member very long, is not wholly suitable to the way in which we are accustomed to doing things. But—this is my first point—it would be a sad mistake to continue to give others the opportunity to say that Britain only drags its feet when the Community comes forward with an initiative. In this field, of all fields, we have special experience that can contribute to the solution of what are Community problems, and in criticising what we are rightly criticising today I hope that we can send a message to the Government to be positive in their criticism, and not merely to carp at the details of a proposal for whose objective most of us in this House would have much to say in support.

I shall not touch on the particular history of the independence of the British educational system from central direction, nor will I dwell on the details of the proposal. I remind your Lordships that we are really talking about a White Paper rather than having a Second Reading debate, because although the Council of Ministers are, I understand, to decide on this matter soon, they act as a legislature. and we are considering something that, if not still in embryo, has not received the proper scrutiny from national Governments that it will receive in the Working Parties of the Council before the Council of Ministers. Incidentally, I hope that the noble Lord who is to reply to the debate can tell us when this decision of the Council of Ministers is expected. So there is room for Her Majesty's Government to manoeuvre to adjust this proposal in a constructive way before it enters into the law of all the Member States.

If we are looking at the problem to which this proposal is addressing itself, perhaps we should ask the Government what is their view of the importance of mother tongue teaching and the preservation of the culture of those who come here? Let us put on one side for a minute the arguments between migrants and immigrants; these are technical debates about categories which become increasingly blurred, and I do not think that it really matters how we describe the people about whom we all know we are talking. What is the view of the Department about the importance of mother tongue teaching? Do the Government go along with the recommendation of the Bullock Report that confidence and ability in their language—that is, their natural language—would help children to have the same qualities in their second language, English? Do the Government sec the possession of a different language at home as a handicap, or as something that can be used to a child's advantage—not something that has to be eradicated? Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, can tell us whether the Department has looked into the effects of mother tongue teaching in other countries where there are multilingual communities.

It may well be that this proposal which we are discussing will never come into force, but something on these lines from the Community will come into force some time, as the noble Lord, Lord Fulton, made plain in the conclusion of his remarks, which 1 admired so much. This is the beginning of positive action by the Community in this field. It is the first step. In preparation for other steps of a similar nature, will the Government undertake a survey of the kind for which my noble friend Lord Sandford was pressing? Will they look into the best practices of local authorities already? There was a precedent, in 1971. There was issued an Education Survey on The Education of Immigrants. One of its objects was stated to be, it described practices which have been found successful in different educational situations and institutions ". It was not direction from the centre: it did not erode the freedom and independence of local education authorities. But it gave hints and guidance as to where the best practice had been found. Is there any chance of the Government's following up my noble friend's suggestion in preparation for other Directives or proposals coming from the Community in this field?

My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord who is speaking for the Government—and we all recognise that he is under considerable pressure; 1 do not know when he went to bed last night—will be able to encourage us that the Government are not trying to put a stopper on what the Community is attempting to do to discharge its social obligations to those who came here to make us all richer. We have different traditions and experience, but if Britain is seen to be, or can be said to be, holding out against the Community responding to its conscience when the conditions of these people are being improved. then I think that would be very sad; and I hope that the noble Lord will be able to give us some encouragement that, whether or not the details of this particular proposal are satisfactory, the Government will look at this, the first step in a long process, in a constructive and encouraging way. If possible, is he able to tell us whether the Government will be able to make an oral Statement after the Council of Ministers meeting at which this is discussed, so that we have a firsthand report in this House as to what the Government have done after what I believe has been a most interesting debate on a very fundamental question?

7.31 p.m.


My Lords, I hope I am not adding to the pressures already upon my noble friend Lord Donaldson, who is to reply to this debate, by asking to intervene in it at this point. I wanted to make three points which relate to those made, from a similar point of view for the local associations, by the noble Lord, Lord Alexander. The teacher associations have expressed in their evidence to the Committee, and have reiterated since the presentation of the two documents, three items, one relating to the research upon which any scheme of education must be based, another to the resources available to carry out any scheme of education and the last to some reservations that they have about some of the aspects raised in the Directive. It is to these three points that I should like to address myself for the moment. I should like to say, first, specifically in relation to paragraph 10 on page 2 of the document before us, that the Committee thinks that the United Kingdom draft Directive should distinguish between the types of immigrant children, and that the teacher associations felt and said in their evidence that the amount of research carried out, and the type of research carried out, was not in fact sufficient. There is available to those who are interested a great deal of research which has in fact gone on within this country.

In addition to those migrant populations who come in and are threatened with losing their own language—and the teacher associations accept, as I understand it, the impracticability of trying to keep all those languages alive—there is, of course, within our native population, the parallel problem of nations such as the nation of Wales which has been trying to keep its own mother tongue alive. In the process, through pieces of research carried out by the Schools Council and by the Department of Education and Science and bodies related to it, it has been possible to monitor the decay of a native language within this country. So there is some considerable evidence to support the contention of this report in relation, first of all, to the value of the mother tongue and the culture, which is quite undeniable, and, secondly, to its proposal that there should he a positive attitude towards bilingualism. I think, in fact, that if a criticism can be made of those who care so much for their mother tongue that they wish to see it kept alive, it is that they wish to see it kept alive at the expense of another language which, perhaps because of circumstances which cannot be denied, forces intolerable strains upon the mother tongue. So I welcome very much, and I think teacher associations also welcome, the emphasis placed upon this positive attitude to the native language and then a positive attitude towards making the incoming migrant bilingual. It is a very simple statement that the man who has one language is one man, the man who speaks two languages probably moves towards being two men.

This brings in very strongly the point that Lord Alexander made: that the resources available to carry out research and to continue to expand the research already going on are not available to us at this time. It should be said here that the schools themselves and the teachers in them, and indeed the education authorities themselves, are under great pressure. Indeed, to ask teachers simply to co-operate in schemes of research at this time is to impose on them a burden which they would find it very difficult to meet. So there are, then, these reservations about resources. There was one specific point which the teachers made in their evidence to the Committee, and that is that the bringing into this country, at a time of unemployment among teachers, of specialist teachers in the native language would itself, of course, cause difficulties.

I have risen in this debate to emphasise simply these three points: that there is a need for far greater research, that there is a need to co-ordinate that pool of research which is already available and to place it at the disposal of the Department of Education and Science, and that there is also a need to recognise the stress under which our colleagues in the schools are working at the present time.

7.37 p.m.


My Lords, may I intervene for one very brief minute to make one point? I think the report is absolutely right to draw distinctions between immigrants and migrants. Immigrants, as I understand it, are those who come here with the intention of staying here for the rest of their lives. The situation in Europe has for so long been quite different in this respect, that there are movements of workers between different countries in Europe. They may spend a few years here, and then go on to another country and spend a few years there; and the children themselves may be educated in several countries, one after the other. This is something which has to be borne in mind, and this is something which, in the long run, has to be worked out within the Community.

That is a rather different question from the question of acclimatisation, which I think is the word the Dutch used to use and which the Israelis have also used in respect of the many people coming into Israel speaking all kinds of different languages when they are being taught with a view to learning, throughout their education, in the language of the country to which they have come. They may be a different proposition from the case of those who come for a year or two, who will learn for two or three years in one country, who will then go on to another and move around. There is no easy solution to this. I think that, from the point of view of teaching children the language, to a large extent they can be taught in the same way when they move from one country to another. All I want to point out is that there are some children who will be pursuing their studies throughout their educational period in the language of the country to which they have just come, whereas there will be others who will be going from country to country. As I have said, this is something which will really have to be worked out within the European Community over a lengthy period of years.

7.39 p.m.


My Lords, I should like. if I may, to intervene for a moment, perhaps rather rashly since I have not been able to read the report of the Select Committee, but I am a Member of the European Parliament and I was a member of the Education Committee of that Parliament before they, in their zest for education, abolished that Committee and put it into the Social Affairs Committee. I am a great enthusiast for Europe. I have very few criticisms to make of the way in which the European Parliament operates and in which its Committees operate; but I must say that I thought the debate on this subject was totally confused and ill-informed. and that nobody seemed to have any idea of the scope or the scale of the problem.

What happened is that it got mixed up with the debate on the European schools which are provided for the children of the officials who are going to move back into a complex school system. What they really want is for the English children to be educated so as to be capable of taking O-levels and of going on to universities in England: and the same thing with the French and the Germans and so on. These are two problems, the problems of the children of the migrants and of the children of the officials of the Community, and they have got mixed up. The feeling is that if the children of migrants are going to return to Spain or to Turkey or from wherever they come, they are entitled to the same kind of education as are the children of the officials. This perhaps would be true if the problems were on the same scale; but the problem of the children of the officials is a comparatively small one while that of the migrants must be quite vast.

We have not been dragging our feet. From what I have heard—and one has only heard gossip and rumours, for there are no facts and figures of what goes on in Europe—and from what I know goes on here, I think that we have done an immense amount for the children of immigrants—far more than any of the countries of Europe have done for their migrant workers.

7.41 p.m.

The MINISTER of STATE, DEPARTMENT of EDUCATION and SCIENCE (Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge)

My Lords, we have had a very interesting and positive debate. The Government, and 1 as their spokesman, are extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Fulton, for his and his Committee's examination of this problem and for the very clear lead which he has given to the Government as to how he thinks they ought to behave. Every speaker today mutatis mutandis,, with one or two small variations, has endorsed this. This is a particularly suitable occasion because the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, asked when this is going to be discussed. My information is that it will be on 29th June. The Government will go with a clear idea of what the Select Committee and a number of extremely experienced noble Lords from this House think that they ought to do about it. So that I think that, whatever else this debate is going to be, it is going to be useful and it has come at the right time because it comes in a way in which it can he used by the Government as support for doing what, by the time I have finished speaking—which will not he very long-1 should say is unequivocally accepting the advice given.

The EEC draft Directive deals with three points: an educational reception system for the children of migrant workers for the crash course in the language of the host country; the inclusion of instruction in the mother tongue and the culture of migrant children in the normal school curriculum; and specialised training for home teachers. Everybody who has spoken—and. I think, the Government—would take the view that the first and third, at any rate, were wholly desirable objectives which we are already putting into practice in our own decentralised way; and that the middle Directive, the inclusion of instruction in the mother tongue and culture of migrant children, is something which, as several noble Lords have suggested, probably needs further study before one advances with the very considerable expenditure which would be required and in view of the difficulties confronting the teaching profession (to which my noble friend referred a minute ago) and of the various stresses and strains which exist. But I do not think there is any feeling in the advice the Government gets that this would necessarily be a wrong thing to do.

The feeling of the Government—and this has been endorsed by everybody who spoke today, by the noble Lord's report and by the various consultations they have had—is, however, in principle against an inflexible Directive. The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, made this point extremely clearly and I think we all agree with this. If we could have these three suggestions as a recommendation, I think we could do what the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, has asked us to do: which is graciously to welcome them, to see to what extent we are already doing what is suggested, to see how we can do more about it, to do research into the subject and, generally speaking. to respond in an absolutely positive way.

If this comes to us in the form of a Directive, then I think, as the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterton, thought, there will be trouble. The way the Government should negotiate, when they come to do so, is clear to all of us: they should respond in a positive way and I can assure noble Lords that, roughly speaking. that is what I feel confident they will do.

In discussing this very interesting subject I should like to say a word or two about instruction in a second language. There is no doubt that many European nations have always easily learned two languages. On the other hand, it is suggested by sonic experts that for a child who is confronted with an actual need in his daily life to learn a new language, to continue with the old language may be a positive handicap. I do not. think anybody knows the answers to problems like this. They are the kind of things that we must look at. It seems to me that a Russian aristocrat of three and a half years who spoke his native language to the servants and French to his mother—and this was the standard position 80 years ago—is not in the same situation as a boy who comes strangely to school surrounded by people speaking English, a language he does not know. It may be that he should be instructed in that language rather than have special lessons in whatever his native language may be. Here I must refer to what I think was said by the noble Lord. Lord Fulton. that there arc 1½ million immigrants of this kind in the country, 500,000 of whom arc Irish and that most of the remaining number have English as their second language. I would suggest that most of them have English as their first language, and that this makes the case even stronger.

There has been a good deal of thought about this. In a paper prepared for a conference on bilingualism Dr. Verity Kahn has said that many of the children attending mother tongue schools in Britain speak marked dialects and, in consequence, when confronted with their mother tongue they are actually or nearly in the situation of learning a new tongue. In such circumstances, this means two new tongues; so that one must be careful that this extra challenge is not to be one too many for a child who is already struggling with a new and different environment.

Of course, one can understand why there is a wish to see the mother tongue taught in schools. The differentiation between the immigrant and the migrant which has been clearly made by a number of speakers —and I will not re-define it—is a fluid one. Some people arrive as immigrants and go back as migrants; others arrive as migrants and go back as immigrants. There are no hard and fast lines here. In many cases a particular language is a necessary element in religious tradition. There again, you have a different situation. In a multiracial society, which I am proud to be able to call ours, it is surely desirable that the languages and cultures of minoric ethnic groups should be accorded and seen to have acceptable status. I hesitate to call the Welsh a minoric ethnic group; but I suppose that is a rough definition though perhaps one which is not entirely acceptable to my Welsh colleagues.

Our problem is really one of multilingualism rather than bilingualism. It is a most interesting and difficult problem. The noble Lord, Lord Bullock, in his report advocated a positive attitude in the school to its pupils' bilingualism, and recommended that there should be further research into the teaching of their own language to children of immigrant communities and into the various aspects of bilingualism in schools. But whatever is done must he done in a carefully considered way for sound educational reasons. Everybody who has been concerned with this feels that a Directive would not be able to meet those needs, though a recommendation might be a very welcome one.

There is so much agreement among us that I do not think it is necessary to prolong the discussion. We have, as we learnt yesterday when 30 noble Lords spoke on the subject, very severe financial constraints. It is perfectly obvious that even if tomorrow we had research which suggested that it would be very desirable to employ mother tongue teachers for all our visitors, it would not be possible to do so financially. I was rather attracted by the Bedford system which the Italians seem to have adopted, of the mother tongue paying for it with their " mother money ", if you see what I mean. There are a number of problems which have been stressed regarding the teachers. As I do not think anybody is advocating this, I do not think I need go into it any further.

The main argument on the 29th will be whether this is to be a Directive or a recommendation. The Government will continue to work for a solution which, in form and substance, takes into account the differences in circumstances which exist both between and within the Member States of the Community, and not least a solution which respects the diversity of the needs of individual pupils as these are perceived by their parents and teachers. Lord Fulton's Committee concluded its report by stating that in its present form the draft Directive was not appropriate to the conditions prevailing in the United Kingdom. The Government are in broad agreement with this conclusion and we shall give it full weight in the further stages of negotiations in Brussels.

7.53 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to thank those who have taken part in this interesting debate. It is tempting—especially for an ex-academic—to pursue some of the fascinating trails which have been laid for us. Some of them are not very academic, either. We have had a great experience in our past in teaching children who have a different culture and origin from ourselves. We made dreadful mistakes. We have taught little girls in West Africa to recite the theogony of Zeus when they ought to have been sitting at their mothers' knees listening to fairy tales in a language they could understand. We too often gave them story books which were full of pictures of English flowers but which never grew in their own environment.

We have learnt an immense amount since then and it ought to be put to use with advantage to those being taught in our schools. An important fact to remember is that this is a profoundly important subject. One knows by going to Africa the vast significance of being taught in a francophonc part of Africa or an anglophone part. It is a cast of mind, and so we are handling extremely combustible material. Also, it matters at what stage the kind of instruction that is necessary is given because, as I said, the little child has to have it at the right time if its imagination is to be stretched, not after it has acquired a new language and at a much later stage than is suitable for that function.

I must not take this further now. 1 should like to end by saying how in particular I responded to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, because it brought us back to the problem of how we can co-operate and not appear to be taking a negative attitude. I find this difficult because I think that the things I try to say about our traditions and education are not the results of vested interests; they are a profound legacy from a past in which we have had our triumphs in entertaining the spirit of non-conformity in our society and making the most of it. It would be a terrible pity if the legacy were lost when our duty in Europe is to introduce some of that spirit among our fellow Members.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at four minutes before eight o'clock.