HL Deb 17 February 2000 vol 609 cc1399-446

(" .—(1) The Education Act 1997 shall be amended as follow

(2) For section 43 substitute—

"Provision of careers education in schools and colleges

43.—(1) All registered pupils and students at a school or college to which this section applies must be provided, during the relevant phase of their education, with a programme of careers education.

(2) This section applies to—

  1. (a) county and voluntary schools;
  2. (b) grant-maintained schools;
  3. (c) maintained or grant-maintained special schools (other than those established in hospitals);
  4. (d) city technology colleges and city colleges for the technology of the arts;
  5. (e) pupil referral units; and
  6. (f) institutions within the further education sector.

(3) It is the duty of each of the following to secure that subsection (1) is complied with, namely▀×

  1. (a) in the case of a school falling within subsection (2)(a) to (c) the governing body of the school and its head teacher;
  2. (b) in the case of a school falling within subsection (2)(d), the proprietors of the school and its head teacher;
  3. (c) in the case of a pupil referral unit, the local education authority maintaining the unit and the teacher in charge of it; and
  4. (d) in the case of an institution within the further education sector, the governing body and the principal or head of the institution.

(4) Each of sections 496 and 497 of the Education Act 1996 (default powers of Secretary of State) shall, in relation to the duty imposed by subsection (3) above, have effect as if any reference to a body to which that section applies included a reference to the proprietors of a school falling within subsection (2)(d) above.

(5) For the purposes of this section the relevant phase of a pupil's or student's education is the period—

  1. (a) beginning at the same time as the school year in which the majority of pupils in his class attain the age of 14; and
  2. (b) ending with the expiry of the school or college year in which the majority of pupils or students in his class attain the age of 19
.

(6) In this section—

(3) After section 45 insert—

"Extension or modification of provisions of sections 43 to 45.

45A —(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations extend the scope of operation of section 43 or section 44 by substituting for the period specified in section 43(5) or section 44(10)(a)(i) such other period as is specified.

(2) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision for extending the scope of operation of section 43, 44 or 45 to primary schools or to any specified description of such schools, to secure that a programme of careers education is provided for any specified description of persons attending such institutions."").

The noble Baroness said: The new clause would require the insertion in the Education Act 1997 of a number of new sections requiring post-16 education and training providers to put in place continuing programmes of careers education guidance for 16 to 19 year-olds. Currently the duty relates only to 14 to 16 year-olds, under Section 43(5) of the 1997 Act. Drop-out rates, however, remain very high in the 16 to 19 year-old group and in the transition towards university. Too few students receive sufficient information, advice and guidance about work-based modern apprenticeship options and similar options post-18.

The new sections would require the Secretary of State to secure adequate resources for schools, colleges and bodies providing the Careers Service under Sections 8, 9 and 10 of the Employment and Training Act 1973 and to fulfil this additional duty. Section 46 of the 1997 Act would remain as the provision for the Secretary of State to choose to exercise this power to extend the duty with regard to primary schools and in early secondary years. But the amendment is suggested as an essential part of the joined-up thinking within the Department for Education and Employment by addressing the needs of the post-16 students with continued learning to assist them in making successful future career path decisions and transitions. I beg to move.

Lord Bach

The amendment moved so briefly and ably by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford, together with Amendment No. 234A seeks to make changes to the provision of careers education in schools and colleges.

Amendment No. 234 would make both pupils and students undergo careers education until they were 19. It would also enable the Secretary of State to extend careers education in primary schools. There is no argument that careers education is important for young people, whether they are still in compulsory education or not. However, there is at present no mandatory subject for post-16s—other than, of course, religious education in schools sixth forms—and we believe that it would be wrong to make formal careers education a requirement for all

. The amendment would also give the Secretary of State a specific power to secure careers education for primary school children. Again we think that legislation is not necessary. Section 46(2) of the 1997 Education Act is broad enough to allow that without the amendment

. The noble Baroness's second amendment, Amendment No. 234A, seeks to make similar changes but perhaps by a less laborious route. It would provide compulsory careers education for pupils up to the age of 19 and would also put a duty on the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring further education colleges to provide careers education and guidance for their students. Again I am sorry to disappoint the noble Baroness. We do not think that compulsion is either necessary or appropriate. It is better, in our view, that schools and colleges continue to develop their careers education programmes with the support of the new Connexions service

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

I thank the Minister for his reply, but I am somewhat disappointed with it. It seems to me that both amendments have some force. However, I will for now withdraw Amendment No. 234 and perhaps return to the matter on Report

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 243A not moved. ]

The Lord Bishop of Blackburn moved Amendment No. 235: Before Clause 109, insert the following new clause—

SEX EDUCATION: MANNER OF PROVISION

(" .—(1) Section 403 of the Education Act 1996 (sex education: manner of provision) shall be amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1) after "family life" insert "and having regard to the following principles—

  1. (a) that marriage should be promoted as the fundamental building block of society and of family life and as the proper context for the nurture of children, and
  2. (b) that pupils are entitled to develop without being subjected to—
    1. (i) any physical or verbal abuse about sexual orientation, or
    2. (ii) the encouragement of sexual activity."").

The right reverend Prelate said: Amendment No. 235 would have the effect of introducing into the Bill a new clause concerned with educational matters. It would amend Section 403 of the Education Act 1996 on the provision of sex education in schools.

The debate in your Lordships' House last week on Section 28 of the Local Government Act and my on Amendment No. 364B (Hansard, cols. 396 to 437) was lengthy and well argued. I shall therefore try to be brief tonight.

Since that debate, I have been greatly gratified and encouraged by the support I have received for the spirit of that amendment, to which this is parallel, from all parts of this Chamber, the media and people in every part of the United Kingdom. I believe that the Government accept the force of this in the light of the misunderstanding, which continues in the country at large, on the relationship between Section 28 and schools and therefore the corresponding fear that its repeal will open the floodgates to the aggressive promotion of homosexuality on children and young people

Sex education is now rightly a matter for the governors and head teachers of schools, with a parental right of withdrawal, but for that they need clear guidance on the framework of the principles and morality on which such teaching must be based. It is claimed that moral consensus in this area is hard to achieve in our so-called pluralist society. But I have to say that it is my firm conviction that in moving the amendment I speak with the support not only of the Church of England Board of Education, which I chair, the Catholic Education Service, with which I work closely, the other Christian Churches and all the other major faith communities in the United Kingdom, but also of a vast majority of the British people. The ideal and practice of marriage as set out in British law—namely, that between a man and a woman—is the fundamental building block for our society, for family life, and is the proper context for the nurture of children

In addition to the remarks which I made in last week's debate about the commitment of the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority and the PSHE framework document, I am happy to be able to tell the Committee that since the debate I have been in close contact with the Secretary of State, and we hope to meet early next week to pursue this matter

I therefore hope that in her reply the Minister will be able to give me the assurances I seek so that the fears of so many parents and others as to the basis of what is to be taught in our schools by way of sex and personal relationships education can be removed and a more positive approach adopted to this vitally important subject for the good of society now and for future generations. I beg to move

Baroness Blackstone

Let me say straightaway that the Government accept the spirit of the amendment moved by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn. A similar amendment was moved by him when the House debated the repeal of Section 28 of the Local Government Act a week last Monday. His intention then, as it is now, was to seek further to reinforce the moral framework for sex education and to put in place safeguards with regard to the delivery of sex and relationships education in schools, as we did in announcing the revised national curriculum. During the debate, my noble friend Lord Whitty made it clear, as I seek to do now, that the Government agree with much of the substance of what the right reverend Prelate was seeking to achieve.

Much heat has been generated already around this issue. The Government have made clear their intention to repeal Section 28 on the grounds not only that it is bad legislation, but also that it is divisive legislation. It is misunderstood, misquoted and misinterpreted. There is as much misunderstanding about its effect today as there was when it was put on the statute book 12 years ago

. Clearly, there are worries about the repeal and, despite the fact that the issue is one of local government legislation, the focus of those worries has centred around the provision of sex and relationships education in schools. We all agree that we need to have in place sensible sex and relationships education in schools. The Secretary of State for Education and Employment has made it clear that the new guidance will be set within the context of the national curriculum and the framework for personal, social and health education announced in September. This sets out that children should be taught about the importance and nature of marriage and family life in bringing up children. The guidance will ensure that pupils are taught to understand human sexuality and to respect themselves and others. This will enable them to understand difference and will help to remove prejudice.

The Secretary of State is in ongoing discussions with the right reverend Prelate, Church representatives and faith groups. These are sensitive issues which require further discussion as to the best way to ensure that guidance has greater coherence and force. I should therefore like to give the right reverend Prelate, from the Floor of the Committee, the same reassurance given to him in the earlier debate by my noble friend Lord Whitty. In response to the right reverend Prelate in agreeing to further discussions about sex and relationships education in schools, my noble friend said: We hope that in those discussions before the Bill completes its passage through Parliament, we shall have reached an understanding as to what is appropriate for primary legislation and what is appropriate for guidance and perhaps secondary legislation".— [Official Report, 7/2/00; col. 400.] I repeat that reassurance and hope that rather than press the amendment today the right reverend Prelate will agree to those further discussions.

Baroness Blatch

The Minister must forgive me, but I was passed a note by the Chief Whip, which I always instantly obey, and had no idea that the Minister would rise immediately after the right reverend Prelate

First, I welcome the positive duty to "promote" marriage, as stated in the amendment. I noticed that that word was missing from the Minister's assurances. She spoke of the "importance" of marriage. I welcome a change to the 1996 Act if it is to strengthen it along the lines of promoting marriage. However, a positive duty to promote marriage in no way precludes schools from promoting homosexuality as well. There is no bar on that in this amendment; nor was there such a bar in the amendment that the right reverend Prelate proposed to the Local Government Bill. Therefore, although I support the promotion of marriage, as stated in the amendment, it is no substitute for an argument for repeal of Section 28.

The Government have made no secret of their position. They have said that irrespective of a decision in the other place, the will of Parliament or anything else, they will repeal Section 28 because they have the vote to do so. We understand that they intend to use it and that therefore the fate of Section 28 is sealed. But since that debate, I, too, have received a great deal of mail from the Church and from people around the country saying, "Continue the fight to keep Section 28 on the statute book". Indeed, I was surprised by the number of teachers who wrote in as a result of reading the debate.

I repeat that the amendment is not a substitute for Section 28. Furthermore, subsection (2)(b)(i) of the proposed new clause, which deals with bullying, confusingly cuts across the provisions of Section 61(4) of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998. That section places a duty on head teachers to prevent bullying for whatever reason; whether the child is fat, thin, from an ethnic minority, is not very bright, or whatever. There is an absolute obligation on schools to produce policies for the prevention of bullying.

Throughout the debate last week, and indeed tonight's debate, one aspect has been ignored. The issue is not only about teachers in classrooms with children, but it is also about public money—that is, the money of local authorities—being spent by grant-aid on the bodies which produce materials such as those displayed in the exhibition recently held in the House of Lords. Some of those materials are horrendous and I do not know how they can be supported. But some of them are teaching aids for key stages 1 and 2 and because it comes through a circuitous route from people who are not caught by Section 28, the young people who use the services, the young people at the school gates and the young people outside the classroom are just as vulnerable. The issue is not only about children inside the classroom in the charge of teachers, but also about those outside.

Earlier in the week, we were subjected to the horrors revealed in the publication of the report into child abuse in Wales. I simply say this to noble Lords: looking at the record and reflecting on my experience in the Home Office, the majority of paedophilic behaviour is shown to be that of men preying on boys; the majority of incest cases usually involve fathers and girls. Thus, paedophilic homosexual behaviour on young boys is often recorded.

A point I raised during our brief discussion on the report when it was brought before the House was that there are still issues of concern about those who have indirect access to young people, rather than those who have direct access. The case for keeping Section 28 on the statute book remains as strong as ever. However, I wish absolutely to give my full support to moves to strengthen the 1996 Education Act along the lines of promoting marriage.

7 p.m.

Lord Tope

I had hoped that we might have been able to discuss the amendment before us without degenerating—and I mean to say "degenerating"—into the kind of contribution that we have just heard. I am sorry if that comment provokes the noble Baroness, but perhaps I may say as a matter of fact that the vast majority of paedophiles are heterosexual rather than homosexual. I deeply regret the inference made by the noble Baroness. I shall give way.

Baroness Blatch

I was referring to cases of paedophilic behaviour which come before the courts. Furthermore, I should like to say to the noble Lord that I did not raise Section 28 as a subject for discussion. It was referred to by the Minister in her response to this amendment. Indeed, it was also referred to in passing by the right reverend Prelate.

Lord Tope

I shall turn to what I want to say rather than what I have been provoked to say.

I welcome the words of the right reverend Prelate and pay tribute to the spirit in which he has moved the amendment. I welcome in particular his opening remarks when he said that, because legislation has changed since 1998, the inclusion of Section 28 in a local government Act—whatever one thinks of it; I believe that my views are clear to the Committee—is no longer relevant to this issue. The right reverend Prelate is therefore quite right to raise the matter in relation to an Education Bill and an Education Act.

As he rightly pointed out, for some time this has been a matter for school governors and headteachers. Whatever one thinks about the materials that are produced, their use in schools is a matter for headteachers and school governors. It is certainly not a matter for local authorities.

I welcome also the Government's response to the amendment. However, I have considerable doubts about whether this form of words will be appropriate in primary legislation. I shall quote the relevant section from the 1996 Act, to which this amendment seeks to add. It states: to have due regard to moral considerations and the value of family life". That is perfectly adequate and the right statement to make in primary legislation. It is included in an Act of Parliament passed only a few years ago by a Conservative government of which the noble Baroness was a member.

These are difficult and sensitive matters. I accept— not least because of the continuing debate on the subject—that teachers need guidance on these issues. The Government propose to introduce such guidance and I am sure that that is the right way to approach the matter. I shall wait to see the draft guidance itself before I will be sure that they have got it right, but I do not doubt that that is what is needed here.

I hope that the right reverend Prelate will feel that he has received on the record adequate assurances from the Minister as regards his amendment. I hope also that he will take comfort from the discussions he has already had and will continue to have with the Secretary of State. In that way, I hope we shall see guidance that will be helpful to teachers and which will deal with these important and sensitive matters in a calm and considered manner, reflecting what is already in the 1996 Education Act.

The Lord Bishop of Blackburn

I am grateful to the Minister for her reply and her reassurances. I wish only to say that I believe that discussions on the implications of the repeal of Section 28 are going to continue. There is no doubt about that. It is on the parliamentary agenda and the issue will continue to be heard.

The noble Lord, Lord Tope, indicated that there is unfinished business so far as concerns schools. I believe that there is widespread misunderstanding about the implications of Section 28, which is, as the noble Lord rightly pointed out, directed towards local authorities, and the arrangements as regards schools in place under the 1996 Act. For that reason, I hope that we can build on that Act and find an appropriate framework which has, as far as possible, the consensus of the people of this country as to how sex and personal relationships education should be delivered.

Given the assurances of the noble Baroness, for the moment I am happy to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Carter

I should like to intervene briefly on a matter of business management. I believe that seven groups of amendments remain to be discussed on the Bill. If the Committee feels that it is able to finish those discussions by around eight o'clock. we could cancel the dinner break and move straight through the remainder of our proceedings. However, I have no wish to curtail discussions on the Bill.

Clause 109 [Induction periods for teachers]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 236: Page 49, line 37, at end insert— ("(8) Induction providers shall ensure that all new teachers and other appropriate staff members have received preparation for working with people with learning difficulties or disabilities or both. (9) The Learning and Skills Council and the National Council for Education and Training in Wales shall establish a programme of disability equality training for serving teachers within the further education sector who have not received such initial training as indicated in subsection (8) above, and as part of an ongoing process of staff development.").

The noble Baroness said: Before I speak to the amendment, I do not know whether the Committee has assented to the request of the Chief Whip. I do not believe that it will be possible to finish all that early because we need to address so many diverse amendments. It is difficult to say when we shall finish. I hope that the Chief Whip has not placed a constraint upon us that we must finish.

Amendment No. 236 addresses the important subject of the induction of teachers and other relevant staff members who have responsibility for working with people who have learning difficulties or disabilities. The group I have in mind are those to whom, over the years, we have come to refer as the "Warnock children"; the original Warnock report made the statement that around 20 per cent of all children require teaching provision in the classroom above the norm. That 20 per cent of children encompasses those with minor learning difficulties over and above the average of normal capabilities right through to the most severe learning difficulties.

I believe that coping with such children will inevitably be the experience of almost every teacher in the land during the course of his or her working life. For that reason, I believe that we need to see on the face of the Bill a proper obligation to ensure that relevant training is included in induction programmes.

Such a provision would ensure that all teachers and support workers who come into contact with this group of young people would receive appropriate training in this area.

The proposed new subsection (9) states: The Learning and Skills Council and the National Council for Education and Training in Wales shall establish a programme of disability equality training for serving teachers within the further education sector who have not received such initial training as indicated in subsection (8)". If my noble friend Lord Roberts were here today, I know he would agree with that sentiment. I should like to recommend strongly to the Committee this valuable extra provision. I beg to move.

Lord Addington

I intervene briefly to say that I believe a little agreement has broken out between these Benches and the Conservative Benches. I thank noble Lords for their chuckles.

We have been seeking an amendment along these lines for some time now. Appropriately trained teachers will be able to provide properly for those with moderate difficulties in the classroom. However, as the noble Baroness has pointed out, the Government wish to see the vast majority of the population move on into further education. Such young people will need continuing proper support in those institutions.

The amendment is sensible and addresses a valuable provision. We should be encouraging further help for those already moving through the system. I do not know how the Minister intends to reply, but. I am sure that teachers and support workers need the tools of appropriate training to do their jobs well.

Baroness David

My name too is down to this amendment. I believe it is an extremely important amendment and I hope the Minister will be able to look on it favourably.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth

I also support this amendment. It is obvious that the quality of training of teachers will have an impact on the quality of learning and on the general development of learners. Certainly, Tomlinson bore this out. In 1996 a report produced by SKILL called Student Voices led people to believe that there was quite a long way to go to ensure that teachers in FE colleges were really good at dealing with students with disabilities.

Lord Bach

I start by setting out what this clause is designed to do. Last September, the Government introduced a statutory induction programme for newly-qualified school teachers serving in maintained schools. Since that time, we have listened to the views of, in particular, sixth-form colleges and have agreed to enable certain FE sector institutions to participate in the induction programme. Those institutions will employ teachers who are qualified to teach children in maintained schools and will offer a suitable teaching environment. The regulation-making powers set out in this clause will enable us to do that.

We expect that most sixth-form colleges will take the opportunity to participate in the induction programme. Other FE sector institutions may be interested if they wish to recruit newly-qualified school teachers specifically to teach students under the age of 19 and would like to offer them an opportunity to undergo the professional induction.

Amendment No. 236 is motivated by a quite understandable concern that teachers, both in maintained schools and in further education, should have appropriate preparation for working with students with disabilities or learning difficulties or both. Provision already exists to meet that laudable aim in respect of school teachers, and currently we are consulting on how best to achieve the same in respect of FE teachers.

The standards for qualified teacher status require that initial teacher training trainees must be able to demonstrate the following: first, that they establish a safe environment which supports learning and in which pupils feel secure and confident; secondly, that they use teaching methods which set high expectations of all pupils and which keep them engaged through the use of approaches appropriate to the pupils being taught; and, thirdly, that they understand their professional responsibilities in relation to school policies and practices, including those concerned with pastoral and personal safety matters.

Those standards are currently being reviewed by the Teacher Training Agency. As part of that review, the Teacher Training Agency will consider whether there is a case for making explicit reference in the standards to appreciating and accommodating the needs of disabled pupils.

The induction standards for determining whether an induction period has been completed satisfactorily require newly-qualified teachers to be able to demonstrate that they plan effectively to meet the needs of pupils with special education needs and that, in collaboration with their SEN co-ordinator, they contribute to the preparation, implementation and upkeep of individual education plans.

Therefore, the principle that school teachers should be able to recognise and seek to meet all pupils' needs is fundamental to the standards for qualified teacher status and induction. Everyone who successfully completes initial teacher training and the induction programme will have been prepared to work with children who have learning difficulties and/or disabilities, and the carers of such children.

I turn to the same question in respect of FE teachers. The Department for Education and Employment recently launched a consultation paper on the introduction of compulsory teaching qualifications for FE teachers. That paper sought views on a wide range of issues, including possible requirements for FE teachers to be trained to teach people with learning difficulties or disabilities. Indeed, as the paper made clear, the Further Education National Training Organisation is, looking at developing standards for teaching students with learning difficulties or disabilities. Some teachers will want to specialise in this area, so there is a need for a detailed set of standards to accommodate their needs. Also, all further education teacher training courses should include the skills needed to teach such students. This indicates a need for 'core' and 'option' routes in these additional standards". The consultation paper is being distributed widely among interested parties, including the Disability Consortium on Post-16 Education and Training, with which, of course, many noble Lords are well acquainted.

The Government support the principle that all teaching staff in schools or in the FE sector should have an appropriate awareness of issues relating to disabilities or learning difficulties. However, I hope that I shall not disappoint noble Lords when I say that the Government intend to resist this particular amendment for two reasons, sympathetic though we are to the idea behind it.

First, it would be quite wrong to pre-empt the outcome of the consultation exercise, which is already in hand, through which we shall determine how best to ensure that FE teachers have an appropriate awareness of the needs of students with disabilities or learning difficulties or both. Secondly, and perhaps not so significantly, we do not believe that this amendment is appropriate to the clause that we are debating. As I set out at the beginning of my comments, Clause 109 is in the Bill to enable us to allow FE institutions to take part in the statutory induction programme for newly-qualified school teachers—those who represent, of course, only a very small part of the FE workforce.

I hope that, during the course of what I have said, I have given some assurances that will be received sympathetically by those who are interested in the amendments. Of course, we hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment, given the assurances that have been made on behalf of the Government.

7.15 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

Quite a lot of what the noble Lord has said has been reassuring, but it will be necessary for me to read in much more detail what he has said in order to understand its full import. However, I am puzzled as to why he believes that Clause 109 is not the appropriate place for the amendment. It opens with Section 19 of the Teaching and Higher Education Act. It is referred to as an induction period for teachers. If induction periods and the nature of induction are to be referred to at all, I cannot think of another clause in the Bill where that subject would fit. That is certainly not an argument to use against the amendment. If the noble Lord believes that there is a more appropriate place in the Bill, then we should like to give that some consideration. However, my understanding is that Clause 109 is about induction and makes quite specific reference to FE and HE. The noble Lord has said quite a lot on this matter. I shall read what he has said in order to reassure myself.

I want to raise one issue. I am not sure that there is a system in place which is sufficiently comprehensive to ensure that the relevant people receive induction periods during the course of their professional careers which will help them to deal more effectively with teaching young people with learning disabilities and physical disabilities. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 109 agreed to.

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 236A: After Clause 109, insert the following new clause—

    cc1411-9
  1. GOVERNORS' LIABILITY 4,198 words
  2. cc1419-23
  3. TRANSITIONAL PROVISIONS 1,422 words
  4. SCHEDULE TRANSITIONAL PROVISIONS
    1. PART I
      1. cc1423-4
      2. ENGLISH COUNCILS 654 words
  5. PART II
    1. cc1424-7
    2. WELSH COUNCILS 1,677 words
    3. cc1427-8
    4. Business 158 words
    5. cc1428-46
    6. Northern Ireland 9,085 words