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Lord Henley: My Lords, the noble Baroness invites me to intervene and, although it is Report stage, with the leave of the House, I shall do so. Guidelines already exist under the Children Act guidance in relation to the qualification of staff in settings registered under the Act. I was trying to make the point, which I obviously did not make as clearly as I should have done, that my right honourable friend has powers to review at any stage the requirements of grant relating to staff qualifications. As I made clear, or as I thought I made clear, in my opening remarks, we believe that the requirements of grant are a very powerful tool. I cannot remember exactly what it was that Dr. Johnson said about hanging, but I think that that will concentrate the mind wonderfully.

Baroness Warnock: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for those comments. Requirements are of course a powerful weapon provided they are sufficiently tough to concentrate the mind in the way that he suggests. Nevertheless, there is probably no point in pressing this amendment further. Everyone who has taken part in the discussion realises the anxieties that are felt as regards the danger in letting standards of nursery education drop. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7 p.m.

Baroness Warnock moved Amendment No. 10:

Page 2, line 37, at end insert (", and
(c) may specify the training and provision to be made for language teaching and for teaching English as a second language, having regard to the needs of the locality").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in this amendment I am really pressing the same point. I believe this has already been said by the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris. I think that we ought to take particular notice of those children who, with luck, will not become children with special educational needs. However,

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without luck and without special vigilance, they will become children with special educational needs. I refer to that large number of children who are linguistically deprived. Of course that linguistically deprived class of children includes those who do not speak English at home because they speak some other language. Those children are readily recognisable but need specialist help to acquire fluency and the ability to conduct conversation in English, which is not the language they are accustomed to at home.

This is an area where the qualifications of staff--to return to that matter--are of supreme importance. There is a probably larger category of children, to whom the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, referred in respect of a particular area of Wales, who can be found all over England and Wales; namely, those children who receive no parental encouragement to speak at all, and who sometimes come to school, even at the age of five, with a vocabulary of about five words, and most of those constitute various forms of invective because the only words they ever hear, apart from those uttered on the television, are words uttered against them by various grown-up persons.

Those children do not realise that talking to grown-up people is a possibility. They do not have the concept of dialogue or the concept that language is used for all kinds of different purposes, for example, to command, in which case one obeys; to discuss, in which case one is allowed to express one's own feelings, and so on. That is an area of deprivation which I do not believe we take enough notice of. I believe that the nursery class is where this deprivation needs to be addressed before the gulf between those who have a large vocabulary and can talk and express themselves, and those who cannot, becomes enormously wide and we have two classes of people; namely, those who will succeed in school, and those who will fail from then on. The purpose of this amendment is to call attention on the face of the Bill to the need to have teachers who are qualified to identify those children and get them out of their predicament. I beg to move.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris: My Lords, the amendment, which I am happy to support, provides for the language needs of pupils. As the noble Baroness has said, in the case of Wales this is a rather special problem. It would lead to provision for children whose home language is other than English in many cases, but it would also contribute towards the nourishment of the Welsh language, and that is a particularly sensitive matter. There is danger here. Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, the Welsh Language Society, is a vigilant and alert body that takes offence quite easily. There are other organisations and parents who are equally alive to fair, equal and proper provision being made for the Welsh language throughout education, and especially in nursery education. It was not so long ago that we pushed through the Welsh Language Act which produced the Welsh Language Board under the distinguished chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas. I should like to know--if the noble Lord can jot this down for an answer when he comes to speak--whether the Government have had any consultations with the Welsh Language Board on this particular matter.

The introduction to SCAA's language and literacy "desirable outcome" states,

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    "children must be helped to acquire competence in English as soon as possible, making use where appropriate, of their developing understanding and skills in other languages".
That is precisely the kind of thing that is liable to irritate people whose first language is Welsh and who want, on the whole, for their children to remain bilingual for as long as possible, and somewhat resent the large presence of English right next door, and the assumption that everyone must get to know it as soon as possible in their lives. There is scant reference to languages other than English in SCAA's "desirable outcome" document. That lack of recognition for the many children who will start nursery education with home languages other than English is of great concern. It simply does not reflect our multicultural society. All children have a right to live in and learn from a diverse world, to respect harmony and equality and to be well informed about other groups and cultures. That is perhaps particularly important in Wales. This amendment would acknowledge the specific and different language needs of children in Wales. That is not the same problem as one has with Hindi or Tamil or Urdu.

In contrast to the SCAA document the introduction of ACAC's draft "desirable outcome" document places far more emphasis on the home language, other than English, in that locality. It states:

    "Experience of the Curriculum Cymreig, including the Welsh language, should be an integral part of the ethos of the nursery provision and of the range of children's experiences. Welsh should not be a once-a-week language lesson. It can with vision, enthusiasm and support from committed educators be a rewarding and lively learning experience for all children of nursery age in Wales".
That is more like what we should like to get from this amendment. The ACAC document goes on to recognise:

    "Competent use of language is the most fundamental of human skills. It is a decisive factor in mastery of other areas of learning. If a child has a wide range of language experiences, that mastery will become well established and the child's intellectual, emotional and social learning will be enhanced".
Amen to that, say I!

Special provision we believe surely must be made for that. There is none in the Bill as it stands. There is none in the various documents that have floated around the Bill. If it is not mandatory, some providers will scant it while others may not. The Minister may well say, "Well, fair enough, parents will choose providers who provide it". And so they will, but non-providers, especially in a place like Wales, will attract odium, and the existence of both sorts will fracture communities, and bring back that bitterness and resentment and divisiveness over the question of the language in Wales which brought about even the extreme of arson which those of us who have lived there have striven so hard over the years to eliminate. This amendment would prevent that in Wales. It would encourage good practice, and it would cost the Government only peanuts. I beg the Minister to consider it most carefully.

Lord Tope: My Lords, I rise to support this amendment but will do so only briefly because the case has been well made. The noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, spoke, not surprisingly, with great eloquence on behalf of Wales. Whilst I endorse all that

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he says perhaps I may speak with much less eloquence and more briefly on behalf of London and indeed on behalf of all metropolitan inner city areas where the issue we are discussing is important. In those areas many young children come from homes where English is not spoken at all. Their experience in nursery education will be their first in a learning situation. The passing of the amendment would go some way towards encouraging adequate resourcing for a sufficient number of teachers under Section 11 arrangements. That would help to ensure that all bilingual children or children with English as a second language who participate in the voucher scheme receive the provision that they need. I believe that it is an important issue. I am happy to support the amendment.

Baroness David: My Lords, the case has been made for Wales and for children where English is a second language. However, it is important that children who speak the normal English language learn to use the language more effectively, to read it and to make use of books. That is important for all children, not only those who have been mentioned by other speakers.

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