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Lord Strabolgi: My Lords, I should like to associate myself with what the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said and to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, in particular and to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, for their unfailing help and courtesy throughout the passage of the Bill.

I should like to thank also my noble friend Lord Dubs who has also been associated with Part III. I very much enjoyed working with him. We managed to get three concessions from the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, for which we are grateful, which I never expected to get when the Bill started its lengthy passage through your Lordships' House. I am very glad that we managed to make those improvements and that the Government accepted them.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I thank your Lordships for the final welcome as this Bill passes. It was a rather muted welcome from the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, who said that he liked some parts of it but did not like others. So long as he concentrates on the parts that he likes, that is the main thing.

However, I should tell the noble Lord, Lord Williams, that he really must get his facts straight. He accused me of going on holiday. He must think of all the people who will read Hansard and see what he said; that is, that I had gone on holiday to Crete when I did nothing of the sort. The next time he goes on holiday to Crete, I should not wish him to experience the experience that in fact I had.

I was particularly grateful for the tribute which the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lords, Lord Williams and Lord Strabolgi, paid to my noble friend Lord Lucas. He did a magnificent job. He shouldered responsibility for all the parts of the Bill for which I should have been responsible. He did it with enormous dignity and understanding. That was a remarkable effort.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Williams, about just one thing. He said that my noble friend Lord Lucas will go far in this House but he added, "on the Opposition Benches." Of course, he will not have an opportunity to experience that and he should have left out those last few words. I commend the Bill to the House.

On Question, Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.

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Education (Scotland) Bill [H.L.]

10.37 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (The Earl of Lindsay): My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons amendments be now considered.

Moved, That the Commons amendments be now considered.--(The Earl of Lindsay.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENTS
[The page and line refer to Bill (138) as first printed by the Commons.]
COMMONS AMENDMENT

1

Clause 2, page 2, line 24, leave out 'and assist in,' and insert 'assist in or carry out'.

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 1. I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 2 to 4. I shall concentrate first on Amendments Nos. 2 and 3.

During Committee stage in this House the noble Lords, Lord Ewing and Lord Carmichael, spoke with eloquence and with sincerity about those with special educational needs. The matter was raised again when this Bill was considered by another place.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State and I would expect the SQA to cater for those with special educational needs. Both SEB and SCOTVEC have a strong track record in that area.

This amendment therefore makes specific reference to SEN students in Clause 4(a). This power deals with the procedures adopted by establishments for assessing attainment rather than the audit of the effectiveness of these procedures dealt with in 4(b) which the noble Lords suggested. We feel that this is preferable.

We are committed to the principle that those with special educational needs should have the opportunity to gain fair access to qualifications. This amendment underlines that commitment and is the rationale behind Amendments Nos. 2 and 3.

I turn now to Amendments Nos. 1 and 4 which deal with national testing. Since 1993, primary schools have implemented a system of national testing from P1 to P7, in line with the principles of the 5-14 curriculum development programme.

Overall testing rates in primary schools are now very respectable, taking into account the time that it takes most pupils to advance one level in the programme. Some 90 per cent. of primary pupils are now routinely tested, using national testing materials, as they progress through one of the 5-14 attainment levels. The concept of testing--so controversial in 1992--is now rightly regarded as part of good teaching practice. In primary schools, the enduring result of that period was a real commitment to implement testing as part of the 5-14 programme.

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Primary schools in Scotland have performed on testing. But the secondary schools have not. Secondary schools were given an extra year to prepare for the introduction of testing; and the monitoring of testing rates only began in the 1994-95 session.

That delay should have meant that the secondary rates started at a decent level and rose swiftly. But the reality is that the rates of national testing in secondary schools are distressingly low.

For the latest available full year period, testing rates in the three tested areas of reading, writing and mathematics were, respectively, 9 per cent., 5 per cent. and 8 per cent. Several of the former education authorities reported testing rates in each of the subject areas of under 5 per cent. These rates are unacceptably low. And they have not appreciably improved over the past 18 months.

Although a significant number of schools are asking for national testing materials, very few indeed are actually doing national testing in the way the Government have asked for it to be carried out and in the way that education authorities themselves pledged to do back in 1993. And all the while, parents wait--wait to see results of their children's progress, as measured against nationally set standards.

Amendment No. 1 therefore extends the powers of the SQA in preparation for the extension of its role in national testing, while Amendment No. 4 makes substantive provision for testing regulations. I beg to move.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 1.--(The Earl of Lindsay.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENTS

2

Clause 4, page 3, line 15, after 'persons' insert '(and, in particular, such persons with special educational needs)'.


3

Clause 21, page 10, line 29, at end insert--


'"special educational needs" has the meaning given by section 1(5)(d) of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980;'.

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 en bloc. I have spoken to Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 when moving Amendment No. 1.

Moved, That this House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment Nos. 2 and 3.--(The Earl of Lindsay.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENT

4

Before Clause 32, insert the following clause--

Assessment of secondary school pupils

'. After section 2 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 (Secretary of State may prescribe standards etc. for education authorities) there shall be inserted the following section--
"Assessment of secondary school pupils.

2A.--(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision for the testing and assessment of pupils undertaking the first or second year of secondary education in public or self-governing schools.

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(2) It shall be the duty of an education authority or a board of management to comply with the provisions of regulations made in pursuance of subsection (1) above.
(3) Regulations made in pursuance of subsection (1) above may make different provision as to different cases or circumstances.".'.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 4.

The amendment, sadly, is not well thought out. The Government successfully introduced a new Clause 32 to the Bill at Committee stage as an amendment to the Education (Scotland) Bill 1980 which would allow for the testing and assessment of children in the S1 or S2 of secondary education in public and self-governing schools. The tests will be run by the new Scottish Qualifications Authority and will be marked by external examiners. The Government's intention is to take regulations in April and introduce the new S1 and S2 tests in August 1997.

The amendment seeks to ensure that pupils are tested only with their parents' consent. It will enable parents to elect to have their children tested and will ensure that no children are tested without parental consent. This follows from the Secretary of State's assurance in the Commons on Second Reading that no pupil will be required to be tested if his or her parents do not wish it, and the amendment ensures that there is a statutory basis for that decision.

There are a number of serious concerns about the new proposals, but at this late hour I will not speak to them at great length and perhaps tire noble Lords even further. The timetables are tight and, even if there were a general election, an incoming government would inherit the regulatory framework. The question arises of the stress on children given the timescale and the fact that the tests are likely to be marked by an outside body. The implication is that primary schools are unable to assess pupils properly and that a basic entry assessment system is needed to offset that deficiency.

Primary school staff will try to prepare pupils for the test in S1. There are fears of a narrowing of the curriculum. I am not trying to reduce the importance of the subjects themselves, but too narrow a focus on reading, writing and mathematics at this stage of a child's career is not the best way to bring him forward to become a fully educated individual.

There are also considerable cost implications. Has the Minister any information on the costs that may be involved? We should consider the morale of staff already facing the (5-14) curriculum changes and the implementation of the Higher Still programme. That places a severe strain on staff. Our conclusion is that the intentions of the Government are clear but have been poorly thought out. I think that is evident by the late date at which such important changes to the Bill were introduced.

I am sorry that the Government have introduced this amendment and this whole attitude to testing. I am sad to say that, because I do not like education Bills, or any sort of Bills, to fail one after the other. But I am sure there will need to be yet another education Bill

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sometime in the not too distant future. This amendment should not have been introduced, and certainly not at such a late stage. I cannot agree with it. I beg to move.

Moved, That the House do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 4.--(Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove.)


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