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The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, given the late hour I shall speak briefly. I believe that testing proves to be unpopular in Scotland because of the perceived threat to the comprehensive system of education and because of the perverse effects that the interpretation of high and low schools can have on pupils, their families and teachers.

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, and to an extent the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, that some of the details that have been mentioned, principally by the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, will come under the scrutiny of the consultation which my honourable friend the Minister and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State have promised will be carried out on the testing which will be introduced to secondary one and secondary two levels. Therefore, as regards the timetable between now and August 1997 when these tests will come into effect, that is exactly the sort of issue which the consultation exercise can address.

The noble Lord thinks there is undue stress being placed on children. Again that matter can be discussed between the education authorities and SEB--or SQA as it will become. I remind the noble Lord that testing is a regular feature now of primary school education. I am not sure that the sudden stress on children that the noble Lord imagines in secondary one and secondary two schools, will occur. I think that most children, not least my own, are used to those assessments being made.

I take issue with the implication of the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, that reading, writing and arithmetic provide too narrow a focus on which to test a child. They are three basic requisites, which almost any child requires; therefore, the claim that it is too narrow a focus is one with which I could not agree.

The final point concerns costs. I assure the noble Lord that no additional burden will be imposed on education authorities. Indeed, my honourable friend the Minister and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State both assured another place that the additional resources required for this will be given to SQA. Therefore, no additional burden will be imposed on the education authorities themselves.

The noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, stressed that testing is unpopular. I would suggest that, given that primary school testing is now greeted by parents and, indeed, by the schools themselves, as a success, it would indicate that after the initial reservations of the parties opposite have been overcome these will also be welcomed by a large client group.

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Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove: My Lords, I must correct the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, if I have given him the wrong impression. I made a point of saying that the subjects of reading, writing and arithmetic are very important. All I implied was that these tests were narrowing matters down too much, so that if the pupils were being tested too often, particularly if they were external and national tests, it might force the schools to neglect other parts of the curriculum in order to concentrate on these subjects. Numeracy is, of course, incredibly important, but I do not like the idea that it may become the only important matter, so that there would be numerate people who did not have other skills, in an educational sense.

I do not necessarily wish the Minister to answer; I merely wish to make it clear that I was not attempting to suggest that those subjects were unimportant. They are very important, but so are other matters in the educational system. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 4.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENT

5

Clause 32, page 18, line 42, after 'kilometers' insert '(2 miles)'.

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 5. In moving Amendment No. 5, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 6, 7, 8 and 9.

Amendments Nos. 5, 6 and 7 insert imperial measurements as supplementary indications of distance in addition to the metric terms adopted in new Section 28A(3B) of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 (as inserted by Clause 32).

Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 clarify the regulation-making power in new Section 28A(3C) of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 (as inserted by Clause 32) to prescribed maximum numbers of places which may be reserved for children of incomers to an area.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 5.--(The Earl of Lindsay.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENTS

6

Clause 32, page 18, line 43, after 'kilometers' insert '(3 miles)'.


7

Page 18, line 44, at end insert--


'; and in paragraphs (a) and (b) the references to imperial measurements are supplementary indications of distance.'.
8

Page 19, line 2, after second 'number' insert 'or, as the case may be, such percentage of places at the school or relating to the particular stage of education'.


9

Page 19, line 7, at end insert '; and different numbers or, as the case may be, percentages may be prescribed under this subsection for the purpose of different cases or circumstances'.

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The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 6 to 9 en bloc, to which I have spoken with Amendment No. 5.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 6 to 9.--(The Earl of Lindsay.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENT

10

Clause 36, page 20, line 15, leave out subsection (7).

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 10. This is a technical and procedural amendment, relating to Bills originating in this House. It will delete the privilege amendment inserted as subsection (7) of Clause 36 at Third Reading, as is normal practice.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 10.--(The Earl of Lindsay.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

11 p.m.

COMMONS AMENDMENT

11

Schedule 5, page 30, line 14, at end insert--


'. After section 51(2B) of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 (provision of transport and other facilities) there shall be inserted the following subsection--
"(2C) In considering whether to make any arrangements under subsection (1) above in respect of pupils attending schools, an education authority shall have regard to the safety of such pupils.".'.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove: My Lords, I beg to move that this House do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 11. The amendment may appear unnecessary because we all have views on school transport. We are grateful that it is provided on such a wide scale in so many parts of Scotland.

However, I wish to refer to the Government's proposed amendment to Section 51 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 relating to the provision of transport and the need to have regard to the safety of pupils.

On the face of it, this would appear to be a straightforward amendment enshrining in statute what is standard practice in Scottish education authorities. However, there are genuine concerns about the intent behind the amendment, which could have serious implications for councils, hence our desire for clarification from the Minister. The Minister has been helpful throughout the Bill at all stages, giving every piece of information that was asked for. We seek further clarification and the same courtesy from the Minister, which I am sure we shall receive.

The amendment as proposed generally, as already indicated, reflects current practice in education authorities, but it is unclear and could give rise to unrealistic expectations among parents. I hope that the Minister and his advisers will look carefully at the provision. As worded, it could be taken to refer to

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individual pupils which it is assumed is not the case as this would clearly have unquantifiable financial repercussions for councils. For the sake of clarity, the amendment, we believe, should be reworded to read,


    "in respect of a pupil attending a school, an education authority shall have regard to the safety of such a pupil".

In general, Scottish local authorities would prefer a retention of the status quo in respect of statutory references to the provision of school transport. As a minimum, however, a government assurance that the amendment is not intended to impose any new burdens on authorities would be most helpful. Perhaps the Minister will give us that assurance. I beg to move.

Moved, That the House do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 11.--(Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove.)

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, the Commons amendment seems to be aimed at curbing over-enthusiastic cutting back by unscrupulous local authorities. I find this rather strange, since Scottish local authorities are usually charged with overspending.


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