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Baroness Carnegy of Lour: The noble Lord, Lord Dormand, put his finger on the problem that exists in most schools today. However, there was an encouraging response from the right reverend Prelate who told us that schools in the Church of England's experience are increasingly trying to discuss and articulate between themselves what they mean in these areas; what they are trying to do; and how they are approaching the whole matter.
Our past experiences may be interesting and significant, but for today it is important that staff, governors and parents agree and are clear about their school's intentions in these areas, what they are trying to do about them and how they want to progress. It is important that governors and staff, having agreed those matters, discuss with parents what the school is trying to do. They need feedback and the support of parents for what they are doing.
I do not believe that our experiences from the past necessarily help. We live in a different world today and the way young people see these things has changed. The approach must therefore be different--and different in every school. My noble friend Lady Young put the point
The amendments are important. The Minister helped with other amendments to which we shall come later. That will carry the matter further. She is making sure that head teachers are people interested in these matters who will be capable of giving the right leadership in the school. But there must be something for schools to follow. If that could be on the face of the Bill, it would be extremely helpful. Schools need support; they are trying hard. There is a great hunger among young people and their parents for help in these matters. It is not easy. If an amendment of this kind can help, we should accept it.
Lord Desai: Like my noble friend Lord Dormand I am an atheist and therefore should not speak too much about religion, but I am glad that the C of E, having lost money in real estate, is now interested in sex and making money. That is always welcome.
As to Amendment No. 157, I do not understand how one can set targets for cultural, social or moral development. I spent my life measuring things and making indices. The other day in Committee we had great difficulty defining "value added", and that is near enough a numerical concept. Given the difficulty and given six months, I could do it. But how does anyone set targets in moral development? How does anyone assess and monitor targets of moral development? I should have thought that if one can measure moral attitude it is not moral. I shall not say anything about whether we should or should not have spirituality but we certainly should not have targets. They are a difficult notion to accomplish in this vague and mushy area.
Lord Dearing: As one who was once a member of the School Curriculum Assessment Authority and had some statutory responsibility for offering guidance to schools in these matters, perhaps I can offer a comment. I warmly support Amendment No. 156 and the purpose of Amendment No. 157. We struggled with a definition of "spiritual". I recall using phrases like "to go beyond", and making it much broader than spiritual values based on religion. We wanted to incorporate a sense of wonder; a sense of awe; beauty; respect for one's fellow human beings; and appreciation of courage, both physical and moral. I remember Margaret Thatcher once describing courage as the ultimate virtue.
Those are the kinds of thing we had in mind. However, when it comes to setting targets and making assessments of such delicate, fragile, magic things, it is extremely difficult. I have a feeling of great compassion for a body of school governors in a primary school with children aged between five and nine trying to define targets and assess them for such delicate but wonderful things. One can describe one's objective as a process of gaining knowledge, but in terms of the development
Baroness Maddock: I am pleased to speak after the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, who articulated extremely well much of what I feel. For many this is a difficult area. If one is convinced of one's religion, it is much easier. I appreciated the manner in which the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, explained what they wanted to see. I did not feel uncomfortable. But many people outside this Chamber may feel that we are trying to indoctrinate people with a specific religion. I know that that is not the intention. As the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, explained, we should be helping young people in schools. I think of it in terms of helping people to be good citizens. If one is a good citizen, one is mindful of the community and of all the people who live in it. In my lifetime of being involved in schools, I have noticed going out of the curriculum not only the spiritual area, but also how our whole society operates, how we make laws and how they fit into the moral framework of our lives. Certainly in the latter days when I was involved in schools, politicians often thought that political indoctrination was involved. That is why it is such a difficult area. We have moved around it over a number of years. I am therefore grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dearing.
I want to make one further point regarding how we discuss these matters in schools and persuade parents to become interested in them. I was chairman of the governors in a first school and sat through annual meetings. Every year we tried to thinks of ways to persuade more people to attend the annual meeting. I am pleased to say that the figures went up each year, but it was not easy. Also, it is not always the most appropriate forum in which to raise big issues. I think particularly of the problem of drugs in schools. In some areas local authorities have a good drugs unit which can provide interesting speakers and information for parents.
It seems to me that sometimes, by choosing an issue that perhaps has had some relevance in the community, we are able to persuade parents to discuss these matters in a better way. I am not saying that we should not attempt to discuss these issues at an annual meeting, but by putting that in the Bill, we could fool ourselves into thinking that that shall make all the parents come along to discuss these issues.
The Earl of Halsbury: It is not for the first time that I rise in support of the noble Baroness, Lady Young. I supported her on her earlier attempts to pass this amendment through the House, and I continue to do so.
There is some confusion over the word "definition". There are two kinds of definition: one is a lexical definition in which you define words in terms of other words; and the other is an ostensive definition from the Latin word ostendere, in which you show a daffodil to a child and say, "That is a daffodil", and that is how the child learns the language.
If the noble Lord, Lord Dormand, requires a definition of "spirituality", I can give him an ostensive one. If you wish to be a better person than you are, or you feel ashamed of something which you have done, or admire beautiful music, or admire courage and courageous action in other people, or admire the way in which they attend to the sick and the invalid, and so on, that is a spiritual exercise. That is the only definition that one can give.
I remember that Xenophon or one of his contemporaries asked a Persian educationist, "What do you teach children?". The answer was, "We teach them to ride hard, shoot straight and speak the truth". One can add that that was the beginning of wedding the spiritual side to the material side of education. If we try to divorce them for the sake of some kind of intellectualist doctrine, I do not believe that we shall make a success of the society in which we hope to live and raise our children.
Baroness Blatch: Once again we have listened to the wise counsel of the noble Earl and it is something from which we always benefit. In my maiden speech in this House I used the phrase that an educational experience is nothing more than a clinical and arid experience if it does not involve a spiritual dimension. It seems to me that the spiritual dimension is very important.
For those who are afraid of doctrination or indoctrination, religious education in schools has never been, and should not be, about trying to make little Christians. It is concerned with raising spiritual awareness. At the end of the day, educationally, it is about understanding our spiritual heritage. I wish, most warmly, to support my noble friend.
Like the noble Lords, Lord Dormand of Easington and Lord Pilkington, I was educated in a council school in Durham County and later attended a grammar school almost equi-distant between the two that they attended, and we regularly beat them at cricket and football.
Leaving that aside, perhaps I may say how much I support the principle underlying these particular points that have been so well articulated by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and by the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, who defined what he meant by spirituality in a way in which, I believe, I could not challenge.
I was brought up in a powerful Christian household, a Methodist household. I have to confess that when I went to medical school, and was educated in science, I developed an increasing scepticism about some of the religious tenets that I had been taught in my childhood.
Perhaps I may add one point, which I believe is relevant, arising out of my experience in a totally different field; namely, the field of medical education? When I was chairman of the Education Committee of the General Medical Council we struggled with the problem of trying to define, in our recommendations on education, the various tenets that should be looked at in detail relating to knowledge, skills and attitudes.
I would disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, on this point. In trying to educate people in such qualities as compassion, humanity, understanding, kindness and all the other values which are so fundamental to our society, I believe that we came up with recommendations which helped us to indicate how these qualities should be transmitted to students and how they could be assessed. I do not believe that the target setting or the assessment is as difficult as the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, suggested. I warmly support these amendments.
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