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The Earl of Caithness: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, I should be grateful if she would answer the specific point I raised. I found her answer disappointing because I indicated well over a week ago to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, how I calculated my figures. For the noble Baroness to say what she did was out of line with what is normal in this House. I remember as a Minister regularly answering amendments of the party of the noble Baroness where the principle of the amendment was what mattered. I come back to this principle of the definition of "proportionate". What does the noble Baroness mean?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, this is Report stage.

7.30 p.m.

The Earl of Caithness: Yes, my Lords, but I am speaking to an amendment that has been grouped with this one, which I shall not have another opportunity to do. The noble Baroness did not answer the question.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the noble Earl has already spoken.

The Earl of Caithness: My Lords, I have indeed spoken, but I did preface what I said before the noble Baroness answered. Will she answer the question I

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asked her? What does she mean by "proportionate" for the Liberal Democrats? Is it proportionate to the numbers appertaining to the House as it is now, or is it proportionate to the number of votes at the general election?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I have made that absolutely clear this afternoon and on many other occasions. Perhaps for the record the noble Earl would care for me to read out the section in the White Paper which has been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, and by my noble friend Lord Peston and others who have contributed. Let me read it again. Paragraph 7 on page 32 of the White Paper says:


    "We set out in our manifesto the broad principle which we believe should govern the appointment of life peers but our present intention is to move towards broad parity between Labour and the Conservatives. The principle of broad parity and proportionate creations from the Liberal Democrat and other parties would be maintained throughout the transitional period".

Lord Kingsland: My Lords, I should like to say first of all, in answer to my noble friend Lord Coleraine and in response to what the noble Baroness has just said, that one of the reasons why it is essential to have a cap on the number of Members of the House is the principle of proportionality. If the proportions of the parties in your Lordships' House are adjusted every time there is a general election, there will be no limit on the numbers. They will simply go up and up. This is an additional reason for having a cap.

I should also like to make it clear to the noble Baroness the Lord Privy Seal that there is no intention whatsoever by the Opposition to call into question the sincerity of the right honourable gentleman the Prime Minister in respect of his intentions with regard to this House; but I share the doubts of many of your Lordships that the arrangements which are likely to ensue as a result of the passage of this Bill will be short term.

History suggests that they will be far from short term. If that is so, no doubt in the course of time one government will follow another and, constitutionally, in my submission it will be highly desirable to have a specific restraint on the behaviour of governments to appoint Peers to your Lordships' House in such a way as to ease the passage of business in another place.

It is for that reason, above all, that I think it would be prudent to have an overall cap. The noble Baroness the Lord Privy Seal said that she did not think it would add anything. If she does not think it would add anything, I would in turn say that it certainly would not subtract anything from the position of the right honourable gentleman the Prime Minister--and for that reason, although I beg leave to withdraw the amendment, I shall also reflect upon reintroducing it at Third Reading.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I think this will be a good moment to break for dinner. I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned. In doing so, I suggest that Report stage begin again not before 8.35 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Selection in Education

7.33 p.m.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are prepared to accept that some selection in education has value.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the problem we are discussing tonight has bedevilled English education for the past 60 years. Let me give your Lordships an example. In 1938 the Association of Education Committees, in evidence to the Spens Committee which was meeting that year, spoke in this way. They said that there had been a concentration on grammar schools as compared to other schools, particularly those providing courses leading up to the work of advanced technology.

One of the problems of the Board of Education was that though it developed grammar schools it deliberately did down technical schools. The Association of Education Committees went on to advocate the development of technical high schools. After 1902 the English state, later than any other state in Europe, provided grammar schools which served about 15 per cent of the most able age group. Nothing was provided for the rest, and they left school at 14 and were expected to seek apprenticeships or other forms of training.

There were some technical schools. They were in short supply and mainly existed in certain cities. Hence, before 1914, selection meant privilege for a clever few and nothing for the rest. That is a fact that we must face and that is the background of this debate tonight.

The problem was not unique to this country. In France the academic Lycee dominated education and the same was true throughout most of Europe. Only in Germany did schools other than the academic enjoy similar prestige. This debate is occurring against the background of history, and the fact is that the meanness of the right, if you like, of my party, and the ideology of the left, your party, meant that we attempted to solve this problem universal to Europe in a different manner from our continental neighbours. This is the core of what I am presenting to your Lordships tonight. We got rid of selection and put all pupils in area comprehensives. We forgot that selection really means placing pupils in schools and colleges which best suit their interests, abilities and aptitudes. We forgot that this is not wrong in itself, but it is wrong if it only satisfies one element of ability, those who have one particular ability, which in England was academic.

This universal problem was solved by our continental neighbours in a different manner. I repeat, in order to drive the point home, that it was a universal problem. In Germany, Holland and many other countries they

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solved the problem by giving equal prestige to schools other than the Gymnasium--the grammar school--and by creating and fostering technical and other schools, as well as establishing highly respected and free standing--note the word "free standing"--vocational qualifications. The result in Germany, Holland and Austria was that selection was not then seen as passing or failing. I accept the criticism of the English system of selection as it existed in the 1940s, 1950s and up to the 1960s.

What it meant as far as they were concerned was providing different training for different abilities. It may be of interest to your Lordships that when East Germany was united with the west, all the states apart from Berlin abandoned their comprehensive system and took over the West German tripartite system.

In France and the Latin countries, Spain and Italy, schools are comprehensive up to the age of 16, when pupils again separate selectively. They go either to an academic lycee or quasi-vocational institution each with their own separate examinations. It is the baccalaureate professional in France and the academic baccalaureate. The same is true in Spain and Italy.

I turn to our system; the result of the great revolution of the 1960s. It is the method we followed to deal with the universal problem. If we are honest, we must admit that the results of our answer to the problem have not been as successful as theirs. Independent schools cater for about 8 per cent of the population. I speak from being involved in them for many years. They are mainly non-selective, only 40 or 50 being selective. Apart from the need to pay the fees, anyone can go to them. We must worry about a system where 72 per cent of pupils in independent schools achieve A to C grades in mathematics. They are from schools such as Milton Abbey, which I govern and which takes pupils of all ability. However, in comprehensive schools 32 per cent achieve A to C grades in mathematics. As regards French, 62 per cent of pupils in independent schools pass at grades A to C compared with 20 per cent in comprehensive schools. Those figures are for 1994.

Our continental neighbours, who have largely adopted selective systems, do better. In 1992-93, a survey was conducted of their intermediate examinations. It is published in a book by Michael Sanderson about academic education compared with industrial performance. The survey showed that in England and Wales 27 per cent of pupils passed at A to C grades compared with 62 per cent in Germany. In Northern Ireland, which still has a selective system, more pupils from families in Social Class III M-V, which is the manual worker class, were accepted for higher education; 38 per cent compared with 23 per cent in England. I hope that the Minister will not argue that Northern Ireland has a culture so different that we cannot compare it. I should like the Minister to comment on these figures which are a reflection of the policy we followed in the 1960s.

It is that, not political ideology, which has lead me to put forward the debate tonight. I beg the Government to reconsider their dogmatic views on selection. Ideology is a bad guide to performance either in politics or in

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education, as history has often shown. Our neighbours show us that selection does not mean pass or fail, as I accept it did in England in the 1930s. It provides institutions which best suit the different abilities and talents. If we are to realise that and to follow our continental neighbours, that means allowing schools to specialise and choose pupils for the specialisations which best suit their talents. Above all, it means restoring technical schools in every area.

I do not want to bore your Lordships with history. Germany led the world in technical schools, from the Sunday schools of Saxony which became technical. I can assure your Lordships that in late Victorian England we were well on the way to matching them. Then we destroyed it all. We destroyed it, first, with the Board of Education after 1902 and then we annihilated them in the 1960s. I beg the Government to think practically about that.

During my brief period on the Front Bench when I dealt with the Education Bill, I realised that the Government seem to have an affection for specialist schools. Yet I am puzzled--and I should like the Minister to comment--about how their dogmatic views on selection will enable them to decide which pupils will benefit from the specialist schools. There has been talk of language schools, science schools and mathematics schools.

Surely, selection is demanded. It need not be as it was in the 1930s and 1940s. We could refine it and produce a model like Germany where going to different schools is not seen as passing or failing but as enhancing opportunities for all. At present, we do not seem to be fulfilling the potential of many of our young people and the results speak for themselves. Good structures produce high standards. Attachment to ancient dogmas based on a vanished past is no guide to a successful future.


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