|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for providing some more helpful information on the record than was available in Committee. We shall still disagree on the fundamentals. She quite rightly told the House that the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee did not agree with me on this occasion. However, on occasion I do not agree with the committee and still wish to press a matter. However, this is not one of those occasions. I agree with all that my noble friend Lord Carlisle of Bucklow said. We remain concerned about the lack of advance thinking on some of these schemes. However, like my noble friend Lord Carlisle of Bucklow, I recognise the importance and, I hope, the value of this particular scheme. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Ackner: My Lords, I wish to raise a point. Amendment No. 221 is still a long way down the Groupings List and it is the amendment which was moved at 7.15 p.m. on a previous occasion to make the penalty for murder no longer mandatory but discretionary. There was a plea that weI was conjoined with the noble and learned Lord,
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am in the hands of your Lordships' House. Speaking on behalf of the Government there is nothing I can do to ensure that the amendment is dealt with any earlier. Looking at the clock and the number of groups of amendments before us, it is not a particularly considered view but my suspicion is that we may not reach Amendment No. 221. When we return from dinner there will only be one hour and 20 minutes before 10 o'clock. I am afraid that I can say no more that that.
Lord Ackner: My Lords, before we move on, I inform the House that I shall not move Amendment No. 221. If it is not reached, I ask that I come back to it at Third Reading. That will stop people staying behind unnecessarily for it.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 30th October be approved [30th Report from the Joint Committee].
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move that the order be approved. The order is made under Section 86 of the Education Act 2002. It is designed to provide greater flexibility in the curriculum at key stage 4, so that schools can offer programmes that better meet young people's individual needs and strengths.
Our Green Paper, 14-19: extending opportunities, raising standards, set out why we need to change the 14 to 19 year-old phase of education and training in England. Too many young people continue to drop
At the same time, we set out a clear rationale for the new requirements for 14 to 16 year-olds. Subjects should be mandatory at that stage only if they meet one of two overlapping criteria: they provide an essential basis for progression, or are essential for personal development. In our strategy document, we confirmed our intention to amend the statutory requirements at key stage 4 to enable schools to put our Green Paper proposals into effect. That is what the order now does. It amends Section 85 of the Education Act 2002 by substituting new provisions in respect of the requirements for the fourth key stage of the national curriculum for England.
The order removes design and technology and modern foreign languages from the compulsory foundation subjects, to enable schools to offer greater flexibility and choice to students. It also introduces a new category of entitlement areas. Those include design and technology and modern foreign languages, as well as the arts and humanities. Schools must ensure that they make courses in those areas available to any student who wishes to study them, including the opportunity for students to take a course in each of the four areas should they wish to do so.
The order specifies the entitlement subjects falling within each of the new entitlement areas. In relation to arts, those are art and design, music, dance, drama and media arts. In relation to design and technology, that means design and technology. In relation to humanities, they are geography and history. For modern foreign languages, that means a European Union language. To meet the entitlement, a course must give students the opportunity to obtain an approved qualification. That requirement emphasises the significance and substance of the new entitlement areas at key stage 4.
The order also introduces a requirement for work-related learning within the curriculum. Schools will determine the nature of their provision, but a non-statutory framework has been developed which sets out the minimum experience that schools should provide. The legislation requires the local education authority, the governing body and the head teacher to have regard to guidance issued by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority relating to the provision of entitlement subjects and work-related learning. It also removes the requirement to specify attainment targets and assessment arrangements in relation to each of the core and other foundation subjects at that stage.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the House will be grateful to the Minister for explaining the order. In the Government's own wordsshe repeated them tonightthe percentage of our 16 year-olds leaving school is disappointing. As has been said, between 25 and 30 per cent of our 16 to 18 year-olds were not involved in education and training at the end of 2000. That record compares very poorly with other EU and OECD countries. It is therefore essential to get education for 14 to 16 year-olds right, and to stop that awful waste of talent.
Flexibility for students, especially after the ages of 13 and 14, is good when it allows a student to exploit their aptitudes and talents by making appropriate choices. However, one must have an eye to balance, and on how in practice flexibility will work. For example, the very real practical issue is that it could create havoc in schools, which face the challenge of staffing, resourcing and timetabling very uncertain class sizes. When choice of such magnitude is introduced, it is not easy for teachers to know whether they will have a class at all in some subjects.
The order and the wider strategy of which it is part are not the right way to introduce flexibility. It reveals the most extraordinary priority when one considers that they are the end of a very long process in the department since the Act was passed.
I shall turn specifically to the order. We are told that targets and assessment arrangements will disappear for the courses. My understanding is that all the courses are defined as leading to a qualification. Does that mean that there will be no assessment arrangements, or that the assessment arrangements will not be prescribed? Does it mean that the department's targets will be abolished, which most of us would welcome? Nothing in the order specifies that targets and assessment arrangements are removed. Do I assume that the result of the substitution means that Section 85 of the Education Act 2002 falls? If not, nothing in the order abolishes targets and/or assessment arrangements.
I want to comment on some of the compulsory subjects. Of course it is welcome and absolutely right that maths, English and science should remain core subjects. I shall not comment on information and communication technology, physical education and, outside all that but compulsory nevertheless, religious
The next compulsory subject that I have a question about is work-related learning. Everyone welcomes work-related learning. It was pioneered many years ago and takes many forms in some schools. It can be anything from time out of school to visit local companies and factory places, to having really good and concrete vocational courses in school. A definition of a work-related learning place would be helpful. Why should the subject not also be from choice? Why should someone who is entirely given to an academic curriculum have to be forced to give time up in their curriculum for work-related learning? It seems an extraordinary choice to make that a compulsory subject.
My next point is on an absurd matter. The order mentions any pupil who "so elects", so a pupil who does not elect to study an art, design and technology, humanity or modern foreign language can opt to do nothing. They can do the compulsory elements of the national curriculum and other foundation subjects, but they do not have to choose any. They can elect not to choose a subject from sub-paragraphs (a), (b), (c) or (d) in paragraph (6).
Secondly, why are the pupils restricted to one choice from each of the sectors? If it is possible for them to choose no subjects from any of the sectors, why can they not choose two from one sector and not be restricted, as they are in paragraph (5)(b)? That sub-paragraph states:
It may have been better, and would have made more sense, to list all the subjects from sub-paragraphs (a) to (d), including all the different options for modern languages, and to have left young people to choose one or more of the following subjects. There is no requirement that they must study humanities, arts, modern foreign languages or design and technology. Therefore, the order seems to place an incredibly incomprehensible restriction on what is meant to be the area of flexibility in the curriculum.
The order may not state this but it is my view that if some children, for one reason or another, are unable to make a choice and do not receive the kind of help at home that would help them to make that choice and the schools want to offer a guided choice, that is one thing; but it is another to say that if a school teacher makes the subject available to the child, the school is then deemed to have met its obligation under the law. That is what the order states. The noble Lord, Lord Davies, is looking puzzled, but I repeat that the order states,
My next point concerns the definition of "work-related learning" as it appears in the order. There is not one mention of the words "vocation", "skills course" or "practical activity". However, the order states that,
That leads me to a point raised by the longer explanatory note given to me by the Government Whips Office. The information relating to the cost-assessment of this order is that some slight costs arise
My final point relating to curriculum subjects concerns languages. In this respect, the order seems extraordinary. Alongside the curriculum subjects it would have been very good to introduce languages at the ages of six and seven so that children studied languages up to the age of 13. After that, the likelihood of a considerable number of them opting to study languages post-14 would have been greater. However, if children start to learn a language at the age of 11, there is no obligation whatever to continue with that beyond the age of 14. I fear for the future of languages. I fear also for the subjects of history and geography in the curriculum.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for explaining the order to us. As she said, it implements the 14-to-19 proposals set out in the Green Paper. In that, we support the Government in many of their proposals. We also recognise that, in some senses, the current proposals rest on those that will be put forward by Tomlinson when he reports on the whole question of A-levels and the alternative to A-levels, which will have repercussions on the key stage 4 curriculum.
Like the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, I have a number of detailed questions for the Minister about the order. Many of them echo ones that have already been raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. My first point concerns the whole question of dropping modern foreign languages as part of the core
If we succeed in ceding modern foreign languages at that stage, then the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, is right that we shall not see many children enthused with learning languages and continuing to study them. That is desperately important. In a sense, at present it is sending out all the wrong messages to say that we can drop modern foreign languages at key stage 4. We should be placing more emphasis on them rather than the reverse. I believe that, without the complementary emphasis in primary schools and the development of that curriculum, the wrong message is being sent out.
Secondly, I also have questions about the whole issue of work-related learning. I had not realised or appreciated that that was to be a compulsory part of the key stage 4 curriculum for all pupils. I thought that it was to be a selective issue. I do not object to it being compulsory, but I question what it will mean. Perhaps the Minister will explain the definition, given that "work-related learning" is in the text of the order. I gather that the order applies to all pupils. Is there to be an equivalent amount of time for all pupils or will the time that they spend on work-related learning vary from pupil to pupil? Will it apply to work experience only? Clearly, for some pupils they will learn the skills and technical knowledge associated with work, but for other pupils that will not be so. It may be just work-related learning. Will the Minister explain a little more of the thinking behind the concept of work-related learning? It is a broad concept as defined in the text of the order. Will it mean different things to different pupils?
It seems to be very unsatisfactory to have one area where many different subjects are identified but another area that is limited to one subject only. Can the Minister say what is meant by "media arts"? That is a very broad term so what precisely is meant by it? Can the Minister tell us the implications for teacher training targets of the inclusion of such subjects as dance and media arts in the list of the arts subjects,
At present, subjects such as psychology, law, economics and sociology are offered within key stage 4 and yet they do not appear in any of the entitlements within the regulations. What will happen to them? Are they now being cut out of the curriculum?
What about religious education? As we understand it, at the moment it is part of the compulsory element within the curriculum, but it is not mentioned as such. We recognise that it has been written into various education Acts over the course of time and that it is part of the basic curriculum, but if that is so, why is it not included as part of the national curriculum? Surely it is unsatisfactory that it is not mentioned anywhere in this order.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page