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Lord Lucas: My Lords, in putting the order before the House the Minister said that her objective was to meet young people's needs better and to ensure that they receive education essential to their progress and to their personal development. That is a reasonable set of criteria by which to judge the order, but it falls very far short of what one hoped for. I do not attach any blame to it; I am pleased that the Government have started to shift away from the status quo. Looking at the order, it is clear where they are going, but it is profoundly unsatisfactory. There is a great deal further to go.
I shall deal with the various clauses as they appear in the order. On the core subjects of mathematics, English and science, how is it essential to the progress of someone who knows that they want to study hairdressing to study differential calculus or trigonometry or the reactivity series of elements or any of the other boring pieces of trivia that are part of GCSE science, or indeed the deconstruction of a poem? If one is proceeding towards that kind of career, a great deal can be said for learning the joy of poetry and literature, but why do so in a way that would suit one for an academic career at one of our dustier universities rather than to a life of enjoyment and appreciation of literature and the arts? Why learn a set of mathematical tools that are beyond those that I have ever used in my life?
I have been involved in finance, accountancy, computing and areas on the border of science and mathematics and what I have been helping my son learn for his GCSEs is irrelevant. I have not used any of it in my life. There are vast swathes of people who do not need what is in the mathematics curriculum. Why should it be core for people who do not want to go down that road?
We have not addressed the fundamental questions that better meet young people's needs and is essential to their progress. We are stuck in the business of individual subjects. Yes, the subject of mathematics is useful. It can be tied in to many other interesting
The structure does not allow for that kind of combined learning. We just add subjects to the list and allow the new subjects to crowd out the old. We have subjects like information and communication technology, and citizenship. They are both essential, but they should be part of other areas of learning. Citizenship combines enormously well with English and history. One could fit it in with geography or cover it to some extent in combination with languages. There is no need to think of it as an individual subject, or at least not much of it. Certainly, information and communication technology should be, and is increasingly, embedded in other subjects.
Schools will do a course in basic computing and, if they are up to it, the basic skills, so that one can learn touch-typing and how to use a computer. The rest of the GCSE course is incredibly boring. However, when those skills are embedded with other subjects, they become fascinating because you are using them how you want to use them. So this rigid sticking with subject barriers is not enabling us to reach the goal of better meeting young people's needs. That really should be what guides us.
I am delighted to say that on this issue the present headmaster of Winchester is an ally. He also is railing against limitations imposed by subject barriers. If one was aiming to do a certain degree at a particular university, these divisions channelling people down to do a narrow academic degree may have a function. They still have a function in terms of preserving the core of a subject. There is a core to history, to geography and, indeed, to most subjects, which should be taught separately. Many other parts can be taught much more interestingly and usefully to pupils in combination with other subjects where the knowledge is not central to the life young people see in front of them. If we are going to better meet young people's needs we must be responsive to that kind of issue, rather than imposing these old structuresthese arthritic arrangementson children.
My understanding of paragraph 6(c) is that at last we get rid of the horrible subject of humanities. Pupils will have an entitlement to either geography or history. So they cannot be fobbed off with, "We do humanities here". That is a nice thing; it is encouraging. However, I find that the imposition of the structure on children does not respond to their individual needs. If a child wanted to be a politician, it would be a jolly good idea to do art, design and drama together. They are pretty good talents to have as a politician. If one was going to be involved in the arts, one might want to do music, dance and media arts. They should not be compelled to learn either history or geography.
We should be finding ways to offer children much more flexibility. If one is aiming a child towards a degree in languages, to allow a school to get away with offering them only one languagecircumstances may dictateis really dumbing down our ambitions for what schools should be offering children. Putting it in this way encourages schools to offer much less ambitious provision than they really should be trying for.
I am particularly disappointed, as my noble friend was, with paragraph 8. It seems to say: "No, we don't do music here. We satisfy paragraph 6(a) by offering you dance. Since we can offer you dance, we don't have to offer you anything else". That is a very disappointing climb-down from even the ambition there appears to be in setting out the variety in paragraph 6.
We must work to meet people's needs and to focus on how we can satisfy their individual ambitions; how we can engage children in learning; and when they have developed an idea of what they want to be and where they want to go, how we can make sure that the learning provided is relevant to the life they envisage and is set in the context of that life. It is a great challenge. It requires much mould-breaking and rethinking. I hope that the Government are set on that course. I do not expect it to be completed in 10 or even 20 years, but my overall impression of the order is that there is a great deal further to go.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I begin by sharing with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, the passion he has demonstrated and the desire to set a course which provides flexibility for our young people and education which is relevant and equips them for their adult life. I am sorry he is disappointed, but I think that all noble Lords share that same objective.
In the time that remains I shall try to address noble Lords' questions, but I shall do so against the backdrop of some comments that I wish to make. I hope that noble Lords will see the spirit in which they are made. Sometimes there is tension between the desire to offer flexibility and to ensure that everything is offered to all students at all times. We have tried to address that very real tension in how we have set out flexibility for schools. On the one hand, we seem to be saying that we need to trust schools more. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, in particular, that that is a critical part of what all governments need to do. However, on the other hand, we seem to be saying that we cannot trust schools to offer the kind of curriculum diversity that we seek. We wrestle with that; but we should trust schools to enable pupils to get the best that they can from their education. That framework sets out the entitlements that I will discuss.
I shall respond first to the questions asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. She asked what we have done to prepare schools for the arrangements. I talked about the QCA guidance in my opening remarks. We have been giving support to schools and showing them how to accommodate the different kinds of curriculum entitlements and how different types of whole-school planning can achieve that, through case studies and so
There was a tidying-up of attainment and assessment aspects. The kind of attainment and assessments done at year 7 and key stage 2 have never been done at key stage 4. We have had GCSEs and very clear qualifications. We are now saying that at key stage 4 schools need to ensure that they give young people the opportunity to identify qualifications and to study to the point of receiving that qualification. That is the reason for the current position.
The noble Baronesses, Lady Blatch and Lady Sharp, spent time discussing work-related learning, so I shall address the issue in more detail. We have defined it as activity that uses work as a context for learning. It is about getting the broad range of experiences and activities that allows students to experience working life. Preparation in education for working life is critical. As the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said, preparation is critical to ensure that people reach working life with the right kind of experiences, education and understanding of working life. It is about learning about working practices, the workplace environment, developing skills for working life and learning through activities and challenges set in a work-related context. There has been guidance from the QCA on the subject from September 2003, and there will be more guidance to enable schools to learn about it more effectively.
We describe this as a three-strand approach. It is about having the knowledge and understanding about work, employability and enterprise, about providing opportunities to learn from direct experiences of work and about acquiring skills necessary for enterprise and employment. We do not want to impose on schools a blueprint for how they should deliver that new strand. Instead, we have adopted the framework approach and allowed schools the flexibility to develop it.
As noble Lords will know, we introduced GCSEs in eight work-related subjects last September and seek to add two moreconstruction and performing artsnext year. Those were provided with support for schools, and there is funding for courses delivered in collaboration between schools. We are investing £120 million in the programme, which is in its second year. We have partnerships between colleges and schools, meeting the needs of about 80,000 pupils from 1,800 schools. We are very comfortable that we have in place the support and funding for schools that noble Lords seek, and the flexibility within that that noble Lords are keen to see in how we develop the programme.
The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, mentioned the compulsory nature of citizenship teaching. We allow for it to be delivered through different subjects. It is compulsory in that we ensure that children are taught about citizenship, but schools have flexibility to teach it in appropriate ways through other subjects. It might be taught as part of lessons in history, geography or
The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, was concerned that we would offer only one of each subject. We will encourage schools to offer as many as possible of the subjects that I have identified. Students can choose more than one subject from each of the four areas; they are not restricted. At present, we do not have an entitlement for geography and history. It will be an entitlement to offer at least geography or history, or a combination of the two. Where it is offered, students will be able to take both subjects. It is also true in the arts, humanities and in modern foreign languages that, when schools offer more than one subject, students will be able to choose within their options. However, we have made it clear that the entitlement is to offer at least one within those different subject areas and we encourage schools to ensure that that is the absolute minimum that they offer.
The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, asked specifically about costs, which are about £100,000 between each partnership on the different elements of work-related learning. So far that is proving to be satisfactory.
The noble Baronesses, Lady Blatch and Lady Sharp, talked at some length about language provision and both indicated that we have discussed the matter on many occasions in your Lordships' House. It is our ambition to have good quality language learning not only for secondary school pupils but for lifelong learning. Noble Lords will know that we are looking to introduce new systems of accreditationa grading system that will enable people more easily to continue with language learning. Good progress is being made, with several schools already offering language learning at primary level. We have set a realistic deadline for all primary schools to be able to offer this by 2010. Pathfinders are under way. We are working closely with the Nuffield Foundation, which has been incredibly helpful in helping us to develop this strategy.
As I have said many times, however, developing a languages strategy appropriate to this country and enabling students to have a wide availability of options is about lifelong opportunities. The matter is not about trying to ensure that a group of children who do not wish to study languages at a particular point in their lives are continually forced to do so. We must get better and cleverer about creating opportunities and enthusiasm for learning.
The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, mentioned design and technology and was concerned that it was not just design and technology. Schools will be able to offer GCSEs in food, textiles, graphics, resistant materials, system and control and electronics. We are also funding teacher and curriculum development projects in electronics, textiles, software and primary food technology that will update teachers' skills and enhance the curriculum. Those were points well made by the noble Baroness in her comments on the subject.
I can tell the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, that we do have teacher training initiatives that are intended to help develop the 14 to 19 strategy. We are ensuring that, when we introduce anything new, especially in work-related learning, we have an extensive support programme in place that we believe is being effectively used in schools.
With the exception of saying to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, that doing a drama course to become a politician is quite a good and useful talent, I hope that I have answered all noble Lords questions. As always, I shall check carefully to ensure that I pick up any points that have been missed. This has been a useful discussion. I will take back comments made by noble Lords. It is our ambition to introduce flexibility and ensure that we provide high-quality education and retain many more of our young people in good-quality education in the years 14 to 19 and see many of them to go on to further and higher education. I commend the order to the House.
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