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Baroness Morris of Yardley: My Lords, I, too, support the amendments put forward by my noble friend Lady Jones and the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton. I think there is agreement across the House about the importance of the careers advice and guidance service. It has always been important, but never more so than now, when the world is very complicated. The more you give young people choice, the more you have an obligation to assist them in making effective choices. That is just the world in which we live.
A lot has been said about giving impartial information and advice. I agree entirely. I know that, certainly in the past, some schools and colleges who had a vested interest in keeping young people have not acted as professionally as they ought to have done in that matter. I am absolutely on board about that. However, we have spoken less about how young people make decisions. For me, that is one of the most important things. My experience tells me that giving young people accurate information does not mean that they will make a wise decision. I accept, in this age, and especially with young people and their ability to deal online with information, that we could indeed get a system where the facts of the case-accurate information about the options available to them- could be effectively delivered online. What you cannot do online is work with a young person to make the appropriate decision for them. That bringing together of their attributes, their aspirations, their strengths and their weaknesses and matching them to the information that you have is the essence of guidance and of counselling. I do not see that in either the legislation or the extra information that the Minister has offered.
If truth be told, I do not think that the careers guidance service has ever been as strong as it ought to be. I think it has always struggled to have its voice heard alongside the voice of quite powerful and strong heads over many years. It has always struggled to get in there with schools and hold its own. When I was a teacher, I remember very many caring teachers who did their best and acted professionally to work with young people and help them reach the right conclusion for themselves. To be truthful, when the careers guidance officers came into school and worked face-to-face with these young people, the quality of work that was done was seismically different from what was done with even the best teachers. Working with people, not just to give them information but to help them reach an effective decision, is a skilled job. I do not see how it can be done other than face-to-face, and I worry about it being done by someone without an appropriate qualification. For those reasons, I support the amendments.
Lord Morris of Handsworth: My Lords, I add my name to those supporting the group of amendments spoken to by my noble friend Lady Jones of Whitchurch. I do so because the current provision for face-to-face careers advice preceded one of the dates mentioned in this debate. If I am right, it goes back to the Education Act 1973. It was more than just a passing of an intent; it placed a duty on the local authority to provide support designed to match the needs of the individual student. One of the problems with the Bill in respect of the provision of careers advice is that this statutory right has been downgraded significantly to access, basically, in respect of needs. There is no real provision for quality or indeed quantity assurances. It is a one-size-fits-all provision, based in some instances on an online system.
I see some difficulties in future years. As I understand it, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is also promoting an all-age service of advice and career guidance. Again, though, it is faceless and has no interaction because it is online. It is predicated on a one-size-fits-all culture. The current system is tried, tested and respected. It enthuses and inspires confidence and provides a two-way interaction; it is a critical friend that challenges and motivates. That is as it should be. It is a system that extends parental support to the student who needs that sort of guidance, particularly in circumstances of a one-parent family. That is crucial.
I want to raise a point about the transition. As I understand it, the arrangements currently provided by Connexions end in March 2012 and the new provisions being canvassed in the Bill would not come into force until September 2012. So my question is an obvious one: how will the gap be filled?
We have heard much about social mobility. The only way to ensure that all young people have opportunities to raise their aspirations is for them to receive a first-rate education that enables them to achieve academically and to have access to independent, impartial careers advice and guidance that supports them to make the best decisions and helps them to apply for appropriate post-16 learning opportunities. It is for those reasons that I add my name to the group of amendments so ably spoken to by my noble friend.
Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, I am grateful for this chance to return to the issue of careers guidance and the Government's proposal to give schools greater responsibility for securing appropriate support, based on the needs and circumstances of pupils. As the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, said, we had a good and extensive debate on this in Committee, and I am grateful to noble Lords, particularly to my noble friends Lady Brinton and Lady Sharp of Guildford, for meeting me and my honourable friend John Hayes recently to discuss some of the areas of their concern.
Perhaps I may briefly set out the context in which we are implementing changes to the delivery of careers guidance. We know that the single most important factor in making sure that young people carry on and prosper in post-16 education-which is what we all want to encourage-is that they do well before they are 16. Only one in 40 students who get five good
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I say that to demonstrate why we have chosen to focus on improving the quality of teaching and learning in our schools, and on introducing the pupil premium to help improve the attainment of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, about whom we have already spoken. At a time of economic difficulty, we are moving away from centrally-directed services and have protected school budgets as much as we can. We have given schools greater autonomy and the flexibility to determine the best use of resources for every pupil.
We disagree with the party opposite in seeking to move the focus away from-in the jargon-inputs to outcomes, because we think that it is more important to know how a school or college does by its students than to know precisely what it does. That is the thinking behind the development of new destinations measures. We think that these will show parents and pupils how well a school or college does in helping its students on to positive destinations, whether it is in further education, higher education, apprenticeships or work. We think that those will act as a powerful tool to help those institutions to make sure they look at everything that leads to positive outcomes, from education through to, and including, careers guidance.
A number of amendments in this group touch upon the important issue of the quality of careers guidance and how we can help to ensure that what is available to schools is good quality. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, about the importance of that. There is no disagreement between us. Careers guidance should be of the highest standard and offered free from the influence of any particular organisation. That is a point that was raised by a number of noble Lords who, I know, have been concerned that sometimes schools have steered children in a particular direction and not towards apprenticeships or other rival institutions.
The national careers service will be required to meet a robust high-quality standard and all providers involved in the service will be expected to be accredited to the standard by April 2013. It was recently announced that this quality standard would be the revised matrix standard, and that will assist schools in making well informed decisions about which providers they want to work with.
Alongside this, the Careers Profession Alliance is taking forward work to increase the professionalism of the careers workforce in response to the recommendations of the Careers Profession Task Force. An online register for members who have reached a level 6 qualification, have agreed to uphold a code of ethics and have demonstrated a strong commitment to continuing professional development, is expected to be introduced in April 2012.
We spoke in Committee of the need to reduce generally the burden of guidance from the centre. There were previously 169 pages of guidance on careers for schools, and we want to reduce that. However,
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Lord Hill of Oareford: Yes, it is statutory guidance. I thought I had used the phrase; forgive me. I welcome the views of my noble friends and other noble Lords, who I know feel strongly about this issue. We have also confirmed that a thematic review of careers guidance will take place following the commencement of these provisions. That will look carefully at the quality of provision and the extent to which this has an effect on pupils' understanding of the options available to them as they progress through school.
The second main area of debate has been the question of how careers guidance is delivered. While recognising that young people receive advice from many different sources, and the fact that many young people say that they prefer to get information online, I accept the case made this afternoon by my noble friends and noble Lords opposite, including the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch. Pupils can benefit enormously from support offered in person that raises their aspirations and guides them on to a successful path. This is particularly true of those young people who are disadvantaged and may not have access to a social network of people in a range of jobs, who come from a background of intergenerational unemployment, as has been mentioned, or who have special needs or are learners with learning difficulties or disabilities.
Given that, I am also happy to commit to highlighting this issue in statutory guidance and making it clear to schools that young people have much to gain from a face-to-face exploration of their skills, abilities and interests, which can help them think through the learning and career options available to them. I understand the point that was made about apprenticeships in particular, and the lack of knowledge about them. We are all keen, on all sides of this House, to encourage take-up of apprenticeships. We will place a clear expectation on schools that they should secure face-to-face careers guidance where it is the most suitable support, in particular for disadvantaged children and those who have special needs or are learners with learning difficulties and disabilities. These messages in the guidance will be further strengthened by the sharing of effective practice and evidence about what works. Underpinning both the quality assurance of careers guidance and our statutory guidance to schools will be a clear, outcome-based measure of the effectiveness of schools in meeting
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We have also talked about the age range, which is important. Clause 27 requires schools to secure access to independent careers guidance for their pupils from the start of the academic year in which they turn 14- year 9-to the end of the year in which they turn 16, year 11. The case has been made by a number of noble Lords on all sides of the House that we should extend this age range upwards to include young people studying in school sixth forms and colleges. It has also been suggested that we should extend the age range down to year 8. There is a clear case for independent careers guidance for 16 to 18 year-olds in schools and the further education sector, particularly as we move towards the raising of the participation age. We have committed to consulting on extending the age range upwards. We can make that change through secondary legislation once the consultation is complete.
Similarly, I accept that an argument can be made for commencing the duty from year 8, when the first major decisions relating to post-14 options are taken. Again, I make it clear that we will consult fully on this issue and we will be able to make changes through secondary legislation once that consultation is complete. Just to be clear, that consultation will be complete in time to extend the age range of the duty by regulations from September 2012.
As regards the important point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Morris, we are working with local authorities and others on the transitional arrangements. It is clear that we want them to carry on with those until the new duty is put in place in September 2012.
I know that I will not be able to convince all noble Lords about the course of action that the Government are taking, but I hope that I have reassured them about some of the steps we have taken to respond to those concerns. With that, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, may feel able to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, I hope that the noble Baroness will forgive me for not responding to that point. We clearly want to see high-quality careers guidance for girls as well as for boys. We expect schools to want to do that. The noble Baroness's particular concern may be to make sure that some of the career options that schools have not traditionally thought of as being suitable for girls get full consideration. I agree with her that one would very much want to see that.
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch: My Lords, once again we have had a very good debate on careers. I think that noble Lords from around the House have recognised the need for us to provide an improved careers service for young people, particularly in the current economic climate. However, we have some
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As regards qualifications, the case has been that the provision of careers advice should be regarded as a skilled job. I accept what the Minister has said about organisations being accredited in the future. However, he did not address the point that I made about the people employed by those organisations. If we do not require everyone who is providing the face-to-face careers advice to have a qualification, I very much fear that, as I said, this task will be tagged on to the duties of teachers or will be carried out by people employed at short notice or who are on temporary contracts, although the organisations which employ them are accredited. Again, I argue that the Minister has not addressed the fundamental issue of qualifications.
As regards the guidance to schools, the Minister has, as we have said, written to us about the advice that he is going to send out. He has said that he will consult on that. However, the letter asks schools to consider providing face-to-face guidance for pupils who are disadvantaged and talks about,
To my mind, that does not provide any guarantees for any of those categories. We are being asked to jump blindly into a careers guidance provision on which we do not have sufficient guarantees and which is not sufficiently robust.
There is too much at stake here. We feel that we have had too few guarantees. There is too much reliance on research and on data about how the new careers advice service will be monitored in the future, but young people need a provision and guarantees now. They need guarantees that they will have access to someone on a personalised basis and that they will be given advice by a qualified practitioner. We do not accept that the Minister has given sufficient guarantees. I wish to test the opinion of the House on Amendment 57C.
"( ) is provided by a person who attends the premises, and has a relevant qualification in careers guidance who meets such quality assurance standards as the Secretary of State shall require,"
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch: My Lords, notwithstanding the fact that my noble friend Lady Brinton is not moving this amendment, I should like to do so in her place. The amendment raises fundamental issues,
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(a) each pupil in attendance at a foundation or voluntary school of a religious character shall on each school day attend an act of collective worship;
(b) community, foundation or voluntary schools which are not of a religious character and Academies that are not religiously designated may hold acts of collective worship at the discretion of the governors.
(1A) Governors should be under an obligation to consider representations made to them by pupils and the parents of pupils as to whether or not schools or Academies hold acts of collective worship under subsection (1)(b)."
Lord Avebury: I declare an interest as an honorary associate of the National Secular Society, to which I am greatly indebted for its advice on the amendments. First, I must thank the Minister and the Bill team for the time and efforts that they have devoted to correspondence and meetings on the collective worship issue since we discussed it in Committee three months ago-although there has been no meeting of minds since we began this process.
The Minister's main argument for the retention of this provision is that it is a long-standing school tradition. That is indeed so. It goes back at least as long as the Education Act 1944 and, as far as I know, even further than that. That underlines the fact that England is a very different society today from what it was towards the end of the Second World War. Eighteen per cent of the population now reports having no religion. Of the 72 per cent who identify themselves as Christians, fewer than one-third say that they actively practice their religion; that falls to just over one in five among those aged 16 to 29. The number of people who attend church at least once a month has declined every year from 2004 onwards. Even more telling, the number of confirmations has slumped from 140,000 in 1950 to 25,000 in 2009.
It is time for the long-standing tradition which no longer reflects the beliefs of more than a tiny fraction of the people to be jettisoned. The Minister goes on to say that the act of collective worship makes a valuable contribution to the spiritual and moral development of all young people and that that view is shared by many parents who still expect their children to understand the meaning of worship. That children should learn the moral and ethical standards which are common to mankind is unarguable, but that they should be linked to particular rituals based on obeisance to a supernatural being for which there is no scientific evidence lessens the respect and credibility of the standards themselves.
Humankind should have advanced to the stage where moral principles should be seen as essential in themselves, without the need to be reinforced by threats or rewards from above. We need kindness, compassion, toleration, right speech, action and livelihood so that we can live in harmony with each other and mitigate the unsatisfactoriness of the human condition. The
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That is not to say that if a majority of parents still want to have an act of worship at the beginning of the school day, their wishes should be ignored, but the converse is also true. If the majority would prefer that morals be taught without an accompanying religious ritual, they should be allowed to have their way.
In a poll commissioned by the BBC in September, 64 per cent of parents questioned said that their children did not attend daily worship and 70 per cent of them said that they were not in favour of enforcing the law which prescribes that act. The most recent Ofsted report on collective worship eight years ago found that 40 per cent of the schools inspected did not comply with the legal requirements and that in the remainder there were tensions and difficulties. It states that few secondary schools met fully the legal requirements for collective worship. Indeed, detailed examination of the evidence from 96 full inspections revealed that not a single school complied fully with the letter of the law. Revealingly, one school in Greater London was highlighted where, instead of having to exercise their legal right to withdraw their children from worship, parents were asked to opt in, resulting in 800 of the 900 pupils withdrawing from collective worship.
It is no wonder that Ofsted has not returned to the subject since then. It was already embarrassing enough to have to reveal such widespread non-compliance with the law, and if a similar inquiry was conducted today, no doubt the finding would be even more remarkable. In 2004, David Bell, then head of Ofsted, abandoned asking inspectors to take provision for worship into account in their reports after running into what he called a firestorm of protest from schools over the issue. He claimed that 76 per cent of secondary schools were failing to provide the daily worship. The Minister said that where schools' non-compliance with a statutory duty is considered to be having a negative impact on pupils' spiritual or moral, social and cultural development, inspectors will reflect this in their assessment of the school. The fact that none has done so in the last eight years must indicate that inspectors are unanimous in concluding that the absence of worship has not had a negative effect on pupils' development.
An analysis of SACRE reports undertaken by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority in 2004 similarly found that compliance with legal requirements for the daily act of collective worship was "a significant problem" for secondary schools. They reported a sense of impotence, as there appeared to be neither any way of ensuring compliance nor of changing the law. There was a common concern that having unworkable statutory requirements puts schools in an impossible position.
We have ignored this situation for too long. As far back as 1994, a National Association of Head Teachers survey of 2,346 schools found that seven out of 10 heads said that they were unable to satisfy a requirement to hold a daily act of Christian worship in their schools. The NAHT stated that,
Without the ability to opt out of worship head teachers, acting in the best interests of their pupils, are being forced to act outside the law. Despite this, obviously there has been a high level of non-compliance, particularly in community secondary schools, for the best part of 20 years.
Such widespread flouting of these outdated and discriminatory obligations brings the law itself into disrepute. The first of these amendments proposes therefore that governors should be free not to hold acts of collective worship, taking into account representations made to them on the matter by pupils and their parents. This will enable us to comply with the spirit of both Article 18 ICCPR and Article 9 ECHR on freedom of thought, conscience and religion, which are violated by ramming worship down the throats of non-deist pupils in community schools.
There would still be acts of collective worship in schools where the majority of parents and pupils want them. And the second amendment-Amendment 61B-makes these acts optional so that the minority of pupils who do not believe in worship are not forced to attend them. The legal requirement for pupils to take part in collective worship on every school day is a clear breach of young people's rights under not only the ICCPR and the ECHR but also under Article 14.1 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. If my noble friend cannot defend the imposition of religious behaviour on a child who disagrees with it, he has no option but to accept this amendment.
The third amendment, Amendment 61C, is an alternative to the second, and less satisfactory in that it extends the opt-out from collective worship available to sixth-form pupils at mainstream schools and maintained special schools only to pupils with sufficient maturity, understanding and intelligence to make an informed decision about whether to withdraw themselves. That was the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Human Rights which pointed out that the UK is under an obligation to assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting him or her and to give those views due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.
This obligation finds expression in UK law in the concept of Gillick competence, according to which a child should be treated as legally competent to make their own decisions if they have "sufficient maturity and intelligence" to understand the nature and implications of their decision.
I do not imagine for a moment that the Minister will be able to accept any of these amendments, knowing from our correspondence that he is not prepared to give an inch. In any case he will be on a tight rein from the Secretary of State, who showed his colours when he wrote in the Catholic Heraldthat Catholic schools should avoid "unsympathetic meddling" by secularists if they converted to academies. So even if he was convinced by the arguments, my noble friend could not make the smallest concession. Recognising this,
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By all means continue the valuable tradition that assembly is a time for considering the moral and ethical values of our civilisation-and for emphasising in particular the values of inclusion, tolerance and respect mentioned by my noble friend in his letter. Let us do that in a way that is itself inclusive and not one that requires children and teachers to participate in behaviour that excludes many of them at the beginning of the school day. I beg to move.
Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, I support the noble Lord, Lord Avebury in the amendment he has just moved. As he has pointed out, the law as it stands is the legacy of a society unrecognisable from the pluralistic Britain today where citizens hold a wide variety of religious beliefs-including no religious belief. This Bill presents an opportunity to reform an outdated and overly prescriptive law. The amendments, which I think are reasonable and moderate, are intended to offer greater freedom and choice in regard to worship in schools.
While parents have the right to withdraw their child from collective worship, for many parents this is not a satisfactory option as they feel it is unfair to exclude and separate their children from classmates; children often do not realise while they are being excluded, so it is not always a very good solution. Children themselves have a right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion under both Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 14.1 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is not for the state to impose worship on children, regardless of whether the school they are attending has a religious ethos or not-particularly if it does not have a religious ethos. The amendments would at least ensure that conducting an act of worship was made optional for schools without a religious designation. Amendment 61B would make the attendance at worship optional for children.
Amendment 61C would lower the age at which pupils may withdraw themselves from collective worship-from the sixth form as it is now to a default age of 15. That would at least bring the law closer to the advice of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. Our arguments for older pupils' self-withdrawal were accepted in principle by the previous Government, but they set the age limit at sixth-form pupils. The amendment uses age 15 as a default age, but does allow this to be overridden in exceptional cases. That seems to me to be a more reasonable age than sticking to the sixth form as provided for in current legislation.
Particularly in multicultural areas, the holding of any kind of religious activity is bound to upset someone. We have been informed of at least one head teacher who resigned because of being unable to reconcile the demands of the parents of many religions on the one hand and the law on the other. The amendments
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Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, I was married to the headmaster of a Methodist boarding school for many years, including during the 1960s, which was not exactly an easy time for any teacher to be associated with boys-or girls for that matter. There was daily chapel for all the pupils and I remember that, following a governors meeting, to which of course I was not invited, some of the governors came up to me and asked whether I favoured having non-compulsory chapel every day. I replied-and I have not changed my view since-that it did not matter if pupils were bored, did not like going to chapel or were not interested in religious matters at the age of 15, 16 or perhaps even 17. That daily event gave each pupil a background to which they could return in later life. It was very important to have that little base of knowledge of which they could make use when they had really grown up, and I hold that view today.
The Lord Bishop of Ripon and Leeds: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, for their characteristic clarity in putting their arguments. However, as someone who frequently attends collective worship in both religious foundations and community schools, I have to say that the picture they have presented of our education system today is simply not one that I recognise.
These amendments, were we to pass them, would create a rift between schools with a religious foundation and those which do not have such a foundation, and that is inimical to the whole way in which the maintained education system in this country has been established. Indeed, proposed new subsection (2) in Amendment 61A seems to withdraw the right of parents to remove their children from worship within a school with a religious background, and I would deeply regret the withdrawal of that right. I believe that there should be a right to withdraw pupils from collective worship and, if that right were removed, Church of England schools might be less able to encourage local community integration-something on which I believe they have a very good record.
The noble Baroness, Lady Turner, spoke about how our society has become much more multicultural over the last generation. One way in which that has been encouraged and supported has been through the work of faith schools. Many Church of England schools have significant numbers of Muslim pupils. Indeed, in hundreds of them more than 80 per cent of the pupils are Muslim. Through the constructive and positive use of the law as it stands, they have been able to integrate those pupils with pupils from Christian backgrounds and pupils from families with no faith background. The danger is that, if we split community schools from those with a religious foundation, we shall create a more segregated system within our country. Most Church of England schools are not in any way segregated; they are primary schools which work with their local village. The fact that a very small number of children are withdrawn from worship seems to indicate
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So far as worship in community schools is concerned, Ofsted reports high levels of compliance with the law and high levels of quality of worship, particularly in the primary sector. As the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said, that is less the case in the secondary sector, and the Church of England stands ready to provide whatever help it can to improve the quality of acts of worship within that sector. There is a good deal of excellent practice that can be pointed to, although it is certainly true that secondary schools find the situation more difficult than do primary schools.
We do not want to marginalise worship or spirituality within the life of our schools. We recognise the need for, and place of, worship within our own proceedings at the beginning of each day here in this House. When the nation faces a time of crisis or indeed of joy and delight, it tends to do so in terms of prayer. Children need to know what prayer is about, and one of the best ways for that to happen is through the worship that takes place in both church schools and community schools.
I was pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said that Amendment 61C was undesirable. It seems to speak of an extraordinary decision which someone has to take regarding whether a 15 year-old has the maturity to decide whether he or she should attend worship. That seems to be completely unworkable and we should certainly not go in that direction.
Lord Avebury: I am sorry to interrupt the right reverend Prelate. I said that Amendment 61C was less preferable than Amendment 61B but the reason for tabling it was that it was in accordance with the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Human Rights.
The main point is that within the maintained sector we have a dual system in a country where more than 70 per cent of people describe themselves as Christian, and it serves very well the duality of purpose in terms of the whole development of the child. It is a system that has led to significant degrees of integration within our communities, and much of that has been led by faith schools. I hope that we shall reject these amendments and that we shall do so in the cause of community integration.
Baroness Flather: My Lords, I should like to make a few points on this subject. I think that we should turn the issue round a bit and ask ourselves what the 15 year-old derives from morning collective worship. I heard what the right reverend Prelate said about primary schools. It is much more likely that children at primary school will accept whatever is said to them, but these days in secondary school children are open to a lot of experiences, which was not the case, say, 20 or 30 years ago. I think that we need to see whether morning collective worship is still relevant to children. The
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From my days at school I remember that we always met for assembly in the morning. Everyone had to go. We did not have worship. We had something that taught us about life, behaviour, ethics, and right and wrong, but it was not geared to a particular faith. I still believe it would be far more useful if all the young people in a secondary school came together and discussed issues that are relevant to their everyday life, not something that is many steps away from them.
I have also always felt that the teaching or nurturing of faith is the job not of the school but of the church or of the home. I think we are now the only country that has collective worship in schools. As far as faith schools are concerned, obviously one cannot say to them "Do not have collective worship", and I would be the last person to say that to a faith school. However, where the school is not a faith school but a state-funded, normal school, it is time to take account of what the children need to learn in terms of their lives, how they are going to lead their lives and what they should or should not be doing. They should have examples, with people coming in from outside to tell them about it. I would like to see prisoners come into schools at collective assembly-not collective worship-to tell them about their experiences and why it would be a bad thing to end up like them. If my children went to something like that, they would derive far more from it than from a standard faith-type assembly.
I support at least that part of the amendment that would provide that, in state schools with no faith, there should be not collective worship but collective assemblies with guidance on how to live your life.
Lord Touhig: My Lords, we seem to be repeating the arguments we had in Committee. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has taken the argument a little further. His description of forcing worship down throats was exaggerated and perhaps, on reflection, the noble Lord might think it was not worthy of him.
Currently, it is a legal requirement that all schools should have a collective act of broadly Christian worship. Parents who wish to withdraw their children from this collective act of worship have a legal right to do so if they wish. I can speak only from the perspective of Catholic schools in this country. Thirty per cent of pupils in Catholic schools are not Catholic, yet only 0.05 per cent of the parents of these children ask for them to be withdrawn from the collective act of worship in school.
I remember at Committee stage saying that the collective act of worship was a visual recognition of the Christian heritage of this country. It enables children, whether of faith or not, to engage and understand the history of this country because, whatever we might say, the history of this country is very much connected with our Christian heritage. That is a fact whether you
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The right reverend Prelate made a point in his speech about the fact that in this House we have an act of worship-we had one at 2.30 pm. If it is good enough for Members of this House to take part in a collective act of worship, why should the children of this country not take part in a collective act of worship? The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, also said that no one should be forced to take part in rituals they do not agree with. We had two new Members introduced to the House this afternoon. Afterwards I heard a few comments from people who said, "Isn't that awful? Shouldn't we get rid of this old ritual?". Yet we all take part in that ritual in order to get into this House. We have to maintain our standards here. If a collective act of worship, from which you can absent yourself if you wish, is acceptable for Members of your Lordships' House, then it is certainly acceptable for schoolchildren in this country.
Lord Cormack: My Lords, I would like briefly to support what the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, just said. We had a very interesting debate in this House last week on the teaching of history in schools. There were divergent views, but there was a general consensus that we owe it to our children to ensure that they have a reasonable grasp of the history of their country. We also owe it to our children that they should have a reasonable grasp of the literature of their country and the civilisation of their country. Ours is a Christian civilisation, which has moulded so much of our literature and our art and which is, indeed, the very fabric of the soul of the nation. In the 2001 census, over 70 per cent of people in the country said that they considered themselves to be Christian, whereas fewer than 20,000 said that they were atheists.
We do have a duty to expose our young people to what I consider to be the truths of the Christian religion but what we must all consider to be the bedrock of our civilisation. If when they leave school they choose to reject that, that is, of course, entirely up to them. They can do so on the basis of mature judgment and of knowledge; one cannot make a decision on the basis of mature judgment and ignorance. Therefore, it is crucial that we give our children the opportunity to know what living in a Christian country is like-a Christian country, the hallmark of which is, and always must be, tolerance and understanding of others who take a different point of view.
We would be moving in a very dangerous direction if we were to accept the amendments, which were so mellifluously moved by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for whom I have considerable respect, as I have for the noble Baroness, Lady Turner. Lord Touhig made a point about our own act of worship. What was interesting,
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I do not like to take the name of a Member who is not present, but there is no more staunch defender of the establishment in this country than the Chief Rabbi, the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, who on many occasions has put it on record that he believes that the maintenance of the Church of England and the established church is very important to this country. He believes, as I do, that the teaching of certain truths, certain values, and certain issues is of equal importance. We would be taking a wrong step if we were to be seduced by the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury.
Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, while I agree very much with what the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, said, I cannot think that in state-funded schools to have a collective act of worship of one faith is the way to implement that. It seems wrong that, again in state-funded schools, the collective assembly should be so devised that some children will be excluded. Worship is not inclusive: it is different for different faiths. Morality can be inclusive. Ethics can be inclusive. As the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, said, the way we live our lives must be included and must reach all children. It seems to me wrong that we should have arrangements that automatically exclude some children. Therefore I support the noble Lord's amendments.
No one is suggesting that the teaching of Christianity should be banned from school. That is not the point at all. The question is whether people should be required to take part in worship. It is all very well for the right reverend Prelate to say that pupils can be excluded, but being excluded puts them aside, apart from everyone else, and makes them feel outcasts. That surely cannot be the intention. One final point is that all sorts of things are taught in school-Greek mythology, for example-but nobody expects people to believe it.
Lord Northbourne: My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, can help me. In his speech he mentioned the universal values that are common to mankind, and also the moral values of our civilisation. Can he tell me where I can find those values set down clearly? This is a very relevant issue. The various revealed religions of the world set out a set of values, whether you like them or not. I have been trying to find a clear definition of the responsibilities of parenthood. I cannot find it.
Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, I, too, apologise for arriving late through inadvertence. I adopt everything that my noble friend Lord Touhig and the right reverend Prelate said. I say to my noble friend Lady Whitaker that it is not the teaching of one faith but of the faith that has run like a thread through our history, literature and language. To deprive our children of what may be their only opportunity to learn about that faith-
Lord Anderson of Swansea: Perhaps I misunderstood my noble friend. I thought I heard her refer to the teaching of "one faith" as if it were just one among many. Surely the key point is that it is essential for us as British people to learn about our civilisation and history and about the intertwining of the religion that has been sometimes a cause of internecine conflict but always of late something that promotes tolerance and makes us perhaps some of the most tolerant peoples in the world. I hope that it will be recognised by the House that if children were to be deprived of what may be their only opportunity to learn an essential part of their history and of their very being as British people, it would be a very sad day.
Lord Hughes of Woodside: I do not know why my noble friend repeats the story that we are trying to stop people understanding the background, history and traditions of this country. Nothing is further from the truth. We are saying that of course one should be able to teach all faiths at any time; we have no problem with that. However, we should not insist on collective worship from which some people are excluded.
Baroness Butler-Sloss: My Lords, I will say one thing briefly. It is important that we all remember that the Church of England is the established church of this country. That is why we have the Prayers that we have every day. It is appropriate that that should be recognised in schools.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, surely those who regard religion as an infectious and dangerous condition should, in the modern idiom, wish to immunise their children with the mildest possible form of the disease.
Lord Elton: My Lords, I will intervene briefly. I, too, apologise for arriving late. I was bending my energies to limit and eventually, I hope, rub out the use of cluster munitions-of which by far the greatest number of victims are children of the age we are talking about, so it was very germane. I understand that the amendment is not designed to stop the teaching of religion but to stop the demonstration of religion as part of the organisation of an institution; namely, the school in which the children are. That is a very valuable practice. The development of habit in early life can be enormously important in later life. I was carried through the most difficult patch of my life by the habit of going to church every Sunday. The impetus of that was enormously valuable. The institution of regular corporate worship, properly conducted, is enormously beneficial to the young. I deplore any attempt either to discontinue it or, as some of these amendments would do, make it impractical.
Baroness Paisley of St George's: My Lords, there are thousands of parents in our country today who do not have a Bible in their homes and who do not read it to their children. School is the only place where these children are given any light at all into the word of God. This is the 400th anniversary of the printing of the King James version of the Holy Bible in the English language. We are a Christian country and it is our duty and responsibility to see that the word of God is placed in schools for the benefit of the children. The Psalmist David said:
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, I will clarify one point if I may. I have not spoken before. We on the Bishops' Benches sometimes look alike; I promise that it goes no further. There is a very clear distinction between collective and corporate worship. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, referred to corporate worship. That is not what is provided in schools. The act of collective worship is appropriate to the collection of people who are there. It needs to be wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character. In practice, schools with significant numbers of members of other faith communities have managed to work within the degree of flexibility that the law allows, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds suggested. It is very important to realise that this is not ramming worship down people's throats. That is not what school worship is like. It is part of an educational experience and preparation for life. You never know when you will go to a Remembrance Day service, a wedding or to many other places. When the regiment based in Chester came back from Afghanistan for the presentation of medals, the soldiers wanted an act of worship. It was collective worship in the context of the Armed Forces. There are many contexts in life where some experience of collective worship earlier in life is an important preparation.
My second point is that the amendments are too tarred with secularist intent. Probably there is a case at some point for a cool, considered look at the provisions of collective worship. However, it must be done in a way that enhances the spiritual experience of education. This goes much further than religious experience, but religious experience is part of it. The amendments push too quickly in a particular direction. There is a case for a proper review and full consultation in due course. However, let us not be misled. Collective worship is exactly that: worship appropriate to the collection of people who are present.
Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, I start by thanking my noble friend Lord Avebury and the noble Baroness, Lady Turner of Camden, for coming to see me and talk about this and other issues that we will come to later on Report. I thank my noble friend also for setting out the issues and his position with his customary clarity and from a position that we all recognise is one
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The Government believe that the experience of collective worship makes a contribution to the spiritual and moral development of young people, not just for those who attend religious schools. Collective worship in schools is different from the worship people choose to attend in a church, synagogue, mosque or other place of worship. The purpose of this requirement is not to force pupils or school staff to worship a deity but rather to understand and experience the benefits that joining together, inspired by the positive values found in Christianity and other religions, can bring to the individual and to the community. The guiding principle is that these arrangements should be flexible and fair to pupils and parents, as well as manageable for schools.
It is a matter of historical fact, as argued by the noble Lords, Lord Touhig and Lord Anderson of Swansea, and by my noble friend Lord Cormack, that the Christian traditions of our country have influenced and underpin our systems of law, justice and democracy. It is true, as has been said, that they have inspired and supported a tolerant and inclusive culture that welcomes and celebrates diversity. In the British Household Survey of 2010, more than 70 per cent of people said that their religion was Christian, and we think it right, therefore, that these values should underpin the ethos of our schools.
The law requires schools to provide collective worship that is relevant to all pupils, no matter what their background or beliefs, which should ensure that collective worship is presented in a way that benefits the spiritual, moral and cultural development of all children and young people. The requirement is for "broadly Christian" provision. It does not preclude the inclusion of other religions or consideration of the values that inform the practice of worship, which are common to many religions, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester, rightly pointed out. Schools have the freedom, under the Education Act 1996, to apply for a determination from the local authority if they judge that it is not appropriate for the requirement for collective worship to be of a broadly Christian nature to apply to their school. That safeguard is in place. The Government respect the right of parents-
Lord Avebury: I am sorry to interrupt my noble friend but can he confirm that there cannot be a determination to have no act of collective worship at all where the majority of parents would wish to have that?
Lord Hill of Oareford: It is the case. I probably will not get the precise words right but my noble friend Lord Avebury accurately sums up the clause; they could make arrangements for provision to encompass a different religious belief. Parents can withdraw their children-
Lord Hill of Oareford: I am afraid that I do not know specific figures. I understand that overall there appear to be few cases of parents triggering such a thing. If we have better particulars I will send them to the noble Lord.
Parents can withdraw their children from collective worship if they wish to do so. Sixth-form pupils, as we have discussed, have this right. We think that the balance in allowing sixth-formers to decide for themselves whether to attend in line with their increasing maturity and independence is about right. We think that parents should be able to exercise those rights on behalf of children of compulsory school age. We would expect that, in exercising this right, parents would take their child's views into account.
It is a sensitive area in which schools have to balance the rights of parents to have their children educated according to their religious or philosophical belief and those of children who have the right to manifest their own religious belief. They also have the right to express their views on matters that affect them. In practice, we think that schools are able to balance those competing rights and we would expect both parents and schools to take account of the views of children in making such decisions. We believe that schools can and do use the current system for collective worship to make provision for a variety of different perspectives. The situation we have arrived at, which I recognise is unsatisfactory to my noble friend Lord Avebury, is one that successive Governments have considered fair and flexible, and this Government continue to take that view. With that, I hope that my noble friend Lord Avebury will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, it would be quite impossible to do justice to the extensive discussion that we have just been having, but it would be remiss of me not to thank all noble Lords who have taken part, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, with whom we had a similar discussion in Committee. Noble Lords have raised many different questions related to the collective worship issue, which has enabled us to make it clear that we are not talking about teaching about religions and the knowledge that children should have of the history of this country and the Christian background that we all share. That is part of religious education and we are not arguing that that should not be continued in the same way as it always has been and that it should not be underlined as part of the heritage of this country.
We are talking about a specific issue: whether people should be asked to pray to or worship a particular god at the time of the assembly that takes place at the beginning of the school day. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, I would say that most schools-probably a majority-already have discussions on moral and ethical issues at assembly that do not involve prayer or worship. They are breaking the law and do so in a way that conforms to the spirit of the legislation in that children can imbibe knowledge of
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(1) The Secretary of State shall publish a plan detailing the delivery of the use of technology to aid teaching across all subjects in the curriculum, for pupils of all ages, in all maintained schools and Academies.
It is rather odd that we have just had a debate about an issue that has divided opinion since the establishment of early state education with the Forster's Act of 1870 and we still have an enormous amount of confusion as to whether the debate on this amendment is beginning.
Baroness Garden of Frognal: For the sake of clarification, the last vote was nullified because no one called "Content" at the three-minute point, and the Not Contents have it. We are now moving on to Amendment 61D, which my noble friend Lord Willis is moving.
Lord Willis of Knaresborough: My Lords, the history of moving amendments on technology is fraught with danger. It seems rather odd in your Lordships' House that we can have an hour-long debate about whether we should have collective worship and yet in the most technologically advanced nation on earth we cannot decide whether we have had a vote. Nevertheless, we will move on.
Baroness Garden of Frognal: I apologise again to my noble friend, but there is so much noise in the Chamber that it is quite difficult to hear what he is
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When the noble Lords, Lord Puttnam and Lord Knight, and I raised this amendment in Committee, we were hopeful that the Minister would reflect on the issues raised and the importance of technology in our schools, and bring back government amendments on Report that indicated that this Government listened to one of the most important technologies driving our education system, our society and our economy. However, there is not a word in this piece of legislation about how we empower our young people to enter a technological society where they can take full advantage of all that pertains.
"We are talking to a number of interested parties-school leaders, professional bodies, educational charities, industry, academics and other experts-about how the department should take forward its thinking about technology".-[Official Report, 13/7/11; col. GC 306.]
Sadly we have not had a single word about where those discussions have led. We have not had a single idea from the Government as to whether technology has a place in a modern UK education system in the 21st century. It is enormously disappointing that we still have from the Government a view that technology, particularly information communications technology, is a distraction from the central aim of raising standards. It is absolutely essential to the raising of standards to have proper technology and technology policies in our schools.
We are not promoting the case for ICT as an alternative to conventional subject matter or pedagogy but as an integral part of delivering a world-class, 21st century curriculum. Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, recently reminded us that,
"Lewis Carroll didn't just write one of the classic fairytales of all time. He was also a mathematics tutor at Oxford. James Clerk Maxwell was described by Einstein as among the best physicists since Newton-but was also a published poet".
This amendment is about digital inclusion. It is about encouraging schools to meet their responsibilities to generations of young people who access ICT as both a tool and a discipline, and not to disadvantage themselves-or indeed the nation-as they move forward. However, it is so much more than just a pious and well-meaning amendment. All the evidence from studies from the Royal Society, the EPSRC, the Times Educational Supplement, the Government's own department, major corporations, and charities such as futurelab and the e-Learning Foundation, of which the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, and I are privileged to be the respective chairs, emphasise the link between the use of ICT,
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However, some 4 million people in Britain today are not online and are usually the most disadvantaged. Forty-nine per cent of those without access come from the lowest socioeconomic groups, and 70 per cent are in social housing. Thirty-eight per cent of those who are currently unemployed are not online, despite the fact that 70 per cent of all jobs are advertised online. That is a very cruel deception. Ministers must understand that the majority of those households will have children, who, without our support, will be part of tomorrow's statistics.
One million children in our schools today cannot get online at home. Yet so much of the work they are being set in schools, and so many of the projects which they are being asked to complete, rely upon them being able to get online and do their work in that way. By encouraging schools to be proactive-particularly in recognising that an IT policy must extend into the home, where often the greatest disparity exists-the Government can make children and their schools part of a solution to support a wide range of government objectives.
This amendment is not a plea for special funding. I have not mentioned funding once, and nor have my noble friends. Encouraging schools to use their pupil premium would go a long way to meet both school and home access requirements. However, it requires the statutory authority of this amendment to say to schools, "Technology should be at the heart of what you do, and you need to report every year on that to the Secretary of State, as well as to your pupils' parents and to your governors".
Finally, this amendment would also address one of the real challenges facing our schools and colleges: that of addressing the shortfall in the number of students studying computing across the UK. According to the current Royal Society study, from 2006 to 2009 we saw a fall of 33 per cent in the number of students studying ICT at GCSE level. There has been a similar fall since 2003 of one-third of students studying ICT at A2-level. We have also seen a 57 per cent reduction in A2 level students studying computer science. Such dramatic falls in numbers of students going into our universities to study computer science are having a seriously detrimental effect on our ability to produce the sort of graduates we need for our modern economy. That alone is a reason for us to put ICT and technology at the heart of delivering the 21st century curriculum.
I hope that, as this will not cost the Minister anything but will win him friends throughout the nation, this is one amendment about which the Minister can simply say to the House, "I accept the wisdom of your words". I beg to move.
Lord Puttnam: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Willis, for keeping this ball on the park. Like many other Members of your Lordships' House, I have a number of interests in the education sector, all of which appear in the register of interests.
The omission of a clause such as this in the completed Bill in my judgment-and I put this to the Minister-would be literally mind-blowing: not a small omission, not something that has just slipped by, but a truly mind-blowing omission. That is why I support what I think is a very modest, simple and very easily deliverable objective, as laid out marvellously by the noble Lord, Lord Willis.
My contribution will concern the very serious issue of employability, possibly pre-empting one or two debates that will come up later on Report about jobs. During the summer break, I read a book by Jim Clifton, the chair of Gallup, entitled The Coming Jobs War. It is drawn from the largest survey Gallup had ever undertaken in its history. The view expressed in the book, and the conclusion that Mr Clifton comes to, is that the relationship between ICT skills and jobs in the developed world is absolutely everything. There will be winners and losers, and unless this Government -this was to an extent true of the Government previously-get a real grip on this issue, we can only be among the losers in the next 10 to 20 years.
I would like to offer a few statistics that may alarm the Government. If they have different statistics, I would be very happy to hear from the Minister. Only 9 per cent of ICT classes in this country are taught by teachers with any relevant qualifications. That means that 91 per cent of young people in this country are being taught so-called ICT by teachers with no qualifications whatever in the subject. I am not sure what other subjects fall into this category. I cannot believe that there are very many, and I cannot believe that a civilised nation would let this go on for very long when it knows that its entire employability framework for the next 10 to 20 years is reliant upon success in this area.
I also want to explain exactly what ICT is. If one does not understand the key component of it-that is, code-then ICT, taught badly, is nothing more than typing. It is the equivalent of teaching someone 30 years ago to change a typewriter ribbon and use a bit of Tipp-Ex. The key to ICT is to understand coding, and everything that goes into the creation of what appears on a computer screen. If we do not know how to do that, we cannot compete, and we cannot offer any alternative opportunities to develop the kind of companies that the United States has successfully developed, and other parts of the developing world are racing past us in developing.
The important point, which I must get across, is that coding can be taught only through and by the use of technology. That is what makes the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Willis, so very important; there is no way of teaching this other than through technology.
I will give an example of developments that are taking place-in a sense, this is the good news. One website alone, the Times Educational Supplement website, now has 1.6 million registered members. It is growing at the rate of 50,000 registered members per month. Fifty per cent of those registered members are in the UK. The rest are spread across another 190 countries. This is stimulating 6.3 million downloads per month
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Why have I dwelt on all these figures? I feel that during the time that I worked for the noble Baroness, Lady Morris-and I was at the department for a number of years-we always sought solutions to improve teaching and learning that could be delivered at scale. That is what bedevilled us; it was not a lack of initiatives, or a lack of good ideas, or this school or that, or groups of schools doing well. We could not find access to scale the type of changes we were desperately keen to make. I would argue that now, through technology, we at last have it in our grasp. We have teachers helping teachers-the online equivalent of subject-specific organisations that thrived until 20 years ago. Those subject-specific organisations were the protectors and supporters of standards. When they died, we had no way-and at present still have none-of supporting and guaranteeing standards. Through ICT within schools, we can have that ability all over again.
I will make one last point. Over the summer I read a remarkable book, called Now You See It, by Cathy Davidson. She is a professor in education at Duke University in the United States. She makes an unarguable case for using recent knowledge in brain science in order, as she puts it, to,
most particularly, the way we learn. This country is brilliantly gifted with scientists. We have always been at the cutting edge of change. Why on earth are we allowing this complete revolution in the way that young people learn to pass us by? I strongly support this amendment.
Baroness Butler-Sloss: My Lords, I very strongly support this amendment. I have a six year-old American grandson, and I have read his kindergarten report. He was making good progress with the computer and the iPad when he was not yet six. We have to keep in touch, and we have to be there. It is very important that this amendment should be supported.
We are world leaders in this country in the use of technology in education. That is why more than 70 education Ministers from around the world come to the largest conference of education Ministers that happens annually anywhere in the world, held in London, alongside the BETT fair. It is hugely important that we sustain that position, as others are catching up, and are catching up very fast.
I welcome some of the comments made recently by the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, around technology, in particular what he said about iTunes U and the Khan Academy and how they are, in his words, transforming what is going on in the classroom. That is welcome because over the past year or so, those working in the field of technology in education have been worried that the Government have taken their
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As we have heard, ICT is hugely important. We managed to justify the £300 million the Treasury needed to part with on the country's behalf for programmes such as the Home Access Programme that I was responsible for in government by using data from, for example, the Institute for Fiscal Studies. That showed that access to a computer at home increases performance in science GCSEs by two grades. PISA did some analysis on the use of technology which shows that over time it has increased maths scores in countries around the world. As a result of the Home Access Programme and the evaluation that the department quietly published a few months ago, we have seen the impact in terms of extended learning at home. By having access to technology at home, people are spending longer on their homework and find doing their homework more engaging. I would point noble Lords who are interested in this towards the example of the Essa Academy in Bolton, which has now got every child an iPod Touch and is rolling out more iPads. The learning that is going on in that academy has led to its results over the two years it has been in place for five GCSEs at A* to C rise from around 40 per cent to 100 per cent, and if you include English and Maths, from 28 per cent to 56 per cent. So some significant gains have been delivered in part thanks to technology. The academy certainly attributes technology to its success.
It is important that the Government should continue to extend their activities around the training of teachers and leaders because we know that if they are not in place, any investment in technology does not get you anywhere. You absolutely have to have them in place. The development of resources, home access and how best practice and next practice are spread are also important. Currently, we have a vacuum. Very early on, Michael Gove decided to abolish Becta, the agenda that provided a lead in this area in securing significant savings. That is his prerogative and fine if he wants to do it. But it meant that there was a hiatus in which people felt that there was no leadership in the area, although we may be beginning to see it now. At the same time, the role of local authorities has diminished and their funding to provide a lead on this locally has also fallen. Authorities have largely let all their IT specialists go, which means that they have now all become self-employed IT consultants. A profusion of people are knocking on headteachers' doors offering advice, but often with vested interests around particular technology solutions. It is difficult for heads to get through the confusion that follows, and certainly to secure the procurement savings that Becta was able to deliver.
A plan is also necessary not just to fill that vacuum, but to point us towards the potential new ways of working which technology has delivered efficiently in so many different industries. In a challenging fiscal environment, if we can deliver more efficiencies in education, I am sure that that is to be welcomed. Assessment takes up a significant part of any school's
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There are all sorts of things that can be done in terms of school system improvement on the supply side, and that is what the Government feel comfortable with because that is what they control, but we can also stimulate much more self-sustaining school improvement through a demand-side set of reforms. It is not just about choice and the decision about which school your child will go to, made once or twice in their school career, it is also about giving parents a voice. You do that by giving them information and data that keep them in touch in real time with what is going on in the school. That can only be done on a viable basis using technology, and if that technology is fairly distributed with inclusion across the range of homes.
In respect of new ways of working, we are at the tipping point on this in schools. We can move away from IT suites and trolleys of laptops and towards people bringing in personal devices that their parents are already buying them. A recent Ofcom study showed that 100 per cent of teenagers, who they defined as 12 to 15 year-olds, had access to a computer somewhere, although as the noble Lord, Lord Willis, told us, many do not have access at home. We are also seeing a rapid rise in the ownership of smartphones, while 10 per cent have tablets, and those figures are changing all the time. There will come a point when we embrace these personal devices, even if it means mobile phones with rules about how they are used. That is because in children's hands, they are very powerful computers which can aid learning. In turn, it means that schools will spend less on IT, less on recharging devices overnight, less on paper and less on textbooks. They can deliver an educational case around the use of data for performance and differentiation of learning, delivering more learning at home, delivering the softer skills of collaboration and communication that employers need, and the pupil engagement between home and school that we know is so important.
I strongly endorse what my noble friend Lord Puttnam said in respect of the economic case. If noble Lords are interested in how it might work, I recommend that they look at Apps for Good that CDI Europe has been delivering in schools and which young people find hugely engaging. That engages them in the world of work as well as in the world of technology. I also endorse what my noble friend said about coding and the need for more programming being learnt earlier on in school. I tried that, against a lot of push from officials. I even had to write it into the galley proofs before they were sent to the printers and they were not looking. I tried to get ICT as a basic skill at the primary level so that we could make sure that children were plug-in-and-play ready when they started secondary school. They should be able to use technology across
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The noble Lord, Lord Willis, mentioned the death of Steve Jobs. I ask noble Lords to think about what a Steve Jobs school would have looked like. For the staff, certainly it would have been one with a hero head model, someone solidly leading the school and delivering not what the children wanted, but what they needed. There would probably be a fairly flat staffing structure, but to the world outside it would not be the Steve Jobs school, it would be an Apple school: beautifully designed and one in which people just wanted to learn. It probably would not even have school rules, just as the iPad does not have any instructions, because it would be so engaging. That is what technology can give us: really engaging education that sucks learners in and makes them want to find out more and educate themselves more rather than just the flat, didactic one-way learning that is the tradition which some would like to see revived. I think it belongs in the Dark Ages.
Lord Sutherland of Houndwood: My Lords, I also declare an interest in that I work with a Malaysian company, YTL, in a plan to take ICT provision into every Malaysian school. That background gives me a little insight into what is happening here. Their Ministers and senior civil servants wanted to come here to see what we were doing. I can assure the noble Lord that his officials were very helpful in showing what Britain can and does do in this area. I cannot match their eloquence, but I stress one point that I think has not been stressed sufficiently. This is not simply enabling people to look something up in Wikipedia or whatever and get a few quotes for their essays. This transforms schools completely.
I took these Malaysian visitors-Secretaries of State and so on-to schools here in Britain to see what was happening. It transformed whole schools, not simply the teaching patterns, but all the relationships-with the parents, with the governing body, between the pupils and between the pupils and the teachers. It changed discipline. It took a failing school to one now where there are five applicants for every place. There were other factors, but the headmistress-am I allowed to say that these days?-or the lady who is in charge of the school, the principal, told us that ICT, properly used, was one of the key ingredients. So I think it is important that the Government have a policy that becomes a strategy.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, I am enormously supportive of everything that has been said so far. I am greatly encouraged by what the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, said about the TES. Government after Government
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I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Knight of Weymouth, about personal devices. An element of this Bill is about enabling schools to ban them more effectively. Actually, as the noble Lord, Lord Knight, said, they ought to be finding ways of using them more effectively, of incorporating them and of enabling those children who do not have access to a good enough device to participate. That takes the kind of transformation that the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, has seen in only a few schools, but they have done it, they have done it successfully, and it shows what is possible. Clearly this is going to challenge the whole way of teaching. Everybody can now have the best teacher in the world, or at least for a substantial part of the time. The transformation of teachers from people who are supposed to know everything, however inadequate they are, to people who are going to be good guides and really do know everything, is one to which I look forward with great excitement. It is going to take some getting right. I am looking forward to a very supportive speech from my noble friend on the Front Bench because I am a great supporter of what this Government are doing.
In the bits of the speech from the noble Lord, Lord Knight, with which I did not agree, he was celebrating his role as a great frog sitting in the middle of the department, croaking while everybody else listened to his croaks. Now we have ponds all over England full of tadpoles and no great frog. The noble Lord, Lord Knight, may claim to be the father of the tadpoles, but this Government have liberated education and have made things possible that, under the Stalinist bureaucracy of the QCA and its successors, was never possible. All the changes that the noble Lord, Lord Knight, is looking for would not have been possible under his way of doing things because the centre insisted on having things done its way and reaching its own decisions before it allowed other people to take action. That has been done away with. I meet people who used to work for Becta who are out there now doing wonderful things. They no longer have to wait for Becta to take decisions. They are out there spreading the word individually and making businesses and lives out of it. I think it is part of the transformation that the noble Lord, Lord Knight, celebrates that we have been through a period when there has been a dispersal of ideas. Now, instead of one great oak, we have a lot of acorns sprouting, and I think that is the right place to be when it comes to technology.
I celebrate the particular acorn that this Government have allowed me to sprout, something called Behind the Screen, which, to my great surprise, was adopted as government policy with the help of David Willetts,
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The noble Lord, Lord Knight, celebrates Apple. I curse my iPad every day for its limitations and for the rules that have been imposed on it from the centre. It will not get Flash. I try and do things with the iPad and it kills me half way through because the website has chosen to do something in Flash and Mr Jobs has said no. I do not want that to happen. I do not want monopolies to spring up and one voice to be the controlling voice when it comes to getting technology into schools. I want diversity. I want lots of different people to try to do it, and I want to see who does it best. That is the way that I think we will come through to a successful technology education system.
So I celebrate what this Government are doing for me and for many others. I celebrate, too, Nick Gibb in the middle of that. This may not be his natural style but he knows that, at the end of the day, anything I do has to come up to his standards. That is an Olympic-level challenge and I welcome it. Where you are allowing a lot of different systems to compete to see which is best, the important role for the Government is to be in the middle making sure that what you have is rigour and quality and is not subservient to fashion and ideas of the moment. I know that I can rely on my honourable friend for that.
Baroness Paisley of St George's: My Lords, I, too, support this amendment. I had two wonderful experiences recently. One was on board a ship that was visiting Belfast. On a tour of that ship we were shown an operating theatre. The captain said to us, "There is the theatre". It was a beautiful operating theatre, and the captain explained, "There is a computer in the wall, and in mid-ocean we can perform life-saving operations on board this ship directed from shore hundreds of miles away". I thought it was wonderful to see how technology had advanced to this degree. In other times this could not have happened.
The other experience I had was in my own family. My great-grandson, who is two and a half, went to the computer, put in a DVD and waited until it came up
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Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Willis and those who have spoken in favour of this amendment. There are two issues that are important. One is that this is not just about access to hardware. Yes, we are going to move to a situation where you no longer have a suite of computers within a classroom but instead young people have iPads and technology that is mobile around the classroom and around the whole school, and that will make for a much more flexible atmosphere within the school. Access to the technology is important. I think it was my noble friend Lord Willis, or it may have been the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, who made the point that many of the disadvantaged do not currently have access to broadband or to mobile technologies, both of which are quite expensive. For those existing on a weekly jobseeker's allowance of £90, it is one of the items that they have to forgo. It is vital, therefore, that our public libraries are open and available to such people so that they can have access through the public library system.
My second point is that, as the noble Lord, Lord Knight, mentioned, the pedagogy is changing rapidly. The technology is interactive and when you use this interaction, because the learner can respond, you get a different and much more motivational form of learning. It is vital that our teachers are trained to use this pedagogy, recognise its development and move forward with it.
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch: My Lords, we had a very good debate on this issue in Grand Committee, and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Willis, and my noble friends Lord Puttnam and Lord Knight for distilling our earlier debates into what we might label a call for action that can be included in the Bill and would ensure that the Government took some of these important issues forward.
Before I go on, though, I have to take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. He is completely wrong on the previous Government's record on this. A lot of the groundwork and preparation for what now gives us a launching pad was laid down by the previous Government. We have been given mixed messages so far by the current Government: they do not have technology or ICT in the English Bacc or in their plans for the core curriculum. I understand that Michael Gove has been saying some warm words on the issue, but the gauntlet has now been thrown down to the Government to actually follow this up and act upon it.
My noble friend Lord Puttnam has faced us with the challenge of employability for the next generation if we do not get this right, while both he and my noble friend Lord Knight have once again inspired us with what is possible in terms of revolutionising teaching if we do get it right. The fact is that some schools are already way ahead of the game, and our challenge is to
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There is a massive range of benefits. The most obvious one is that if you have sophisticated equipment as a teaching aid, children's knowledge of technology applications is enhanced. However, it goes much further than that. Children's research skills are improved and their access to information multiplied. Homework becomes easier and quicker. They no longer have to rely on the availability of often scarce books in the library. As we have heard, it is transformative, engaging and enthusing. Even the most isolated schools can be linked up with others to share learning experience and to interact. Teachers can be linked together to share best practice, swap teaching modules and experiment with and improve materials. As my noble friend Lord Puttnam rightly pointed out, this change can be delivered at scale across the sector.
When we last debated this, and indeed in the debate we have had today, the importance of computer access for all was a strong theme, and I am sure that we can all agree with that. There is still a worryingly high percentage of families that do not have access to a computer at home and are therefore becoming more isolated and excluded. It is also true that we need to address the training of technology teachers if we are to reap the potential benefits that could come from all this.
There is a tendency to look at this problem in terms of narrow unit cost, whereas we should really apply a much broader cost-benefit analysis that compares the advantages of providing high-quality technology in the classroom and in the home with the damage done if a generation of young people is outsmarted in the global information and communication race. I very much support the amendment and hope that the Minister is able to give the simple commitment to delivering the technology plan by 2012 that the amendment requests.
Baroness Garden of Frognal: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Willis for raising this important issue. We agree entirely with him, the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, and other noble Lords who have spoken in this debate that the effective use of technology is critical to education in the 21st century and indeed to employment.
In his speech to the Royal Society on 29 June, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State outlined the importance of technological innovation in supporting good teaching and how successful ideas need to spread rapidly through the system. The role of Government in this area is to encourage schools to take better advantage of opportunities presented by digital technologies to engage pupils, improve teaching and deliver education more effectively and efficiently-and, from the messages in this debate, more excitingly as well. The Secretary of State will say more on this later in the year and I cannot pre-empt what he plans to say in that speech.
We know that many schools and teachers are already making excellent use of technology to help deliver their educational aims, and we need to learn from them. As noble Lords have set out so eloquently today, though, there is room for more widespread and innovative use across the system. Some teachers also need more knowledge about how to use technology effectively to support their practice, and we heard from the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and the noble Baroness, Lady Paisley, how the very young are often far more proficient in technology than their teachers, parents or, dare I say, grandparents.
However, we should not seek to dictate how schools use technology or seek to plan this centrally. We should allow schools to innovate, working in partnership with industry and other experts. Schools need to respond to these opportunities, making informed decisions about whether and how to adopt new approaches in the best interests of their pupils.
We have spoken to many interested parties including school leaders, professional bodies, educational charities, industry, academics and other experts about technology in schools. The department is also taking forward work to help ensure that schools can get best value when purchasing technology-the noble Lord, Lord Knight, mentioned procurement as one of the issues here-and we are working with industry to agree data standards for educational systems. It is at this level that we feel the department should be involved in supporting schools to make best use of technology.
There is no doubt that the effective use of technology can support good teaching and help to raise standards. We welcome the noble Lord's commitment to the potential of technology to improve education and are grateful for all the ideas that have come forward in this debate and in previous ones.
Lord Puttnam: I am sorry to interrupt the Minister but I have a question before she sits down. Do the Government conceive it possible that a school might be considered successful that was unsuccessfully delivering ICT, coding and all the other things that this debate has thrown up as being fundamental? Again, my experience of education, having worked in the department, is that heads will react and respond to what they consider will win them brownie points, and the ultimate brownie point is to be deemed a successful school. Could she possibly give us a firm commitment that schools that fail in this area could not be deemed successful?
Baroness Garden of Frognal: It would be almost impossible to deliver the curriculum successfully in a 21st-century school without the effective use of technology. I would have to come back to him on chapter and verse, but I cannot think that it would be possible for a school to deliver the curriculum successfully without a good use of technology.
The ideas in today's debate and previous debates will be passed back to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. As I said, later this year he is planning to say more about technology in schools and the role and work of government in this area. We have had a typically constructive and diverse debate today that has taken in acorns, tadpoles and apples. These
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Lord Willis of Knaresborough: My Lords, I am enormously grateful for the contributions of noble Lords on all sides of the House in what has been a fascinating 45-minute debate on a subject which your Lordships clearly feel incredibly strongly about. In his question to the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, put his finger on the pulse of this issue: can a school be successful if it does not have ICT and technology at the heart of delivering a 21st century curriculum? The Minister was generous enough to admit that she did not believe that it was possible. In spite of all the research that she might do, she will not be able to point to a single school in the whole of the United Kingdom that is successful without using technology to deliver its curriculum.
I was interested in the short speech of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. It was telling. She said that her grandson was making good progress with his computer and iPad. Sadly, a million children do not have access to either an iPad or a computer, and they are the ones who are the most disadvantaged. The great sadness about the Minister's response to this debate is that these children will remain disadvantaged unless a benevolent head teacher in a benevolent school decides that ICT is going to be a priority for that school. Unless it is part of the league table culture it will not be part of it at all.
I am not worried about whether or not it is part of the English baccalaureate. I am much more interested in ICT being the electricity-the energy-that delivers, motivates and turns youngsters on to a high-performing education system.
I leave the House with three comments. The noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, quite rightly talked about employability and I mentioned that most jobs are advertised on line, yet those that need them most cannot access them online. The educational case was made strongly by, among others, the noble Lord, Lord Knight, and by my noble friend Lord Lucas, whose passion for technology and ICT knows no bounds. I loved his description of the noble Lord, Lord Knight, sitting on a toadstool somewhere, with frogs all around him spawning. It was a wonderful analogy.
However, my noble friend was fundamentally wrong when he talked about there being only two ideologies: Stalinist or laissez-faire. There is another way and this amendment was neither Stalinist nor laissez-faire. It says to the Secretary of State, "Please take your duties seriously about creating the sorts of framework that allow schools to operate and on which we will judge you".
This has been an interesting debate. I believe that we will not get much further on this occasion. We have been told that the Secretary of State will make an announcement from on high later. Perhaps he will become the Steve Jobs of government. Or perhaps he will become part of the Amish sect. We will see. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Wills: My Lords, over the past 50 years there has been a profound shift in the way we view our relationship with animals. The ethical framework for that relationship has been changing and that process has become highly contentious and a matter of deep concern for millions of people in this country. At the most extreme, it has led to lawbreaking and violence.
The impact on public policy has been far reaching, as recent debates over hunting with dogs and over circus animals have shown. Perhaps the most important and difficult area is the use of non-human primates in research because it is the area with the most serious and far reaching consequences and because of these animals' evolutionary closeness to us.
There are many who believe that research involving experiments on animals is not justifiable in any circumstances. Others believe that it can be justified only if specifically directed towards medical need, while some believe it can also be justified in the investigation of more basic scientific research. However, it is now widely accepted that scientific and medical research should be carried out only if there is a clear potential benefit and if there is no other means of achieving it. So, for example, following bans introduced by the previous Government on the use of animals to test cosmetic products and cosmetic ingredients in 1997 and 1998, the use of animals to test cosmetics or their ingredients is now banned throughout the European Union. This remains a deeply contentious area of public policy, with a wide range of ethical and philosophical considerations in play, passionately held beliefs on all sides, and in a scientific field which is developing at an extraordinary rate.
In these circumstances, it is the Government who hold the ring, balancing these competing views, and it is important that they do so. If the public believe that animals are being cruelly treated or that there is no measurable benefit from the experiments being carried out on them, then public consent is likely to be withdrawn from the scientific and medical research being conducted using animals, and potentially valuable research will be lost.
Clearly, the Government's task is not an easy one. The Bateson review, published in July this year, found that in most cases research involving animals was now generally productive and of good scientific quality which may lead to the understanding and treatment of a wide range of human diseases. It also found that in 9 per cent of the research programmes reviewed, no clear scientific, medical or social benefit had emerged. The Minister will be aware that there is growing unease now on all sides about what might lie ahead.
Scientists feel beleaguered, as the Minister will have detected, for example, from a recent question from the noble Lord, Lord Willis, in your Lordships' House. I see the noble Lord is due to speak later in this debate and perhaps we will hear more from him then. Those who advocate higher standards of animal welfare and the cessation of experiments using non-human primates are also worried. It is these concerns that I now wish to address in the hope that the Minister will be able to give some answers and reassurance to all sides.
Immediate concern is being caused by the implementation of the new EU directive on animal experiments. The Minister will be aware, for example, of the RSPCA's lobbying on this issue and that it is generally accepted that in many ways the EU directive requires standards weaker than current UK ones. I recognise that the Home Office consultation on how to implement the directive has only just closed so the Minister will not yet be able to set out any firm conclusions. However, his department took a 25 per cent cut in its budget in the spending review, and I should be grateful if the noble Lord could confirm that the Government will not use implementing the EU directive to reduce the number of Home Office inspectors and the number of inspections they carry out each year.
The Minister will be aware how important these inspectors and their inspections are to maintaining and improving standards of animal welfare in experiments. These are not unnecessary regulation and bureaucracy; they are vital guarantors of high standards of animal welfare in experiments. While the great majority of scientists carrying out such experiments act ethically and with scrupulous regard to the highest standards of animal welfare, the Minister will have been briefed that there have been notorious cases where distinguished scientists have ignored such concerns and argued they were entitled to do so in pursuit of their research. Given the closed and hierarchical nature of some universities, it can be difficult for those charged with upholding animal welfare standards on site to stand up to such academics. This is particularly important as around 70 per cent of scientific research involving animals is carried out in non-commercial academic institutions, which are self-regulating apart from the role of the Home Office. So Home Office inspectors and inspections represent a crucial protection against such concerns for animal welfare being ridden over roughshod.
There have also been concerns that the ethical review process should not be scrapped but retained and improved; concerns that the EU directive should not permit higher levels of animal suffering; and concerns about newly permitted methods of killing animals which are likely to cause public concern. I should welcome any reassurance the Minister can give on these issues.
Transparency is a crucial aid to good governance. I understand that the Government have accepted that the EU directive requires reconsideration of Section 24 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act. Amending the section so that it does not apply to disclosures in response to requests under the Freedom of Information Act would increase transparency. That would mean that someone leaking information for commercial gain
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Looking beyond the EU directive and its implementation, there remain fundamental questions about the use of non-human primates in experiments. Last year, I understand that some 2,649 non-human primates were used in scientific and medical research in the UK, under strictly regulated conditions. While there may be no immediate substitute for the carefully regulated conditions that I have described, that should not be an argument for not continuing to seek such substitutes in the future. The Weatherall report, which was published five years ago in 2006, noted:
"There is an impressive body of work directed at developing alternatives to non-human primates in research. There have been remarkable advances in recent years in molecular and cell biology, non-invasive imaging, computer modelling and systems biology approaches, as well as techniques for human studies".
I hope the Minister can reassure your Lordships tonight that the Government will encourage and support such work continuing. In the long term, this can be done, and broad public support for the use of such animals in experiments maintained, only in the context of the national strategic plan called for by the Weatherall report five years ago. I should be grateful if the Minister could tell your Lordships what progress is being made in drawing up such a plan and when he expects a draft to be published and put out to consultation.
In maintaining such public support, it is also crucial that there should be a clear potential benefit from such experiments. As I mentioned earlier, it is now generally accepted that their use in testing cosmetics does not result in such benefits. Therefore, the European Commission is now consulting on a ban on the marketing of all cosmetics that have been tested on animals, wherever they have been produced. I understand that while other European countries have supported such a ban, the UK Government have still to make their views known. I should be grateful if the Minister could tell your Lordships' House whether the UK Government will support such a ban and, if not, why not.
As long as it is accepted that animals may be used in experiments, questions will arise about the acceptable limits of such experiments. Here it is becoming accepted that it is the lifetime experience of the animal that is of paramount importance. Project licences detail only individual procedures that cover only direct suffering and ignore contingent suffering, such as conditions of housing, husbandry and transport, and the period of time over which such direct and contingent suffering occurs. If the Government are to maintain a broad public consensus on the use of animals in experiments, this must include maintaining a broad consensus on acceptable levels of cumulative severity of suffering. This cannot be left to self-regulation. The maintenance
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The Minister will be aware that there are many who wait anxiously to see some practical results from this pledge. The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, for example, has submitted more than 30 proposals for ways to make progress in fulfilling this pledge. I should be grateful if the Minister could say when the Government will respond to these suggestions. This is a particularly difficult and contentious area of public policy, involving as it does profound ethical issues, potentially invaluable research into the treatment and cure of human disease, valuable commercial and economic interests and the passionately held beliefs of millions of people in this country. I look forward to hearing the contributions of distinguished Members of your Lordships' House to this debate, informed as they will be by their extensive experience in this field. I also look forward to answers from the Minister to the questions that I have asked tonight.
Lord Willis of Knaresborough: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Wills, on securing this debate, even though there has been a great deal of time between his proposing the debate and our having it in the dinner hour.
I say to your Lordships how important it is that, in using animals in science, whether medical science or elsewhere, the highest levels of transparency are always maintained over how animals of all species-not just non-human primates-are used. It is important across the whole spectrum in the furthering of scientific knowledge. I declare an interest as the chair of the Association of Medical Research Charities, which represents some 126 medical charities that are involved in medical research. I make it clear that AMRC is a member of the UK bioscience sector coalition, which has made a co-ordinated response to EU directive 2010/63, which governs animal research. However, several of our members have made separate responses to the directive because of their own interests.
Our starting point as a coalition was to ask the following questions. Will the directive improve standards of welfare for laboratory animals across the whole of the EU? Will it improve the quality for procedures permitted on animals across the EU? Will it drive down the requirement for animal procedures in line with the world-leading NC3Rs initiative? Will it help to maintain the UK's position as a world-leading bio and medical science destination? The answer to all four questions was an emphatic yes. We believe that it will. However, given the high standards that exist in the UK, the question rightly being asked by several organisations-the noble Lord, Lord Wills, made reference to this-is: will the directive reduce standards in UK laboratories and open the way for less acceptable
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The response from the coalition could not be clearer. As we said in our evidence, our priorities are: to promote high-quality science and patient benefits; to ensure high standards of animal welfare; to apply the principles of the three Rs; to harmonise EU regulatory requirements so that we do not have different levels in different countries; and to promote public confidence in humane animal research, which can be done only through openness and transparency. The idea that such a wide range of organisations as are part of the coalition, of which only two represent commercial interests, should wish to see standards lowered is quite offensive. Indeed, it would be counterproductive. You cannot achieve world-class research unless you treat your animal models with respect and care.
Seeking to strip away needless bureaucracy that does little for science or animal welfare is a positive, rather than negative, move. We are convinced that giving a greater emphasis to inspection, and making recommendations from inspections the basis for improvement, is far better for science, patients and the interests of animals than sheaves of paper-based accountancy, which is what we have at the moment. Transparency is about what goes on in the breeding centres, animal houses and laboratories; ensuring that research programmes are carried out to the letter of their remit; and, where there are changes, that those changes are themselves transparent and approved. Let me make clear that the myths and distortions spread by Animal Aid and others do little to encourage the quality of debate to which we have grown accustomed over the past 10 years when discussing animal procedures and science.
Let me take a number of those myths and distortions head-on. Animal Aid claims that the coalition wishes to scrap the ban on the use of great apes. That is completely untrue. The UK bioscience sector coalition can see absolutely no circumstances in which there would be a requirement to use great apes in medical research. They have not been used in the UK for the past 25 years and there is no reason that they should be in the future. However, it was stressed in our response to the directive that recent deaths in wild gorillas due to human viruses mean that there is a serious threat posed to that species. It would be quite wrong for us to say that we would not do any work on great apes or any other species that was endangered. That would be a nonsense, and yet that is exactly what we are being accused of doing.
and that we could re-establish the historical link between UK pet thieves and animal researchers. This does not only a huge disservice to medical science but makes the whole proposal laughable. The idea that you would use feral animals for experiments to get reliable results is utter nonsense and needs to be quashed. What does this directive aim to do? Certainly, harmonisation is at the centre of it. We do not deny that there has been an increase in the number of animals used in procedures, particularly in the past couple of years, with some
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As the noble Lord, Lord Wills, rightly said, without clear transparency, openness and the sorts of response he rightly seeks from Ministers, people who have a genuine interest in medical science and who want to see animals treated well during these procedures will not get the answers they deserve. However, frankly, those who scaremonger should get the results that they deserve.
Lord Winston: My Lords, in congratulating my noble friend Lord Wills on securing this debate I declare an interest. I have held a licence to carry out animal research for more than 40 years. I may be the only Member of this House to do so. I still have an active licence and, indeed, went to see the Home Office inspector only two weeks ago. I am also chairman of a company that is involved in transplantation work using pig organs. I recently had to go to the Home Office for revalidation. I have a certificate from the Institute of Biology hanging up in my lavatory. Unfortunately, that institute does not have a typewriter that works terribly well. The certificate states:
No rabbi has visited my house to inspect the certificate, which is probably just as well. I replied using a typewriter which had all the "t"s missing; I felt that was the only way in which I could reply.
I am not sure that this matter is as deeply contentious as the noble Lord, Lord Willis, says it is. Let us face it: 95 per cent of us perfectly happily wear leather shoes. We should put the animal rights lobby into some kind of focus. I regularly speak at all sorts of public meetings around the country and I do not get the impression that animal research is so contentious. Of course, various issues still need to be addressed, but I fear that we might exaggerate the public response to this, which serves no good purpose.
My field has largely been that of in vitro fertilisation and reproductive biology. It is interesting to consider that more than 1 million babies could not have existed without the research that has been carried out on rodents. That is true of my work in the screening of embryos for genetic disorders. This has been a revolution in reproductive medicine. It means that women can embark on a pregnancy knowing for certain that they will be free from having a baby which will die in the first few years of life. That was made possible purely through extensive animal research. Animal research has contributed hugely to physiological medical research in virtually every field, whether it be the liver, heart, brain or kidneys, or neuroscience or any major discipline. Last year's Nobel prize in my field was won as a result of medical research on animals, as has often been the case with many Nobel prize winners.
I am now involved in the field of transplantation. One of the interesting issues is that organ failure is extremely common. Around the world every 15 minutes or so a new person is put on an organ transplant waiting list. I work at Imperial College London. Using mice initially but also pigs, we are trying to modify the cell surface antigens of the pig so that they are not recognised by the human immune system, so that when an organ is transplanted-a kidney, heart or liver-it may not be rejected. That is an ethical imperative. It saves human life in a way that no artificial organ appears to be capable of doing. We may talk about bionics in our society but I think that it will be at least 20 or 30 years before an artificially made organ is remotely possible. However, xenotransplantation now has a real possibility of saving vast numbers of lives and improving medical care.
I do not think we can argue that there is any substitute for animal research. Of course, reduction is possible but I do not think that substitution is. I give an example. Much has been made of the use of cell culture to replace animal research. I speak with some knowledge of cell culture, having worked in that field for a very long time with my embryos and with other tissues. However, the problem with cell cultures is that they produce huge numbers of aberrations which are not produced in the intact animal. In the intact rodent we are able to study cell signalling in a way that goes completely awry in a cell culture. The epigenetic changes that occur in cell culture mean that genes often do not express in the way that they would do normally in the intact animal. Of course, even organ culture will not do that either. It is a very technical issue.
I have worked with animals in the United States, in Belgium for a year, in France, Germany, Australia and New Zealand. In Britain, the overall standard of inspection, control and regulation as it stands-with or without the European directive-is remarkably high. We should, however, try to improve our animal houses; that would be a great help. The problem, of course, is that universities often do not have enough money to do that.
We need to say very clearly that it would be unthinkable to take any drug which has not been tested on an intact animal. In fact, there is a case for having legislation to make it clear that a particular drug has only been possible for human consumption because of animal testing. This could be stamped on the packet, rather like a cigarette packet. With the medical advances, and the advances in animal well-being which have resulted from animal research, we should not lose focus on the overall picture. I urge the Minister to consider those in his deliberations in Europe.
Finally, one of the key issues is public engagement. It is a matter of great disappointment to many of us that, for example, the pharmaceutical industry, which has so much at stake in this country, and which contributes so enormously to our economy, has not been much more forward in trying to point out that it uses animal research. It is quite shocking that every university in this country does not admit that we have an animal house where we do animal experiments. If we do not say this very clearly to the public, if we do not make that message clear, then of course people will start to think there is something clandestine or
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Lord Taverne: My Lords, I want to make three points. First, the United Kingdom has a very good record on concern about animal welfare in animal experiments. However, the process has in the past been bureaucratic. In 2002, the Select Committee of this House, of which I was a member, observed that the best form of regulation was not necessarily the most bureaucratic form of regulation. We had an example of one very eminent scientist, who was very experienced in the use of animals, who had to fill in a form in order to obtain a project licence of some 300 pages. The situation has improved-I understand that a good new form for project licence applications was introduced at the end of 2010-but there is a variation in the attitudes of the inspectors. Some inspectors are very niggling in their requirements for information and others are very helpful. I hope that the Home Office will see to it that there is some sort of uniformity and a respect for best practice.
The second point I want to make, very briefly, is about the European directive. I gather that its origins lie in the fact that some of the European countries do not have proper regulations. It is very welcome for that reason. It is welcome also because it simplifies applications for licences. However, I am told by my scientific friends that there is one thing that has to be watched-there is more emphasis on checks and reports. It is a somewhat prescriptive directive and could become onerous; or it could be perfectly tolerable, depending on how it is translated into UK law. Our record in translating EU directives into UK law is not always exemplary. In many cases, a very bureaucratic interpretation is given to it, with details that are not insisted on by other countries, which places this country at a disadvantage. I am sure that the Government will consult very carefully and widely and will listen to the observations which are made.
My third point is a more general one. There is no doubt that there is an increase in the public understanding of the need for animal research, and I agree very much with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Winston, that one exaggerates the degree of the concern these days. I think that something like three-quarters of all people, when asked by opinion polls, say that they have no objection to animal research if it is for the benefit of medicine and science. However, it is claimed that the situation is deteriorating and that there has been an increase in the use of animals. This has mainly been an increase in the use of mice, and mainly-as the noble Lord, Lord Willis, has pointed out-because of the breeding of mice. Since the increase in knowledge
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It also has to be realised that another recommendation in the committee's 2002 report, for a special emphasis on the three Rs, has been successful. I was somewhat sceptical about this because there has always been a huge incentive for scientists not to use animals unnecessarily or cruelly, because stress is a great disadvantage in experiments. However, I understand that there has been success in the promotion of replacement, reduction and refinement. For example, the Ames test to determine whether a chemical has potential to cause cancer now uses bacteria instead of rodents. Some tests now use less complex animals than previously. In the case of pyrogens, blood cells from the horseshoe crab replace tests on rabbits.
Public support is of course important-as many previous speakers have pointed out. The progress made in the three Rs also plays a part in this, and there is no doubt that there has been better education, but it could still be improved. I would add to the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Winston, that it would be beneficial if every general practice surgery displayed a notice stating, "All the drugs used or recommended in this surgery have been tested on animals". It has also been true that the activities of animal rights terrorists have been countered by much more effective police action and by some severe sentences imposed by the courts. This is one instance in which severity in sentencing can be proved to be effective.
It is for the sake not only of the health of human beings but of the welfare of animals that we continue to be vigilant to ensure that animal research proceeds effectively and with due care for the animals affected.
Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe: My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lord Wills for initiating this debate. It is good that there is so much agreement across the House on such an important topic. Like others, I start from the premise that medical research has saved or improved the lives of millions of people and that we should do everything possible to avoid harming its progress.
From my previous experience in the university world, where a substantial proportion of medical research is conducted, I know that the highest standards of ethical behaviour are required and adhered to. That is as true in research involving animals as in other areas. Research using animals has been the fundamental basis for many of the medical advances that we now rely on. I do not think that I can do better than quote the Wellcome Trust, one of the most important funding charities in this field. It said:
"The use of animals in research has enabled major advances in the understanding of biology and led to the development of nearly every type of drug, treatment or surgical procedure in contemporary medical and veterinary practice".
There is a long list of diseases and treatments where these advances have had an impact-tuberculosis, Parkinson's disease, high blood pressure, stroke, asthma, Alzheimer's, and anaesthetics. In the area of organ transplants, in which I have an interest as chair of the
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Using sentient animals in research places a huge responsibility on researchers and Governments. Regulation is therefore essential. Indeed, the UK was the first country in the world to protect research animals by law, in 1876. The UK is now widely regarded as having the tightest legislative control on medical research in the world, together with a reputation for high animal welfare standards. Perhaps even more telling, in order to obtain a license to experiment on animals, researchers must demonstrate to the Home Office that their research cannot be done using alternative non-animal methods.
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