Children and Families Bill

Report (4th Day)

5.15 pm

Clause 73: Interpretation of Part 3

Amendment 51

Moved by The Countess of Mar

51: Clause 73, page 51, line 1, at beginning insert—

““alternative education provision” means education arranged by local authorities for pupils who, because of exclusion, illness or other reasons, would not otherwise receive suitable education; education arranged by schools for pupils on a fixed-period exclusion; and pupils being directed by schools to off-site provision to improve their behaviour and education provision can include online and blended learning.”

The Countess of Mar (CB): My Lords, I realise that this amendment has already been debated, but unfortunately Mother Nature took a different idea into her head and kept me away from the House for three weeks. I am very concerned that children who are on the school roll but who, for one reason or another, have been unable to attend school are not being provided for in the code which the Minister kindly sent out. I was assured by the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and by the officials, that provision for online and blended learning would be included in the code, but I cannot find them anywhere there. I would like to know what is happening.

Baroness Masham of Ilton (CB): My Lords, I support this amendment and I thought I would say that to give the Minister time.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash) (Con): My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness. The answer to the noble Countess’s question is that it will be. After Report, we plan to put it into Third Reading. I am very happy for her to discuss that further with officials so that we are satisfied on that point.

The Countess of Mar: I am very grateful to the noble Lord. I am pleased to have had it made clear. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 51 withdrawn.

Amendment 52 not moved.

Amendments 52ZA to 52A

Moved by Lord Nash

52ZA: Clause 73, page 51, line 4, at end insert—

““appropriate person” has the meaning given by section (Application of Part to detained persons)(5);

“beginning of the detention” has the meaning given by section (Application of Part to detained persons)(6);

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“detained person” has the meaning given by section (Application of Part to detained persons)(5);

“detained person’s EHC needs assessment” has the meaning given by section (Application of Part to detained persons)(5);”

52ZB: Clause 73, page 51, line 9, at end insert—

““the home authority” has the meaning given by section (Application of Part to detained persons)(6) (subject to subsection (7) of that section);”

52ZC: Clause 73, page 51, line 28, at end insert—

““relevant youth accommodation” has the meaning given by section (Application of Part to detained persons)(5);”

52A: Clause 73, page 51, line 40, at end insert—

“( ) A child or young person has a disability for the purposes of this Part if he or she has a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010.”

Amendments 52ZA to 52A agreed.

Amendment 53

Moved by Baroness Jones of Whitchurch

53: After Clause 73, insert the following new Clause—

“Sex and relationship education guidance

(1) The Secretary of State will, within six months of this Act coming into force, establish a working group to review and update the Sex and Relationship Education Guidance for Schools.

(2) The working group established under subsection (1) will include young people, teachers, professionals and online experts.

(3) In performing its functions under subsection (1), the working group will have particular regard to the need for the guidance to make reference to—

(a) the role of the internet, social media and mobile technology in sex and relationship education;

(b) online bullying and harassment.”

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab): My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment 53ZAAA. The two amendments cover different aspects of sex and relationship education in schools. The first calls for guidance on sex and relationship education to be updated. The second calls for it to be taught on an age-appropriate basis in all state-funded schools. The rules of relationships and sexual contact are moving faster than we ever could have imagined when we were growing up. Universal access to the internet, social media, smartphones and music videos are sexualising children with profound and often damaging consequences. As adults, we only now are getting an insight into the secret world of children’s sexual behaviour, which often is now modelled on images that they see on the screen and in chatrooms. Some of it is innocent but much of it is not.

There is now powerful and authoritative evidence of the extent to which young people are being sexualised from a very early age. For example, a Cardiff University study of pre-teen children aged between 10 and 12 showed that, even at primary school, children were gaining status from having a boyfriend or a girlfriend and using the language of fancying them, dating them and being dumped by them. The young girls in the study often illustrated that they were putting up with verbal abuse and harassment, which, sadly, they interpreted as a sign of flirtation or affection, and under pressure to participate in activities that made them feel uncomfortable or vulnerable to being passed around and being fought over by boys.

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Meanwhile, a recent study from the Children’s Commissioner found that boys are more likely than girls to seek out pornography. That is linked to negative attitudes towards women, such as viewing them as sex objects, and encouraging earlier and riskier sexual activity. This was underscored by evidence that young people are accessing online pornography to learn how to behave in a relationship, with three times as many using this as a source of information as would ask their parents. A report from the NSPCC showed that almost one in three teenage girls has experienced some sort of sexual violence. Its researchers were quoted as saying that they were,

“distressed by the level of sexual abuse and physical harassment that they had encountered”,

in the schools when they were doing the report. They pointed out that such behaviour in adults would be grounds for dismissal or prosecution.

I could go on citing more evidence, but I hope I have said enough to demonstrate that as policymakers we are behind the curve on this issue. We urgently need to catch up with the reality of changing social norms. It is not just academics and policymakers. There is widespread public concern about this issue. The Daily Telegraph has been leading a campaign for better sex education, and for sex and relationship education to be brought into the 21st century; and a new generation of young women involved in groups such as the One Billion Rising campaign to end violence against women globally, and the End Violence Against Women campaign, are calling for compulsory sex and relationship education, with a transformed content to address the reality of women’s experiences today.

In a letter to the Times yesterday this call was echoed by a diverse group which included Mumsnet, Womens Aid, Everyday Sexism, Rape Crisis, and a number of academics. These views are consistently supported by polling. For example, a Mumsnet survey last year showed that 92% of respondents thought that sex and relationship education should be compulsory in secondary schools, and 69% thought it should be so in primary schools. A similar study of parents for the National Association of Head Teachers found 88% wanted sex and relationship education to be compulsory.

Sadly, it seems that the Department for Education has been the very last group to wake up to the fact that something needs to be done. When we debated these issues in Committee, the Minister’s attitude was at best complacent, arguing that there was no need for further education or guidance. Indeed, he listed all the policies and guidance that were already in existence, to which my response is that they have been remarkably unsuccessful so far, given the scale of sexism, harassment and bullying over the same period. However, since then there does appear to have been a bit of a rethink, and the Minister has made some concessions on the issue of updating the guidance, which is the subject of our first amendment.

Amendment 53 calls upon the Secretary of State to establish a working group, including,

“young people, teachers, professionals and online experts”,

to update the sex and relationship guidance for schools, with particular regard to the internet, social media and the rise of online bullying and harassment. I am very pleased that, belatedly, the Minister has conceded

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that the guidance needs to be reviewed, and I am grateful for his recent letter setting out the nature of that review. We are obviously pleased that the work of the PSHE association has now been promoted and funded, and that an expert group has been established. I also welcome the fact that the department is separately preparing revised statutory guidance on safeguarding issues and personal safety. However, with regard to the review of the guidance, the noble Lord the Minister’s letter makes it clear that this will take the form of a supplement to the existing guidance rather a complete review. So while I welcome the Minister’s belated conversion, I remain concerned with all these pieces of guidance and supplements, which will be fragmented rather than being pulled together into one substantial parent document which can be easily accessed by teachers. Perhaps the noble Lord the Minister can address this issue in his response.

Our second amendment, Amendment 53ZAAA, addresses the status of sex and relationship education within the national curriculum. It would require the subject to be taught as a foundation subject in all key stages in all state-funded schools, not just maintained schools. The information provided would need to be accurate and balanced, and it would be required to be taught in an age-specific way, taking account of pupils’ religious and cultural backgrounds, and emphasising rights and responsibilities. There would be a parental opt-out for pupils under the age of 15.

For the first time, it would bring together the requirements for sex and relationship education to have a coherent pathway through primary and secondary education, paying particular attention to the role of the internet, social media and technology and addressing the dangers of online bullying and harassment. It would also include information about same-sex relationships, sexual violence, domestic violence and sexual consent.

These are the very issues that parents and campaign groups want to see addressed in a coherent and sensitive way in schools. This is not about dictating to teachers how to teach these issues, but about making sure that the right issues are taught to the right age groups. There is so much more to sex and relationship education than mechanical descriptions in a science lesson. Far more important is an understanding of respect, personal space, confidence, the right to be safe and the features of a healthy relationship. Some schools already do this extremely well, but the fact that there is so much abuse, confusion and unhappiness among young people is a clear sign that we are not getting this right consistently.

These are complex issues, but we owe it to the next generation and their parents to better equip them for the emotional challenges that lie ahead. We believe that the framework set out in this amendment addresses some of the failings of the past and brings sex and relationship education into the mainstream. This is of course only part of the solution, but an important one, so I hope that noble Lords will recognise that we need to act to break the cycle of harassment and abuse that is becoming so prevalent. We believe that updating the guidance is a step forward, but not enough, so we hope that noble Lords will take the opportunity this afternoon to give sex and relationship education the proper status that it now deserves in the national curriculum. I beg to move.

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Baroness Walmsley (LD): My Lords, as many noble Lords know, I have campaigned for good, mandatory, quality PSHE, not just SRE, in all schools ever since I came to your Lordships’ House. This is because I believe that it is every child’s right to receive this information and because I believe that schools should be educating children for life and not just for a job. As you can imagine, I have some sympathy with the noble Baroness’s Amendment 53ZAAA, which sounds more like a battery or something to do with financial security than an amendment. But I have always regretted that the previous Labour Government did not see fit to make PSHE mandatory in all schools during the 13 years that they were in power.

However, if the noble Baroness thinks her amendment will ensure the objective that many of us agree about, I am sad to say that I think she is wrong. The amendment talks only about SRE and not the whole of PSHE. It is the whole of PSHE that educates children for life and helps them with their learning, which is why many of us have always campaigned for it.

The amendment also keeps parental withdrawal up to the age of 15, which I do not agree with. It is outrageous: the idea that information, particularly about sex and relationships should be kept from a child until they are 15 is completely mad in this day and age. The amendment, therefore, is only a partial solution to the patchy PSHE situation that was identified by Ofsted.

Lord Knight of Weymouth (Lab): The noble Baroness will know that the previous Government, when I was the Minister, tried to introduce compulsory sex and relationship education. Were we to agree the amendment with her support tonight, does she not agree that it would be delivered by PSHE teachers and members of the PSHE subject association—who gave me a standing ovation when I announced compulsory SRE, which is the only time I ever had one in the middle of a speech —and that that would take us a long way down the road she wants us to go down in terms of everyone getting the education for life that she has campaigned for with compulsory PSHE?

5.30 pm

Baroness Walmsley: The noble Lord is right. It may well be a step in the right direction, but we need to wait until the end of this debate so that we hear what alternatives the Government have to offer. Then we will have to make up our mind as to which approach will actually ensure that more children get good quality PSHE in their schools.

In relation to what I have just said, I would like to congratulate my noble friends theMinisters on their new measures, intended to improve the spread of good-quality PSHE into all schools, which they plan to announce at the end of this debate, and did so in the letter that we all received. They are all extremely welcome, and I sincerely hope that they will encourage all schools to look carefully at their PSHE curriculum and the skills of their teachers and take up the opportunities, advice and teaching materials that will become available to them as a result of these new measures. I have great confidence in the PSHE Association, and

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with the new funding that the Government are providing for them, I am sure they will give schools very good advice.

However, despite the warm words in the introduction to the national curriculum, the failure to make PSHE mandatory sadly does not send out the very important message to schools that they should ensure that pupils get this information. Therefore, we are faced with a Government who are doing a great deal to improve the situation and an amendment that does not achieve what I would want to see. What does someone like me do about that? It is a very difficult situation.

Noble Lords are aware that the Government are a coalition Government, made up of two parties. On this matter, these two parties have different approaches. For the sake of clarity, therefore, I put it on the record that the Liberal Democrats believe that the whole of PSHE—not just SRE—should be in a slimmed-down national curriculum and should be taught in all schools, including academies, as a right of the children. I am afraid we have to blame the Labour Government for introducing the exemption of academies from the national curriculum.

Therefore, while I enthusiastically welcome what the Government have now agreed to put in place, it does fall a little short of what I would like to see. On the other hand, so does this amendment, so I have to consider which of these two approaches comes nearest to achieving Liberal Democrat policy and children’s rights. I hope that the Minister, in winding up, will be able to convince me that the Government’s approach will result in more children receiving their right to good PSHE teaching.

Baroness Kidron (CB): I support both of these amendments, to which I have added my name. I want to associate myself with the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, in order to skip over some of the arguments she made, and move on, because I know that there are other amendments tonight which we must get to with some alacrity.

I declare an interest as a film maker who has made a film about teenagers and the internet. It is specifically the subject of the internet that makes both Amendment 53 and Amendment 53ZAAA necessary and urgent. It is not the case that all things in the virtual world are harmful or dangerous. Indeed, there is an implicit danger that if we in this Chamber demonise the internet, our concerns will not be heard by the young, 99% of whom are online by the age of 16. The internet is in so many ways a liberatory technology; but in its wake, social and sexual norms are changing—social and sexual norms that, for millennia, were contextualised by family and community but are now delivered into the pockets of young children, largely out of the sight of parents, with no transparency, no accountability and no regulation.

Her Majesty’s Government make distinctions between the status of schools; the internet does not. In every sort of school, there are young people struggling to cope with the loneliness of looking at online lives that their contemporaries are leading, and finding their own lives wanting. They are struggling to do their

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homework on the very same device that holds their entertainment and communication tools, so inevitably they are interrupted and distracted. Young girls are made anxious by not being the right kind of beautiful to get enough “likes” and know that a sexual or revealing stance could get their numbers up. Young people who are curious about sex find themselves in a world of non-consensual sexual violence and are bewildered, excited and disgusted in a confusing introduction to what should be the most intimate expression of self.

What of the feeling of compulsion and addiction as the norm becomes to respond instantly day and night; or the culture of anonymity that is fuelling an epidemic of bullying; and the sense of absolute helplessness with tragic consequences when a young person is trapped and humiliated in full view by something done foolishly or maliciously? Then, of course, there is the immediate and pressing issue highlighted in the 2013 Ofsted report, Not Yet Good Enough, that found that a third of school pupils had gaps in their knowledge about sex and relationships that left them vulnerable to online exploitation and abuse.

Last week, I had a call from the head teacher of an academy who was in great distress. It was a good school with an excellent record. This is a woman trained to bring life into literature, who is now facing a tsunami of problems beyond her experience or training. She was not the first: indeed, she was one of scores of head teachers and teachers who have reached out for help. It is worth noting that, when I asked her which year group she would like me to talk with, she cited the different needs of the year 9s, 10s, 11s, 12s and 13s. She was reluctant to choose whom I should address because she felt that each group had its own very specific and urgent need.

The establishment of an expert working group to update the statutory guidance is excellent, a sign of good governance. Who could be against it? To update it in the context of the advent of internet and associated technologies is fantastic. However, guidance is not enough: we need age-appropriate, structured and expert SRE teaching that ensures that all of the guidance reaches all of the children in one coherent piece.

I was a little distressed at Question Time—I came late into the Chamber—and I believe I heard the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, suggesting that suicide groups were something that could be dealt with by self-regulation of ISPs. I hope I am mistaken in that. He also suggested that e-safety would be taught in ICT by ICT teachers. This is a reckless approach to something that should unite us. The notion of “duty of care” is embedded into many of our laws and social interactions because we understand that the young can only develop responsibility in proportion to their maturity, and this is one of those situations.

The internet is as yet an unregulated space where sexual acts that remain illegal in the material world are available at the push of a button; where the economic needs of internet billionaires encourage compulsive attachments to devices from which young people are never parted; where young people are encouraged to play, shop and learn without an adequate understanding of their own vulnerabilities or their own responsibilities.

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This is a new technology that is central to and inseparable from an entire generation, to whom we in this House have a duty of care.

The connection between heavy internet use and depression, the rising incidence of self-harm and anorexia and the playing-out of pornographic scenarios creating new norms of sexual behaviour are increasingly familiar as we see them manifest in our schools and homes. At Stanford and MIT, in important work led by Professor Livingstone at LSE and within the European Union, people are working to quantify the real-life outcomes of internet use by young people. Meanwhile, we need to empower those same young people with knowledge, delivered in a neutral space by appropriately trained adults, in which their safety, privacy and rights are paramount. We know that the internet is not that neutral, safe or private place, and we know that parents alone cannot deal with the entirety of a young person’s life online.

I have said to the Minister before that in the absence of comprehensive SRE delivered to all children, the realpolitik is that you leave some children to be educated in sex by the pornographers and leave bullying and friendship rules to Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare. Guidance, however welcome, is only guidance: its application partial and essentially unequal. The statutory provision of fully rounded SRE that deals with the complexity of the new world in which young people live, written by experts and delivered by trained teachers is quite another thing.

If you can find me a child untouched by the internet, you can show me the child who does not need comprehensive education about its powers and possibilities. I urge noble Lords to put aside any constituency or consideration that might distract them from the urgent need to empower and protect young people and to support both the amendments.

Baroness Perry of Southwark (Con): My Lords, I support a great deal of what the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, said, in her introduction. As others have said, it would be a terrible world in which children could learn about sex and relationships only through the pornography that they find on the internet. However, I suggest that that is an issue about what is on the internet and young people’s access to it much more than it is about anything which we in education can possibly put right.

I hope that the noble Baroness and my noble friend Lady Walmsley are at least prepared to concede that the Government’s setting up of an expert group on PSHE is something that many of us in this House welcome. I hope that many of my noble friends will also welcome the fact that the chief executive of the PSHE Association is to chair the group; I am sure that we will get much wisdom and common sense from it, which will be enormously helpful to teachers.

It is only in the second of the amendments, Amendment 53ZAAA—gosh, we have alphabet soup in our amendments—that I have reservations about what the noble Baroness is asking for. The vast majority of schools already deal with SRE, and many of them do it very well indeed. Unfortunately, not all do it well, some do it very badly and some do not do it at all. I do not feel that we are ready yet to have it as an established part of a national curriculum. All schools are required

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in their returns on their curriculum to say what they do about SRE—and, indeed, PSHE; I agree with my noble friend Lady Walmsley that it should be PSHE. That is a much wider topic, and you cannot separate out one part of people’s relationships, health and feelings about their own body in that way.

I really feel that the quality of what is delivered must be left to the professionals. Every teacher and every head knows their pupils, their children, their school, their neighbourhood, and the culture of the parents with whom they are dealing. To try to lay down centrally a fixed syllabus for what should be taught right from the age of six—teaching six-year-olds about homosexuality and so on—could so offend some of the religious sensitivities in this country. I still passionately believe that we must trust the professionals in education; we must trust the teachers. We must not think that we can lay down centrally the rules which will somehow work for them all.

We have a wonderful teaching profession, a very sensitive profession, and this is a very sensitive subject. I believe that PSHE should be age-sensitive, culture-sensitive, community-sensitive and, above all, sensitive to the particular needs of the children that the teacher in charge of PSHE will need to meet. I strongly resist the idea of putting a fixed curriculum within the national curriculum; we should trust teachers.

5.45 pm

Baroness Tyler of Enfield (LD): My Lords, I will briefly contribute to what I consider to be a very important debate. This is a subject on which I feel passionately. I spoke about it in my maiden speech. As other noble Lords have already acknowledged, we have the Ofsted report of 2013, Not Good Enough, which showed frankly that PSHE is just not good enough in too many schools and was leaving many young people vulnerable and open to abuse.

I attended the round table last week set up by my noble friend the Minister. It was a very good meeting and I have read carefully the letter that he has circulated since. Like other noble Lords, I very much welcome some of the new initiatives that have been taken, particularly the setting up of the expert group, but I have always felt passionately that all children should have access to good quality PSHE, including relationship and sex education. I do not believe in a parental opt-out at the age of 15. I think that all children are entitled to that education, but that is my personal view.

I was very taken by the part of my noble friend’s letter where he emphasised the evidence that we have both in this country and abroad of how important to social well-being, emotional intelligence, resilience—what are sometimes called character traits—a rounded education is to young people, not simply to prepare them for later life, which is very important, but because it underpins academic attainment. We often lose sight of that point in these debates.

I, too, will listen with much interest to my noble friend’s summing up, because to me, the key question for us today is: what is the most effective way to get where I—and, I believe, many in this House—want to be?

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The Lord Bishop of Leicester: My Lords, I support Amendment 53 and speak in place of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford, who has lent his name to it but cannot be in his place today. Personally, I find myself on the side of those who want PSHE to be a formal part of the curriculum and Amendment 53 goes some way in that direction.

I have three brief points to make. First, we on these Benches see social, emotional and spiritual intelligence as a vital part of a child’s development. We are not just interested in raising children who can pass exams, but in creating opportunities for young people to take control of their lives and values. Secondly, it is clear that there is a strong and growing coalition of organisations involved in this work, which have some knowledge in this area, and which support this proposal, including the Children’s Society the Mothers Union and many others.

Thirdly, I speak as a former chair of the Children’s Society and as a member of the Good Childhood commission, which reported four years or so ago, and which took evidence from more than 5,000 children. It was not evidence on this specific point, but it was evidence on the general point of what children understand makes for their well-being. Over and over again, children said that one of their top priorities was their friendships. They were trying to find their way through a complex, labyrinthine world in which friendships, intimacy and relationships had to be understood in this technological age, which has been so vividly described by previous speakers, where it was children who were asking for help in this area.

That is the most telling contribution I want to make to this debate. We do not have children in this House; we do not have the voice of children here. If we listen carefully to what they are saying to us through the Good Childhood Report and in other ways, we will find that they want our generation to help them to understand who they are and who they are with others in this completely new world, which has not shaped the relationships or outlooks of any Members of your Lordships’ House. For that reason, I strongly support Amendment 53.

Lord Knight of Weymouth: My Lords, I do not wish to delay the House for long, because I do not think I can add to the speeches made by the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, my noble friend Lady Jones and the right reverend Prelate on the reasons that we should do this. I shall talk about the notion of the expert group. When I occupied the office that the Minister now occupies, I set up an expert group to look at compulsory sex and relationship education. It included young people, educationalists, experts from organisations such as Brook and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, and representatives from the major faith groups. There were representatives from the Anglican Church, the Catholic Education Service—I had very good conversations with Vincent Nichols and I warmly congratulate him on being made a cardinal—the non-conformist faiths, the Muslim faith and the Jewish faith. We achieved consensus around the need for compulsory sex and relationship education.

I therefore to some extent question whether we need to go around this track again. Once we had achieved consensus on the principle, we set up a second

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expert group to look at how we might implement it. So we have in a sense already been round this track not once, but twice. I urge noble Lords on all sides who are tempted to accept the sop of the expert group to remember that it is time to act. We have debated this long enough. I know it is awkward for my friends who are in the coalition that there is a Whip and that they have to do what they have to do, but I urge noble Lords who have been campaigning on this for a very long time to do what is right.

Baroness Tonge (Ind LD): My Lords, as an independent Liberal Democrat, I am not bound by the rules of the group. I am very supportive of both these amendments. I am more supportive of Amendment 53ZA than I am of Amendment 53, because, as the noble Lord has just said, we have had review after review on this subject and I am thoroughly sick of it. It is quite often a means of kicking this into the long grass. The previous Labour Government did get there, only for it to be lost in the wash-up procedure at the end of that Government. That was a great tragedy.

Before I came into Parliament, I had worked for over 30 years in the health service. I was a GP and a family planning doctor primarily, and part of my job was to give sex education, as it was known in those days, in local schools all over the London Borough of Ealing. So I have a fair amount of experience, and I know that the expertise is lacking in a lot of schools. Nevertheless, sex education has to occur in schools, because parents simply cannot be relied on to give their children the right information. I hope that I was a good parent to my three children. I was a doctor, working in the field, knowing every single dot and comma about it, but there was still, particularly in the case of one of my children, a hesitancy and a reluctance to talk about these things with a parent. We have to accept that. A lot of parents find it very difficult to talk about these things, especially if they do not know much about it themselves.

Children were left to pick it up from television in the old days; now it is the internet. Why I would mildly support a review is because of the effect of the internet. I now have a lot of grandchildren and I see what they get up to. I am constantly vigilant that they are not looking at the wrong sort of thing, but I know kids and I know jolly well that they will be looking at the wrong sort of thing if they possibly can when my back is turned. We do have the parental guidance block, but there are ways round it. We have a computer genius in our family who can find his way round any parental block. So it is absolutely scandalous that in this country, in the United Kingdom, in the 21st century, we do not have compulsory, statutory PSHE, or whatever it is, in our schools.

We should compare this with the Netherlands and other countries. I have sat in on lessons in the Netherlands that are done superbly and naturally, with no worries among the teachers. They even set homework—not, I assure you, to have sexual intercourse—for example to handle condoms, to learn how to use the equipment they may one day need and to read about all the diseases they may catch unless they use the right sort of protection. It is done naturally and efficiently; the

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parents do not fuss about it; the children are taught in mixed classes; and I really do not understand why we cannot have it in this country.

Finally, I declare another interest as chair of the All-Party Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health. In the past few years, among the reports that we have produced was one on female genital mutilation, which is more and more common in this country and more and more difficult to spot. There is a lot of work going on, and I pay tribute to the previous DPP, Keir Starmer, who did an enormous amount of work to find ways of spotting girls at risk of FGM before it occurs.

Last year, we did a report called, A Childhood Lost, about childhood marriage, which also happens in this country. Children are taken abroad for religious ceremonies and forced into marriages that they do not want. That is why we set up the Forced Marriage Unit. Again, the Government are doing a huge amount of work on this, but it is the sort of thing of which children should be made aware in their schools, with their peer group, by their teachers. It is very important that we address these issues, because it is going on all the time and all around us.

For these reasons, I hugely support Amendment 53ZA. I hope that we can get some progress on this at long last. I mildly support Amendment 53, providing that they concentrate on the internet and the influence that that has on young people.

Lord Berkeley of Knighton (CB): My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness. These clauses are linked in a way that has not yet been stated, in that through cultural development, through talking about literature, reading novels, studying and acting in Shakespeare and listening to Mozart, we get to talk about sex and relationships in a way that has been considered by geniuses down the ages. This is a way into sexual education that is not embarrassing. In other words, if, as I have experienced, children come home from school and discuss “Romeo and Juliet”, or discuss a Mozart opera, you find yourself talking about precisely these points. That is not to say that there should not be sexual education. I rather wish that I had had more of it when I was at school. I was taught by nuns and left thoroughly confused about the fires of eternal hell. On Sunday, on Radio 3—

Baroness Tonge: On a humorous note, I went to a very enlightened girls’ grammar school, and was there in the 1950s. When we were found to have smuggled a copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover into the school, we were encouraged to read it.

Lord Berkeley of Knighton: I am pleased to hear that. I was going to conclude with a point to do not only with sex, but with violence and self-control. On Sunday on Radio 3, the actor Michael Sheen said that he was brought up in Port Talbot, and because of the drama provision in that school, he, and before him Anthony Hopkins—and, before him, Richard Burton—found a way out of a society so disadvantaged that he did not know where they would have ended up, because they could have fallen prey to all kinds of things.

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These drama groups do not exist so much these days. Music tuition does not exist so much. This is all part of a rounded education, and for that reason, I support the amendments.

6 pm

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws (Lab): My Lords, I, too, support the amendments and thank my noble friend Lady Jones for placing them before the House. I want to make reference to the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, who, rather under a cloak of humility, did not mention a film which she recently made about the internet. It starts with a very disturbing episode about young men—15 year-old boys—watching pornography and the extent to which it was almost an addiction for them and how, increasingly, they wanted to see more explicit imagery. They then recognised in conversation that it had affected the way that they felt about girls and what they expected of girls sexually, and how it had contaminated relationships in the school. The film is something which everybody in this House should take a look at because we can often become rather dislocated from the realities of the lives of adolescents in our society because of our own age. This is really a debate about the quality of life and intimate relationships.

I am on the advisory committee to the campaign One Billion Rising. It is a campaign about sexual violence towards women and girls around the world. The horror of it is that if you do the kind of work that I do, in the courts or in international human rights, you see clearly the way in which women and girls are subjected to violence daily. I regret to say that this is not being diminished. In fact, the ways in which young men come to see women are being worsened and darkened by much of the information and imagery that they see on the internet.

I remind your Lordships about the Ofsted report from back in 2013, which has already been referred to. It pointed out to us that sex and relationship education required improvement in more than a third of our schools. In primary schools, that was because far too much emphasis was being placed on being nice to your friends— we want that—but very little was being said about the fact that more and more girls reach menstruation in primary schools. Puberty is coming earlier for our children and they were not being prepared for many of those physical and emotional changes in those later years of primary school. When they reached secondary school, they were then ill prepared for what they often faced in the company of boys—boys who were watching the kind of pornography that I have spoken about.

In secondary schools, the complaint made by Ofsted was that the mechanics of reproduction were being presented in a rather biological way to young people and that there was too little talk about relationships, sexuality, the influence of pornography or a real and proper understanding of healthy sexual relationships. As people who are coming to the further end of our lives, we all know that fulfilling emotional relationships and sexual relationships come out of mutual respect. However, those discussions are not taking place in our schools and boys are not treating girls with respect.

Last year, I was involved in some sessions at a conference at the Southbank Centre around International Women’s Day. There were young girls from schools

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there, who spoke about the pressure that there was on girls from boys to perform sexually and the extent to which the first introduction of girls to sex is in providing oral sex to boys. The girls might be only 12 or 13, and the boys only 14 and 15. This is the world in which we are living and I do not want us to cloak it in discussions about how this should be left to parents or particular religious groupings, because these boys and girls do not come from any particular grouping in our society. This is happening across all social divides, in all classes and in all religious groupings. Those pressures have to be a subject of concern to us. They lead to unhealthy relationships and, ultimately, often to violent and degrading relationships for women.

That is why this is on our agenda today and why I say to the women sitting, for example, on the Liberal Democrat Benches that this should not be a game to be talked about in political terms—about what party did what and when. This is a discussion about something serious happening in our society, where we really are facing a crisis. Women are facing a crisis. We want our girls to be treated with respect and we want boys to hear that. I, like others, had conversations with my children when they were in adolescence. I could not be present when my boys were at school where they would inevitably be shown imagery, as all boys were, and as many of your Lordships in this House who are men probably were when you were young. However, the nature of the imagery would come as a surprise to many of your Lordships. I had to warn my boys that they would have to make those choices themselves about what they looked at, but that the warning they had to take was that it would often contaminate and poison the kind of relationships that they might want to have with people who they loved in the fullness of time.

It is the putrefying fact of pornography and its availability now that we should be concerning ourselves with. There has to be proper discussion of this in our schools and it should be compulsory. It should not be covered with an excess of sensitivities to particular groupings because no grouping will be left out of this. I am calling on this House to support these amendments because of what it would mean to the sort of degradation which is taking place, particularly in attitudes to women. We have a responsibility in this House to do something about it and that is why I urge your Lordships to vote for the amendment.

Baroness Massey of Darwen (Lab): My Lords, that was indeed a powerful speech to follow and I thank my noble friend for making it. I have a later amendment on personal, social and health education generally so I shall not say much now, but I want to pick up on something which the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, said about leaving it to the teachers. If SRE or PSHE, or whatever you call it, is a subject then surely it is like any other subject. It is age-appropriate, structured and has good resources. I remember a parent once saying to me, “I find it difficult enough to talk to my Johnny about his maths homework, let alone about sexual relationships”. That is the position of many parents. Schools are put in the position of having to do that work as appropriately as they can.

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I support the amendment put forward so powerfully by my noble friend Lady Jones and the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron. They talked mainly about relationships, as did my noble friend Lady Kennedy and other noble Lords. Relationships are the most powerful component of personal, social and health education. There is no reason why sexual relationship education should not have a separate amendment to make it compulsory. I shall also speak powerfully about the need for PSHE but I do not see a contradiction in having two amendments. SRE is absolutely essential in our schools. We are trying to protect and support children as they deserve.

Lord Northbourne (CB): My Lords, I can identify with many of the anxieties that have been expressed today. I want to make just one point about the heading in the amendment: “Sex and relationship education”. Not all relationships are about sex and, in the first place, the extent to which sex and relationship education should address non-sexual relationships is not entirely clear. However, it is certainly an important issue. Whether you turn on to see “Call the Midwife” or David Attenborough and his penguins, or whatever you look at, the ongoing and nurturing relationships between, I hope, both parents and the child are crucially important and a great happiness. As I listen to your Lordships, it sounds as if we are all trying to tell them what not to do. There is a case for trying to take a more positive approach, if that is possible.

Baroness Knight of Collingtree (Con): My Lords, there is just a small question that worries me very much. I was unable to listen to as much of this debate as I wanted, but what concerns me is that there seems to be no understanding that there is a time in a child’s life when it is not a very good idea to talk about sex. I was appalled on finding out, when I was dealing with other matters in the other place, that children as young as four were being told in sex education how to perform the sex act—in fact, how to perform all kinds of sex acts. That shocked me very much, because I believe that it is very important indeed to guard a child’s innocence. While I have no objection to older children being taught about this, the only reference to that that I could find in the amendment is the requirement that,

“SRE is taught in a way that is appropriate to the ages of the pupils concerned”.

We do not know, in the minds of those who put forward this amendment, what that is. What is appropriate to one person is often not appropriate to others.

It worries me very much that we do not have any protection for very young children. Is that an intentional omission, or do people think it is a good idea if very young children, long before they are at a stage where they understand what it is like to be grown up or are even a little bit grown up, are taught such matters? I want to be clear in my mind as to what is in the minds of those who seek to make these changes before I am at all happy about this.

Baroness Eaton (Con): My Lords, we have heard a number of very powerful contributions this evening and the subject matter is of deep concern to all of us. Having been a teacher myself and having brought up a

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family, I share the concerns that we all agree on, but I do not feel that legislation is always the answer to life’s ills.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Kennedy and Lady Walmsley, both talked about high-quality teaching. In the past I have met a number of parents whose children were taught PSHE in school and who found it totally inappropriate and very badly taught. I would be very concerned about how we would guarantee the quality of that kind of teaching. We all hear that in some schools—although not all—things like career advice are given as an aside and, because they are not considered mainstream, they are felt to be not terribly important and are not terribly well taught. This issue is incredibly important and, if it is going to be taught at all, it should be taught appropriately.

As a parent, I also feel very strongly that parental involvement should exist. I find it disconcerting to hear, “Well, parents shouldn’t be included at all. It’s really none of their business. The state knows better than they do”. If we are to go down this route, there needs to be some way in which parents are brought into those discussions about what is taught and how it is taught.

School is not the only place that young people meet; they see relationships not only in videos and in pornography but through television soaps and in books and magazines. We have a huge task in front of us. I do not think that, merely by supporting these two amendments, we are going to have a panacea and the world’s ills will be cured overnight.

This is a serious subject, but I worry that by legislating we will think we have solved the problem and we can leave it alone. We need to think very carefully about what happens in schools and about school rules. There are many things apart from PSHE that can influence the relationships between young people. I do not feel that I can support the amendments, but I have strong concerns about the way that society and young people are being influenced by some very evil things.

6.15 pm

Baroness Howarth of Breckland (CB): My Lords, I had not intended to speak in this debate, but I find myself in some difficulties in knowing what I should think about where we are going. I have listened to the impassioned speeches and, like many speakers, I have had very direct contact with young people who have suffered in very real ways, as the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, illustrated, from the side effects of cyberbullying, the new technology and all those issues that will surely be taken on board when the group reviews the guidance in relation to schools.

I would, however, like to ask a couple of things of the Minister while I am thinking through where I stand. First, I am concerned that the review will not be comprehensive. The world is so different now. To the noble Lord, Lord Knight, I say it is a very different world to even when the noble Lord was putting his group together. It is certainly a very different world from when I was listening to children talking on the lines at ChildLine. Even then, very young children were extremely confused about sexuality. There is no doubt that we need to get sex education for all children firmly into the educational process.

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I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Knight, that the age of innocence, with respect, is long past. If you have watched the penguins with David Attenborough or the midwife programme, you have it all there before you. Much as we would like our children to be innocent, what the parents that I talk to worry about is not the innocence of their children but how their children will protect themselves and retain their own capacity to be responsible in a world that bombards them continually with these images. No child who lives in the modern world, unless they are totally in a bubble, is going to escape that. We have got to ensure somehow that they are prepared.

In saying that, however, I want to hear what the Minister has to say about PSHE. I thought my noble friend made an extremely important point about relationship education not being all about sex, and I hope the noble Lord will hear that and, indeed, others who have spoken. Certainly, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, said, what came out time and time again when talking to children at ChildLine was that the issue was not just sex but the whole relationships issue—their friendships, how they negotiated groups and how they managed to move from one friendship to another without trauma. That was what mattered to them.

Unless we have that PSHE, for which the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, has campaigned for so long, which provides that thorough education—about how you grow up, how you become a citizen, how you learn to live in a mass of relationships and how you manage to negotiate this impossible world; thankfully, I did not have to negotiate that, but I now have to do so with those young people for whom I am responsible—I shall be very disappointed.

I know the Minister takes this very much to heart and would like to achieve something like this. I understand that it is not easy. I understand that it is about training teachers, about helping parents, and maybe about family learning, where families learn together about some of these issues.

I am uneasy, however, about voting for an amendment that simply puts sex education on the statute book without thinking through the complexity around how we achieve it. So my last question for the Minister is this: if he has an expert group and if he looks at how this might be introduced, would there be a timetable with an end date, so we do not go around the circle yet again without coming to an end that achieves something for our young people, who desperately need it in this modern world?

Baroness Brinton (LD): My Lords, I was chair of education in Cambridgeshire in the late 1990s. One of the things that Cambridgeshire has always done well is sex and relationship education policy; indeed, many other authorities use its framework. I particularly want to reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Knight, that explicit sex, in the terms that I think worry many people, is not taught at key stage 1. Actually, the key stage SRE policy is vital because it provides child protection. I am looking at the Cambridgeshire syllabus at the moment, and it says that children must understand that they have rights over their own bodies, understand what makes them feel comfortable and uncomfortable

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and learn how to speak about it. That is exactly what I want a five year-old to be able to understand, and all the graded teaching, right the way through the system, is age-related and appropriate.

One of my concerns is that not all schools provide excellent SRE because there is no consistency across the sector. I am afraid that that is one of the reasons why we need to be able to provide that framework so that there is consistency. This is not just about the whim of parents or schools; it is vital for the health and safety of our children as they grow up in a very different society.

I have heard comments about worries about a review kicking things into the long grass. In this instance there is division—but then there is always division, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Knight would accept; had there not been division in his party when in government, this would now be compulsory. Let us not get into that political debate. We need to keep this debate on the agenda and keep it going. In a perfect world, I would like to see not only a compulsory curriculum but one that provided the reassurance that all parents would understand that their children were being given safe and appropriate advice to protect them in future.

Lord Storey (LD): My Lords, I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, that this is not just about 12 and 13 year-olds; I have seen primary schoolchildren making sexual advances to younger children and girls. I have seen primary children sending and looking at the most sexually explicit messages that you could imagine.

We spend a lot of time arguing about which kings and queens we should be studying in history, yet we seem to just push this issue aside. It is important that we equip our young children with the skills to deal with the social and emotional problems that they are going to face in their lives. It is important that they know about relationships, loneliness and isolation, and that they know how to deal with being bullied, or indeed with being bullies themselves. Other things, such as how to manage their finances when they get older, internet safety and child abuse, are also hugely important. As a society, though, we pick up the problems but almost ignore how we can deal with them.

Sadly, passing an amendment like this, as good as it is, is not completely the solution. You can pass such an amendment but we must also get quality training for our teachers in PSHE and sex and relationship education, and leadership in schools that does not look at this as a little tick-box exercise and say, “Well, we’ve done that, we’ve carried out our duties and if Ofsted come along we can show them a bit of paperwork here”. I have seen that happen far too often. It is also about inspectors, when they go into schools, properly ensuring that PSHE is being taught. We as a society have to understand and appreciate that this is probably the most important thing that we can do to support young people in schools.

On the website of the PSHE Association, which is a very good site and well worth going to, a question that I constantly ask is highlighted: “Do academies and free schools have to teach PSHE?”. The answer on the website is no. Why are we not giving as much importance

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to ensuring that all our schools, whether they be academies, maintained schools or free schools, are teaching PSHE? The amendment just talks about maintained schools; it does not mention academies. The noble Lord, Lord Knight, when he was—no, I am not going to say that.

Labour introduced academies and I understand why they did so; they wanted, if you like, to give a sort of uniqueness to them by saying, “Okay, you can have more control over your curriculum”. However, that has suddenly now led to a huge growth in academies—some 53% of our secondary schools are academies—so half our schools will not be bound by any amendment that is carried. We—again, as a society—should say that a narrow national curriculum should say, as it does on the label, that it is national and it is a curriculum for all. I hope that we will give some thought to ensuring that this involves all schools—even, dare I say, independent schools as well.

Baroness Hughes of Stretford (Lab): Perhaps the noble Lord has not noticed that subsection (7)(d) of the new clause proposed in the amendment says that the schools to which it would apply includes academies.

Lord Storey: I would need to know whether that overrode current legislation. I suspect that it does not, although someone is nodding and saying that it does.

Lord Knight of Weymouth: I am delighted to clarify for the noble Lord that if it is set out in statute, it overrides the legal agreement that the department has as a contract with those schools.

Lord Storey: So what about free schools, then?

Lord Knight of Weymouth: Free schools are on the same basis.

Lord Storey: They are not though, are they? They are not mentioned.

Baroness Hughes of Stretford: I am sure that the Minister will confirm this, but legally free schools are academies.

Lord Nash: That is the position.

Lord Storey: When I first came to the House of Lords, I was terrified that I was going to have to give way. Now I have got into the habit of doing so.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, rightly said at the beginning, we are in a good coalition. I have to pay tribute to the Minister—no, I do not have to; I want to—who has made great strides in this area and has come forward with some really worthwhile and sensible proposals. Not only has he given finance to the PSHE Association, he has also set up this advisory group. In this area, we must not have an advisory group that says, “We’ve done our job and that’s it”. I cannot now remember who it was who said that these issues are changing almost year by year, and problems that we do not foresee now could well be something

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that an advisory committee will have to look at in future. I hope that any advisory committee that is set up, when it has done its first piece of work, will continue to advise us on these important issues.

As someone who strongly believes, as I have said, that this is something that should be part of a national curriculum for all schools, I am in a difficult position as I also appreciate the situation that our Minister in the House of Lords faces, and will think very carefully before I vote.

Lord Nash: My Lords, this has been an extremely thoughtful and well informed debate. I thank the noble Baronesses and the right reverend Prelate who tabled these amendments, as well as other noble Lords who have contributed and brought their valuable insights to bear on these important and very sensitive matters. I also thank all noble Lords who attended the round table on PSHE last week. We had an extremely helpful discussion, and I think that those who came to that meeting know how seriously we take these matters.

I will deal with each amendment in turn, beginning with Amendment 53 on sex and relationships. Before I explain my approach to this point, I must stress that like many noble Lords with an interest in this topic, including my noble friend Lady Walmsley, I see SRE as integral to the whole debate on PSHE, and I shall say quite a lot more about PSHE when we come to the amendment in the next group. SRE is part of PSHE, and both are part of an overall approach that schools take in helping children to build the resilience and the understanding that they need as they prepare for adult life, tailored to children’s needs and development.

Before I turn to the SRE amendments, noble Lords may find it helpful for me to reiterate the progress that we have made on PSHE, as SRE is so integral to this. I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Walmsley for her kind words in relation to this progress, and I hope that it shows a positive and dynamic approach as opposed to a complacent attitude, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, referred. I hope that she knows better by now—that I am never complacent when it comes to the children and young people of this country.

As I explained in my letter to Peers last week, we are establishing a PSHE expert group to support better teaching. This is the same approach that we are taking to subjects in the national curriculum and I will say more about this shortly. I am also pleased to announce that we will be funding the PSHE Association for a further financial year and it has agreed to produce a set of case studies to illustrate excellent PSHE teaching.

Turning now to specific points on SRE, I emphasised in Grand Committee that for children and young people to develop a good understanding of sex and relationships high-quality teaching is paramount, which is an issue that has been highlighted in this debate today. In order to teach well, teachers must have ready access to reliable and well informed sources of advice and materials. This includes recognition of the effects of digital technology, such as the potential for exposure online to inappropriate materials, to which a number of noble Lords have referred.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, referred to the pace at which technology now moves. It is moving so quickly that it is not practical for government to keep

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abreast by constantly revising statutory guidance to reflect the current state of the art and the latest communications breakthroughs. For instance, Snapchat, Tumblr, Whatsapp and Chatroulette are very recent sites or apps, and any guidance that we issued would be quickly overtaken by new trends and technology that will proliferate in the future. Any revisions to guidance would soon be outflanked by the next phase of innovation.

It is right that we are continually considering how to respond to these developments, and give teachers and parents the help, advice, safeguards and assurances that they need. The noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, talked passionately about the dangers of the internet when I first started to look at this matter. I spoke to many people—experts in IT and parents. The frightening thing was that the more that they knew about online and IT the more concerned they were. I am fully aware of the issues, but as my noble friends Lady Walmsley and Lady Tyler have said, the question is about which approach will work best. I believe that specialist organisations are best placed to provide advice, materials and guidance in a dynamic way and regularly update it.

I am therefore delighted to draw noble Lords’ attention to a number of organisations that are doing this, and the action that my department is taking to support and promote that work, and to make sure that it is closely linked to schools.

I welcome the work of the PSHE Association, the Sex Education Forum and Brook on new supplementary guidance that is designed to complement the SRE guidance, and will address changes in technology and legislation since the turn of the century, in particular equipping teachers to help protect children and young people from inappropriate online content, and from online bullying, harassment and exploitation. We have always maintained that specialist professionals are in the best place to provide advice to schools, so I look forward to the publication of this guidance and will make sure that we draw schools’ attention to it by, for example, promoting it through the department’s termly e-mail to schools.

I will also highlight other examples of guidance from specialist organisations that I have made sure will be promoted to schools. Guidance on the best way for teachers to tackle the dangers associated with online pornography has been provided by the Sex Education Forum. The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Agency has published a range of free educational resources—films, lesson plans, presentations, practitioner guidance, games and posters—to help teachers protect young people from the risk of sexual abuse and exploitation. The NSPCC has published guidance for parents, who have an essential role to play, on inappropriate texting. Parents can also phone the NSPCC ChildLine for advice.

We have identified action that we will take in the department to make sure that schools have the support and information that they need. As I have already mentioned we have set up a new expert subject group on PSHE and SRE. The group comprises lead professionals in the field of PSHE and SRE practice, and I am particularly pleased to say that it will be chaired by Joe Hayman, chief executive of the PSHE

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Association. It will clarify the key areas on which teachers most need further support, and identify the topics that can present the greatest challenge when discussing them with pupils, engaging their interest and enabling their understanding. The expert group will then liaise with relevant specialists and providers to commission or develop and produce new resources where necessary.

The noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, asked if the review would be comprehensive. I have been given the letter—I cannot read it now—but I can assure her that we will make it as comprehensive as we can. As far as the timing is concerned, I do not personally intend to stay in this job after May next year whatever happens, so I can also assure her that I shall be seeking to announce its findings as quickly as possible so that we can take action in relation to them. There is no point in setting this up unless we listen to what these people say and ask them, frankly, to get on with it. My noble friends Lady Tyler and Lady Walmsley were particularly welcoming of this expert group and they are right. We should give it time to make a real difference to practice—and it will, along with other approaches that we are taking.

Noble Lords will be interested to know that my department is currently preparing revised statutory guidance on safeguarding children in education. This will clarify schools’ statutory responsibilities to use opportunities in the school curriculum, for example through PSHE, to teach children about safeguarding and personal safety, ensuring that there is a culture of safety and that children stay safe, including when they are online. The guidance will signpost schools to further sources of advice on specific safeguarding issues, such as advice issued by the Home Office as part of its This is Abuse campaign. This supports teachers working with 13 to 18 year-olds to understand how to avoid becoming victims and perpetrators of abusive relationships.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, raised a sensible concern about this guidance being fragmented. We will ensure, when we highlight the additional guidance, that it is linked to the existing statutory guidance, so I am confident that it will be coherent and not fragmented. In addition, the new expert group will have an important role to ensure that the signposting of all guidance on PSHE and SRE is coherent.

Finally, the Government continue to work closely with industry through the UK Council for Child Internet Safety, which brings together representatives from industry, manufacturers, charities, academia, social media, parent groups and government. I am pleased that we will be supporting Safer Internet Day on Tuesday 11 February, promoting more widely the safe and responsible use of online technology and mobile phones, and making the internet safe for children. The House will debate this and other extensive work that the Government are doing in relation to internet safety when we come shortly to debate the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Howe.

On Amendment 53ZAAA, which concerns statutory SRE in primary schools, the current requirement applies only to key stages 3 and 4 in secondary schools. The amendment extends the current statutory requirement

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to teach SRE, which applies to key stages 3 and 4 in maintained secondary schools, by legislating for all compulsory SRE in primary schools and all academies. It would mean compulsory SRE for children as young as six. Many primary schools already choose to teach SRE according to children’s age and development, consulting their parents and using age-appropriate resources. In particular, good primary schools are committed to helping children develop an understanding of positive and appropriate relationships. The new science curriculum will also ensure that pupils are taught about puberty in primary school, which is an issue identified in the Ofsted report.

We believe that this is the best approach, with the right balance between legal requirement and professional judgment, taking account of the evidence about child development and maintaining the support of parents. The amendment would disturb this balance, and remove from teachers and governors any control over their school’s approach to SRE. It would also impose on academies a new requirement, when in fact the vast majority of academies already teach SRE as part of their responsibility to provide a broad and balanced curriculum, and a fully rounded education.

I agree entirely with my noble friend Lady Eaton that this is a very good example of legislation not necessarily being the solution to life’s ills. As my noble friend Lord Storey, who has vast experience of more than 20 years as a primary school head, said, this is a matter of practice and not something that we can solve through legislation.

The other part of this amendment would require schools, when teaching SRE, to include same-sex relationships, sexual violence, domestic violence and sexual consent across all key stages. By virtue of Amendment 53ZAAA, it would mean compulsory teaching of these issues for children as young as six. The statutory guidance already covers these very important topics, and all schools must have regard to the guidance when teaching SRE.

The existing guidance states that pupils should,

“develop positive values and a moral framework that will guide their decisions, judgements and behaviour; be aware of their sexuality and understand human sexuality … understand the consequences of their actions and behave responsibly”,


“have the confidence and self-esteem to value themselves and others”.

It is also important to note that the guidance includes clear references to safeguarding duties and to safeguarding guidance for schools. Supported by expert guidance and resources from specialist organisations, as I have described, the statutory guidance continues to provide a strong framework and platform on which teachers can build, using the kind of specialist contemporary advice and resources to which I have referred.

To conclude, I once more extend my thanks to noble Lords for these amendments and to other noble Lords for contributing to the debate. I hope that they will agree that we have made progress in working with others in government and with specialist organisations—in particular, the PSHE Association, the Sex Education Forum and Brook, which will announce their guidance next month—including by promoting their resources

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in schools. While I believe noble Lords are seeking the same outcome—the best teaching and age-appropriate support for children—for the reasons I have explained, I do not believe it would be right to introduce statutory SRE at key stages 1 and 2.

I have said on a number of occasions recently in your Lordships’ House that it would be so much better if we could agree common ground in relation to what needs to be done to improve our school system. I have been extremely encouraged by recent statements by the shadow Secretary of State for Education, which indicate that a substantial amount of common ground is emerging. We should celebrate this common ground and the common ground we have in relation to our expectations of schools in relation to PSHE and SRE. Of course, the noble Baroness may wish to take the temperature of the House on these matters, but I think it would be better if we continued to work together outside the confines of the Bill to achieve our common end. That approach has stood us in good stead during the passage of the Bill, and I urge the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this debate. I also thank the Minister for his response. I agree that we have had a very thoughtful and well informed debate. First, I reiterate what I said at the outset: we welcome the fact that SRE guidance is now going to be amended. We acknowledge that step forward. We are increasingly coming round to the point of view that that in itself is simply not enough. My noble friend Lord Knight made the point that under the previous Labour Government, relying on voluntary steps got us so far but did not make the transformation that we wanted. That is why we were working round to the idea that PSHE should become compulsory because we had had voluntary advice and guidance for a very long time and not a lot had changed. We all welcome the involvement of the PSHE Association in updating the guidance. Today, it has issued a statement saying that guidance is not enough. It says that it supports both the amendments that have been tabled today.

The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, rather reluctantly acknowledged that our amendments are a step in the right direction. I welcome that. It was, of course, open to her side to table an amendment on PSHE if she felt so passionately about it, but nevertheless I hope she will acknowledge that our amendment is a step forward. I agree with my noble friend Lady Kennedy that we should rise above using this as a political football. We have much in common across the Chamber on this and are concerned about what is happening with the exploitation of young people. We need to address that and should not just try to score points on it.

6.45 pm

Our amendment talks about the education being age-appropriate. I reiterate that. Parents can be reassured because the amendment talks about the compulsory education being based on the revised guidance that the Secretary of State is overseeing. I am sure that he will make sure that that guidance is appropriate. It will also be overseen by individual schools’ governing bodies,

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so people can be reassured about some of the concerns expressed about the danger of what will be taught in schools. I hope I made it clear in my opening statement that I do not think the focus should be on the mechanics of sex but on relationships. We have all identified that. That is particularly true at primary school level where young people need to understand the basis of friendships, the basis of exploitation, the power games that take place and so on. Those all start at primary school level, as was illustrated by a number of noble Lords. Various studies have found that more than 80% of parents are requesting compulsory sex and relationship education, so there is widespread support for the position.

This is not about telling teachers how to teach. We of course respect their professionalism. However, teachers are telling us that they need more guidance and training on this issue. What they want is a structured programme which has status and priority within the school. These views have been echoed by the PSHE Association today. A number of noble Lords mentioned that a recent Ofsted report focused on the fact that current teaching of sex and relationship education is simply not good enough so, without wishing to say that the Minister is being complacent about this, I think we need to do more. It is not just about issuing more guidance.

I agree absolutely with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester that children’s voices are missing from this debate, but ultimately, if we do not act to make sex and relationship education compulsory, it will be children who suffer. Those are all issues that we have identified this afternoon. Examples of abuse, harassment and suffering have given rise to this debate.

Very few of us can be confident that we know what our children and our grandchildren are accessing on the internet and on social media sites. We are ignorant about all of this, so we need to intervene and to intervene at an earlier age. We can be confident that all young people have been taught the rules of behaviour to counteract online exploitation only if we do it through a structured, compulsory SRE programme. I do not say that that is the total answer, but it would certainly be a real step forward, and we are offering that today. I hope noble Lords will take it up.

I accept that the guidance is a step forward, and therefore I will withdraw Amendment 53, but I give notice that when Amendment 53ZAAA is called, which I understand will be after the next debate, I will at that point test the opinion of the House because I do not believe that the Minister has answered sufficiently. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 53 withdrawn.

Amendment 53ZA

Moved by Baroness Massey of Darwen

53ZA: After Clause 73, insert the following new Clause—

“School policies to support well-being of children and young people

After section 78 of the Education Act 2002 insert—

“78A Duty of schools to promote the academic, spiritual, cultural, mental and physical development of children

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(1) All schools shall make explicit to parents, school governors and pupils how they deliver—

(a) school policies which contribute to the health and well being of pupils;

(b) pastoral care focused on the safety and well being of pupils and which, where appropriate, works in conjunction with support systems from agencies outside the school;

(c) a school ethos which fosters respect for self and others;

(d) a school curriculum from which pupils gain the information and skills to support their academic, spiritual, emotional, moral, physical and cultural well being and which prepares them for adult life; and

(e) the school’s commitment to democratic principles and good citizenship.

(2) The above shall be delivered as appropriate to the age, readiness and needs of pupils in the school.

(3) School governors shall be responsible, in their annual report, for specifying how the above is implemented.””

Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords, in introducing this amendment, I first thank the Minister and his officials for the way in which they have wrestled with the issue of PSHE in schools and what further needs to be done to ensure that all children and young people benefit from school policies which support their emotional, physical, spiritual and academic development. I mean all pupils in all schools. The Minister has shown strong leadership in this and has clearly expressed his belief that good schools inevitably have at their core an effective programme of personal, social and health education, with an emphasis on relationships and development. I, like many of your Lordships, wish that this were compulsory—statutory—but we are where we are and I think that we have made progress.

In meetings with colleagues, it has been agreed that PSHE is not limited to the taught, formal curriculum, although the formal curriculum contributes to PSHE. Lessons about drugs, alcohol, sexual relationships, diet, being safe, first aid and so on are important. Their importance has been demonstrated recently in the concern of the Chief Medical Officer about children’s health, in evidence of the influence of the internet on children, as we have heard already, and in the danger of new drugs, including legal highs. Children need skills to resist unsavoury pressure and that is part of PSHE. I remember an interview with the mother of a young woman, a medical student, who died after being given a dose of a dangerous substance by a friend. The mother said, “If only they had had education about this”.

I do not think that we hear enough about the influence of education in tackling such issues. Schools cannot do it all, but they can contribute. I have seen effective lessons in schools delivered by experts on a particular topic with the teacher present; lessons on, for example, sexual health from the school nurse, or drugs from a drugs charity or first aid from St John Ambulance. Many charities and services now have educational arms with people trained to talk to young people. Teachers are not on their own. The PSHE Association and other charities have developed schemes of work that schools can adapt to their own needs.

Moving on to the wider aspects of the amendment, it calls for instruction in schools to be transparent, obvious and spelt out to staff, pupils, school governors

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and parents. As I and others asked in Committee, if a school policy on, for example, children with long-term health needs or on bullying, is not clear and apparent, how can people in the school know what to do? If the intended ethos of the school and the principles of citizenship are not expressed, then they may be left to chance. If what children are to be taught about drugs, sex and relationships is not clear, how do parents, in particular, know what their child is learning? How do teachers know what is being done in the school, and at what stage?

There are two types of children who will benefit from coherent policies and programmes in PSHE. I am simplifying here, but in the first category there are children who, frankly, for one reason or another, are disadvantaged. They may have suffered many kinds of abuse, witnessed domestic violence, never been talked to, never had books or been read to. In short, they have been neglected. These children come into school resentful of authority, unable to socialise, sometimes violent towards teachers and other children and unable to learn. They will also prevent others from learning. Being unable to learn, they will fall further and further behind, becoming more and more disruptive and more disaffected, unless something is put in place in their school to intervene in this downward spiral. We all know that this is what happens. Yet I have seen, as have other noble Lords, where the head teacher says something like, “This school used to be a nightmare. Staff were abused, children were out of control and not learning anything. That was four years ago. Now look at my school. What did we do? We put in a systematic programme of personal social development, with clear policies and actions on behaviour, how we treat others, how we increase self-respect, how we have rights and responsibilities”. Guess what? The academic results in those schools improve dramatically. Any Government wanting to improve inequality in education must listen to those schools and learn from them. There is plenty of evidence.

The other children for whom PSHE is particularly important are those like the daughter of the mother whom I spoke of earlier: children who are supported at home, are sociable and keen learners, but who say that they do not have enough information or skills to negotiate around the temptations of drugs, alcohol and the internet or to cope with relationships, including sexual ones. Young people are asking for these skills. Parents are asking schools to teach them.

All this is why I am delighted to see some action from the Minister. I wish that there were more pronouncements from Government about the benefits of PSHE. I wish that they would accept it as a subject that should be taught. However, we are where we are and there has been progress. An expert group has been set up to look at the delivery of PSHE—I hope that it will include young people. There will be a set of case studies to illustrate good practice. I will say no more, as no doubt the Minister will expand on the good work that his department has done since we were in Committee. Therefore I do not intend to call a vote on this today. I have heard the debate. I have heard people say that SRE is part of PSHE. I shall think about this debate and consult colleagues and decide what I shall do at Third Reading.

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Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I have added my name to this amendment but as the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, has explained it so comprehensively and so well, I will not say very much except that I believe that schools have the duty to their children to promote their academic, spiritual, cultural, mental and physical development. Schools will do it in different ways. Amendment 53ZA, crafted by the noble Baroness, accepts that. I have also come across examples where schools teach PSHE in specific lessons about particular topics, but in addition have a whole school ethos that promotes children having respect for each other, having resilience and self-confidence and all those soft skills that so many employers are crying out for as well, of course, as giving them that often life-saving information about sexual matters, drugs, tobacco and so on.

The amendment asks schools to tell the world how they are going to do this. They have this duty—it is right that they should have it—and if they have to make public how they are fulfilling that duty, it will make them focus carefully on the quality of how they deliver these things to the children and fulfil this duty to each and every one of their pupils.

Baroness Perry of Southwark: My Lords, it is good to be able to give a very warm welcome to one of the amendments put down by the noble Baroness, Lady Massey. I agree entirely with what she said in her introduction to this amendment. It is a very good amendment. I particularly like the fact that she is asking all schools to make this explicit to parents, school governors and pupils. We have not talked about the role of school governors enough as we have gone through this Bill. They now have such big responsibilities under previous legislation that to include them in the duty of the school to say what they are doing about the total development of children is very much to be welcomed, as is, of course, the duty to tell parents. We must continue to recognise the role of parents as the primary influences over children—they are primarily responsible for their children’s development.

I am very proud of the fact that it was this House which added the word “spiritual” to the national curriculum responsibilities. Before we had “moral”, “academic” and “physical”, but it was this House which added the word “spiritual” to that list. I am particularly delighted that the noble Baroness has included it in her amendment.

Lord Storey: My Lords, I echo the thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Massey. In the previous debate we, rightly, pointed to the dangers of the internet for young people and talked about the lack of resources that are available for PSHE. I want to use this opportunity to show that the internet can also be a great supporter of PSHE.

There is a new website called Makewaves, which is now live and available to 4,500 schools—more than 70,000 young people. The aim of the project is to get Open Badges, which is a project for young people to earn digital accolades by performing an act in their school or community. The innovative aspect of these e-badges is that an individual may share their achievements with prospective employers or educational institutions, demonstrating their skills, experience and competences.

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It is hoped that this active platform, which children, young people and students engage with, can develop opportunities for them to get e-badges in citizenship. Here, then, is an opportunity for the internet to support PSHE and engage young people at the same time.

7 pm

Baroness Sharp of Guildford (LD): My Lords, I will just say a word about the “E” in PSHE. I pay tribute to the Minister and the degree to which he has listened to a lot of the comments and discussion that have taken place about PSHE. The “E” does not stand for education but for economics. As the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, mentioned, schools already have a duty to contribute to pupils’ spiritual, moral and cultural development. How do they prepare young people for adult life? That preparation includes financial and economic education—it is a very important part of it. We have talked about the internet, but it is extremely important to know when people are phishing and trying to con you on the internet in financial terms. One hears too frequently these days about people who have been conned. It is a very good thing to give young people a broad understanding of how to manage their own finances and how to cope with the very complex world we face these days.

Lord Northbourne: My Lords, I apologise to the House because I have a problem with my inner ear and I may have failed to hear some of the things that some noble Lords have said, although I am doing my best. First, I want to say how much I support the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Massey. I intended to put down my name to it, but alas, I was too slow, as an appropriate number of names had already been put down. I can say only that I support it. If I speak to my amendment, which is grouped with it, it will probably cover some of the same ground.

In a society like ours today, with an increasing number of broken and dysfunctional families, the role of schools in personal and social education becomes increasingly important. As your Lordships will remember, 3 million children are growing up in lone-parent families in this country today. My amendment is about giving young people, as they grow up in school, a better opportunity to acquire and to develop the soft skills, those social, emotional and communication skills which they will need in life, and to develop what Demos, in its important 2009 report, called “character capabilities”. All these are essential skills which they will need as they grow up and move into adult life. The so-called soft skills, including resilience, self-confidence, empathy, emotional intelligence, concern for others, communication and relationship skills, are all important. Soft skills are important in every walk of life, and without them it is difficult to succeed in adult life.

In an important article in the Sunday Times on 5 January, Camilla Cavendish made a strong case for the importance of “grit” in the labour market today. She asked:

“Why is it that this country has 640,000 young people not in employment, education or training?”.

Could it be, she asks, that too many do not have the grit to stick to a project and see it through? Grit may not sound like a very soft skill, but it is certainly one

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that all people will need in life. Other soft skills are also important for employment, and particularly in the family. I will quote from the same article, on the subject of teenagers:

“We tend to forget the desperate fragility of the teenage years: beset by hope and fear in equal measure, uncertain of who you are, let alone what the world can offer, awkward, proud, and easily put off. It is a time when things can go very wrong”.

Why, oh why, can the Government not see that this is an important moment in each child’s life, when they should get more help from their secondary schools? Today many of them are not getting the help they need.

I emphasise, once again, the importance of parenting, which is rather my subject. It is incredibly important for a child to have in their life a strong, loving and supportive relationship with at least one and preferably two parents and, whenever possible, the opportunity to belong to a supportive family. I return to David Attenborough, the penguins and all the other animals you see, and the wonderful relationships they have. In a curious way the reward is partly sexual excitement, but an even greater reward is seeing the child grow up. I speak as a grandfather of 11, so I know a bit about that.

Developing the soft skills is also very important if we want more social mobility in our society. The ability to communicate and to empathise is crucial for promoting social mobility. We all know that the best schools understand the importance of preparing tomorrow’s parents and workers with what they need. The best schools already give their pupils the opportunity to acquire these important skills as they grow up through the school, not just in the classroom but through a whole range of other extra-curricular opportunities, through literature, talks, challenges, working in groups and guided discussion, always exploring their objectives and what kind of adults they hope to be, learning the skills they will need to succeed.

All schools are different, which is why the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, and I, both decided that it was much better, rather than trying to spell out in detail what schools should do, to say to them, “You get on with it and think about it; decide what your programme will be and take advice where you want to. Having made up your mind, you must publish a clear statement of your objectives and of how you hope to achieve them so that the public, parents, Ofsted and anyone else who needs to know can see what you are trying to do”. This will enable the schools that are doing well to acquire credit, and the schools that are doing less well will see where they are falling short and will probably be led to do better.

My Amendment 53ZAA is designed to make it absolutely clear that schools are expected to give guidance to pupils and to explore with them the challenges they are likely to encounter as they move into adult life. It also requires schools to consider how they can help pupils to develop personal, social and communication skills. It emphasises that the best way to achieve these objectives may often be through guided discussion in school and through extra-curricular activities such as, for example, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme, team games, and so on.

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Lord Ramsbotham (CB): My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Northbourne and his amendment. We discussed places of detention in another part of the Bill, so I ask the Minister once again to remember that in addition to schools it is hugely important that the subjects that my noble friend has just mentioned are added to the syllabus in places of detention with young offenders and that they must not be excluded. I remind the House of a course I found in a young offender institution in Belfast, which was one of the best preparations for life that I have come across. It was called “Learning to Live Alone”, and it had all the things that we have been talking about. I am only sad that it was dropped later by a not-so-wise governor.

Lord Hylton (CB): My Lords, both amendments in this group are full of good points. Therefore, I ask the Minister to take them both away and come back at Third Reading with a consolidated and generally agreed amendment that incorporates all the good points from both.

Baroness Benjamin (LD): My Lords, I, too, support the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Massey. Whenever I go into schools to speak to young people under the PSHE banner, I am amazed at how many are affected by being told that they are worthy and at how their confidence is boosted. Some are never told that they are loved unconditionally and that they can achieve. They have no parental guidance. PSHE helps them to cope with the materialistic, commercially led world they are living in. It helps them to learn how to deal with morality, honesty and integrity, and to understand that they can grow up in our society and be someone in whom people can put their trust. That is very important in today’s society, and children need guidance in that direction. Every child in the country, no matter what their background, needs to be exposed to good PSHE. We owe it to our future generation, so I support the amendment wholeheartedly.

Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, I also support the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, in her campaign and I believe that the Minister supports her too, whether or not it is through this amendment. Having been to the recent round-table discussion and knowing of the progress that the Minister has made, I simply ask my question again. Although the timescale may be shorter than he would like, with what speed does he think he can bring about a culture change in schools whereby PSHE is central to and a core part of all schools in all sectors? Many of us believe—and it has been enunciated very clearly in the debate—that this would make a real difference to the lives of our young people, who are trying to grow up in this very difficult, changing world.

Lord Nash: My Lords, this has been a very insightful debate. I thank all noble Lords who have tabled these amendments and other noble Lords who have contributed their knowledge and insights on this important matter. I am particularly grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, for her constructive and well argued contribution and for meeting me on a number of occasions to discuss

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this area in more detail. I also thank again all the noble Lords who came to the PSHE round table last week.

During our various debates and discussions on PSHE, SRE and related matters, two things have become clear to me. The first is that in the field of PSHE and SRE —character resilience, producing rounded and grounded young people, raising aspirations, pastoral care and so on—we share a common view that all these matters are absolutely essential to what a good school does. As I have already mentioned, we should embrace this as an example of how, despite the politics that often surround education, we have an absolutely common purpose when it comes to our expectations of schools. Certainly, I have a very high expectation of schools on these matters, and they should engage with all the relevant organisations and charities and so on to meet this.

As for the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, I intend to ensure that there is such a culture change. This is absolutely essential in the offer of academy groups that are taking over schools that have been failing for years. They appreciate that there is no way that they can engage these children in education unless they are in the right frame of mind. We also know that, sadly, in recent decades our society has collapsed so much that schools have to do much more, standing in the position of parents in supporting children’s education. To me, PSHE is absolutely central. It is something that all good schools should do, and we are seeing it happen increasingly as we improve the state of education.

The second thing that perhaps I have been a little bit slow to grasp—I particularly thank the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, for bringing this home to me—is that not all schools share the belief that PHSE and SRE are so central and important. We need to give them all the help we can to link them to organisations which are specialists in the various areas and are able to update their advice, guidance, training and so on in a dynamic way, keeping abreast of the changes.

Noble Lords have heard me say many times that this Government do not wish to be too prescriptive about precisely what they set out for teachers. Such regulations can be updated only occasionally and cannot be dynamic and keep up with events in a fast-changing world.

7.15 pm

Turning to Amendment 53ZA on PSHE, I agree with the importance of the underlying aim of this amendment—that all schools should be accountable to parents. As I explained in Grand Committee, in 2012 we amended the school information regulations to specify the minimum information that a maintained school is required to publish, with academy funding agreements having similar requirements. This covers the curriculum for each subject in each school year, including PSHE, and it includes details of how parents may obtain more information. In addition, Ofsted’s inspection framework requires inspectors to consider pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development when forming judgments.

The evidence shows that social skills such as resilience and teamwork are likely to support children’s achievement and successful participation in education and employment.

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Ofsted’s report on PSHE in 2013 found that all but two of the outstanding schools covered in the report were also outstanding for PSHE education, with the other two outstanding schools having good PSHE. DfE research in 2012 found that children with higher levels of emotional, behavioural and social well-being on average have higher levels of academic achievement. That is supported by international evidence on the links between success at school and social skills, including resilience, emotional intelligence, teamwork and so on. I know from personal experience that good schools understand this and therefore give PSHE an important place in the school curriculum. However, partly as a result of discussions with the noble Baroness, I am not convinced that every school shares the same understanding. Therefore, I have taken action as a matter of priority, as I explained in my letter to noble Lords, to remind schools that they are expected to teach PSHE, and we should offer ideas and inspiration by highlighting examples of good practice.

We have reaffirmed the importance of PSHE in the introduction to the new national curriculum, and we are also using other methods and channels to encourage and inspire schools. For example, we included a reminder in the termly e-mail to all schools, issued on 15 January. This e-mail is usually reserved for messages to schools about new requirements and critical information. By using the e-mail to remind schools about PSHE, we are emphasising that we consider it a real priority. In the governors’ handbook, published this month, we have encouraged governors to hold teachers to account by asking constructive questions about the school’s approach to pupils’ well-being. In addition, we are making full use of digital channels, including the department’s pages on the Times Educational Supplement website—by far the most popular website among teachers—to steer teachers towards high-quality resources that deal effectively with PSHE topics.

In responding to Amendment 53, I have already highlighted examples of up-to-date resources on sex and relationships that we are promoting through relevant channels, and I explained in the earlier debate on SRE that we are establishing the PSHE expert subject group to support better teaching and improve PSHE delivery. This is the approach that we are taking to subjects in the national curriculum, and I hope that noble Lords will agree that it demonstrates the Government’s commitment to PSHE and SRE.

Finally, I am pleased to announce that we will be funding the PSHE Association for a further financial year, and it has agreed to produce a set of case studies to illustrate excellent PSHE teaching. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, has visited Goose Green primary school in East Dulwich—a very good example of a whole-school approach to PSHE and its teaching. Case studies such as this will inspire teachers and provide further impetus to improvements across the school landscape.

I am personally very pleased to see how my department has responded to the challenge of raising the profile of PSHE and how it is urging all schools to follow the lead of the best schools. I know that PSHE is a subject that good teachers need no persuading about. However, I accept that we should continue to remind schools of

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its importance, both as a subject and as part of a whole school ethos which has a significant impact on a child’s readiness to learn and adult life. In short, I am fully behind the spirit of this amendment, as the noble Baroness knows, but I do not consider further legislation necessary, in the light of the existing requirements and the additional steps we are taking.

Turning to the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, I agree with his underlying concern that parenting skills should be considered a relevant topic for PSHE lessons in which young people learn about healthy and stable relationships. The statutory guidance is clear about the value and ethos of family life, grounded in loving and nurturing relationships. The guidance also contains an expectation that young people develop positive values and a moral framework to shape their decisions, judgments and behaviour. Teachers are therefore expected to explore with their pupils what this means in practice, what it means for their future lives and what it means for the choices they might make. In this context, we should trust teachers to decide whether and how parenting skills could feature in lesson plans. Teachers may refer to suggested content on parenting, available from the PSHE Association. Although I am grateful to the noble Lord for proposing the amendment, I do not consider it necessary to introduce a new legislative requirement in this area.

To conclude, I should like once more to extend my thanks to noble Lords for these amendments and to other noble Lords for contributing to the debates. I have described some important steps we are taking, but we need to continue to look for more opportunities. We will work closely with the PSHE Association in particular and explore other ways in which we can promote PSHE and improve its teaching. We are beginning to explore how teaching schools, which are taking a lead in this area, can support schools, and I welcome Sir Michael Wilshaw’s recent announcement that Ofsted will be strengthening its approach to teacher training. Sir Michael explained that inspectors will be “much tougher” on training providers and on schools that do not adequately support newly qualified teachers.

I hope I have reassured noble Lords that I am committed to improving PSHE and am acting on that commitment. I am extremely grateful to noble Lords who have worked with us in our discussions on PSHE, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Massey. We have achieved a great deal as a result of working together on these matters. I heard what she said about reflecting on the debate today and considering whether to bring anything back at Third Reading. I have to say, I am afraid, that I have already reflected at length on the amendment and I cannot undertake to reflect further between now and Third Reading. If she wishes to test the opinion of the House she should do so now. However, I would urge the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment and the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne not to press his.

I return to Amendment 53ZAAA on SRE. I cannot help noticing that the House is filling up, so I will build on what I have to say about PSHE to remind noble Lords of the important steps we have taken on SRE. We have worked closely with others in Government

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and with specialist organisations, in particular the PSHE Association, the Sex Education Forum and Brook, and promoted their resources and guidance. Noble Lords may be interested to hear that Brook wrote to the Prime Minister yesterday and I have its letter here. Referring to the guidance it is preparing, it says it will,

“fill some of the most significant gaps in the Guidance that have been created by the development of technology and the increase in our understanding and evidence … It is a short, straightforward document … which provides a brief rationale for a strong, broad programme of SRE in all schools … Other content includes teaching about healthy relationships and sexual consent as well as violence, exploitation and abuse and a focus on some of the topics that have been thrown into sharper relief by the availability of technology; pornography, online safety and ‘sexting’. We intend to publish the SA in February”.

During the earlier debate on SRE I said that it would be much better to build on the considerable progress we have made and the consensus that has emerged on our ambition for all schools in relation to its provision. I strongly urge all noble Lords to support this position.

Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his very positive response and for all his hard work and that of his officials leading up to this debate. We have heard two very powerful debates with very little dissent on the importance of personal, social and health education, including sex and relationships. This is why we need to regroup and talk together about how we carry things forward. I take the Minister’s point that an awful lot has been done but I would like one more regrouping to consider it. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Nash: My Lords, I must say to the noble Baroness that I have considered this matter very carefully and discussed it with a great many people. I therefore cannot undertake to bring it back at Third Reading. If she wishes to test the temperature of the House, she should do so today.

Amendment 53ZA withdrawn.

Amendment 53ZAA

Moved by Lord Northbourne

53ZAA: After Clause 73, insert the following new Clause—

“School policies to prepare children and young people for the opportunities, challenges and responsibilities of adult life

After section 78 of the Education Act 2002 insert—

“78A Duty of schools to promote the personal and social development of pupils, and to prepare them for the responsibilities of adult life and parenthood

(1) All schools shall make explicit to parents, school governors and pupils how they deliver—

(a) guidance to young people as they explore the opportunities and challenges of the adult life which lies ahead of them;

(b) help for children and young people who are pupils at the school to develop the personal, social and communication skills that they are likely to need in their adult life;

(c) help for children and young people who are pupils at the school to discuss and understand the responsibilities, duties and challenges of parenthood;

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(d) provision of activities and other opportunities for pupils at the school to develop interpersonal, leadership and teamwork skills as a preparation for their adult life.

(2) The above shall be delivered as appropriate to the age, readiness and needs of pupils in the school.””

Lord Northbourne: I am impressed by what the noble Lord has told us about what the Government are doing. Unfortunately, I still have one serious anxiety. Although regulations require schools to have a proper and well considered PSHE syllabus, on the sample that I was able to take the vast majority of schools ignore that obligation. It is a regulation and therefore, presumably, it is the duty of the local authority to enforce it. I brought forward my amendment to get this issue on the statute book so that schools would have to do all these things that we are talking about. I am sure that the noble Lord may be able to convince me that this will happen, but I reserve the possibility of bringing the matter back.

Lord Nash: I assure the noble Lord that I take this matter very seriously, as I said in reply to the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth. We expect all schools to do this and will do all that we can to ensure that they do. However, I must say to the noble Lord that I do not think that we can bring this matter back at Third Reading. I have already reflected on it in some detail. I must say to him that if he wishes to test the temperature of the House, he should do so now.

Lord Northbourne: Subject to that reservation, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 53ZAA withdrawn.

Amendment 53ZAAA

Moved by Baroness Jones of Whitchurch

53ZAAA: After Clause 73, insert the following new Clause—

“Sex and relationship education in maintained schools

(1) In section 84(3) of the Education Act 2002 (curriculum foundation subjects for the first, second and third key stages), after paragraph (g) insert—

“(ga) sex and relationship education”.

(2) In section 85(4) of the Education Act 2002 (curriculum foundation subjects for the fourth key stage), at the end insert “, and

(d) sex and relationship education”.

(3) In section 74(1) of the Education and Inspections Act 2006, which (when brought into force) will substitute a new section 85 in the Education Act 2002, in subsection (4) of that substituted section (foundation subjects for the fourth key stage), at the end insert “, and

(d) sex and relationship education.”

(4) Before section 86 of the Education Act 2002 insert—

“85B Sex and relationship education

(1) For the purposes of this Part, sex and relationship education (“SRE”) shall include information about same-sex relationships, sexual violence, domestic violence and sexual consent.

(2) The National Curriculum for England is not required to specify attainment targets or assessment arrangements for SRE (and section 84(1) has effect accordingly).

(3) The Secretary of State for Education shall set out guidance to schools and colleges to ensure that a coherent approach to sex and relationship education is developed, including between primary and secondary schools, paying particular regard to the need for

28 Jan 2014 : Column 1152

such guidance to make reference to the role of the internet, social media and technology in sex and relationship education and online bullying and harassment.

(4) It is the duty of the governing body and head teacher of any school in which SRE is provided in pursuance of this Part to secure that guidance issued under subsection (3) is followed and that—

(a) information presented in the course of providing SRE should be accurate and balanced;

(b) SRE is taught in a way that is appropriate to the ages of the pupils concerned and to their religious and cultural backgrounds, and reflects a reasonable range of religious, cultural and other perspectives;

(c) SRE is taught in a way that endeavours to promote equality, celebrate diversity, and emphasise the importance of both rights and responsibilities.

(5) In the exercise of their functions under this Part, so far as relating to SRE, a local authority, governing body or head teacher shall have regard to any guidance issued from time to time by the Secretary of State.”

(5) Section 403 of the Education Act 1996 (sex education: manner of provision) is amended as set out in subsections (6) to (10).

(6) In subsection (1), for the words from the beginning to “at a maintained school” substitute “The governing body or other proprietor of any school to which this section applies, and its head teacher, must take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that sex and relationships education is given to registered pupils at the school and that”.

(7) After that subsection insert—

“(1ZA) The schools to which this section applies are—

(a) maintained schools;

(b) city technology colleges;

(c) city colleges for the technology of the arts;

(d) academies.

A reference in this section or section 404 to the governing body of a school, in relation to a school within paragraph (b), (c) or (d), shall be read as a reference to the proprietor of the school.”

(8) In subsection (1A)—

(a) for “when sex education is given to registered pupils at maintained schools” substitute “when sex and relationship education is given to registered pupils at schools to which this section applies”;

(b) in paragraph (a), after “, and” insert “learn the nature of civil partnership and the importance of strong and stable relationships.”;

(c) paragraph (b) is omitted.

(9) In subsection (1C), for “sex education” substitute “sex and relationship education”.

(10) In section 579 of the Education Act 1996 (general interpretation), in the definition of “sex education” in subsection (1)—

(a) for “sex education” substitute “sex and relationship education”;

(b) at the end insert “but does not include education about human reproduction provided as part of any science teaching;”.

(11) In section 405 of the Education Act 1996 (exemption from sex education) for “If the parent of any pupil in attendance at a maintained school requests”, substitute—

“(1) If the parent of a pupil under the age of 15 in attendance at a school in England to which section 403 applies requests that the pupil may be wholly or partly excused from receiving sex and relationship education at the school, the pupil shall be so excused accordingly until—

(a) the request is withdrawn, or

(b) the pupil attains the age of 15.

(2) If the parent of any pupil in attendance at a maintained school in Wales requests.””

28 Jan 2014 : Column 1153

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch: I do not want to rehearse what was a very good argument. I believe that the argument was definitely on our side. I therefore wish formally to move the amendment and to test the opinion of the House.

7.28 pm

Division on Amendment 53ZAAA

Contents 142; Not-Contents 209.

Amendment 53ZAAA disagreed.

Division No.  3


Adams of Craigielea, B.

Andrews, B.

Armstrong of Hill Top, B.

Armstrong of Ilminster, L.

Bach, L.

Bakewell, B.

Bassam of Brighton, L. [Teller]

Beecham, L.

Bichard, L.

Blood, B.

Borrie, L.

Brookman, L.

Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, L.

Campbell-Savours, L.

Clancarty, E.

Clark of Windermere, L.

Collins of Highbury, L.

Corston, B.

Coussins, B.

Craigavon, V.

Crawley, B.

Davies of Coity, L.

Davies of Oldham, L.

Davies of Stamford, L.

Deech, B.

Desai, L.

Drake, B.

Elder, L.

Elystan-Morgan, L.

Falkland, V.

Farrington of Ribbleton, B.

Faulkner of Worcester, L.

Fellowes, L.

Filkin, L.

Finlay of Llandaff, B.

Ford, B.

Freyberg, L.

Gale, B.

Gibson of Market Rasen, B.

Giddens, L.

Glasman, L.

Golding, B.

Gordon of Strathblane, L.

Gould of Potternewton, B.

Grantchester, L.

Grey-Thompson, B.

Grocott, L.

Hanworth, V.

Harris of Haringey, L.

Harrison, L.

Hart of Chilton, L.

Haughey, L.

Haworth, L.

Hayman, B.

Hayter of Kentish Town, B.

Healy of Primrose Hill, B.

Henig, B.

Hollis of Heigham, B.

Hope of Craighead, L.

Howarth of Newport, L.

Howe of Idlicote, B.

Howells of St Davids, B.

Hughes of Stretford, B.

Hughes of Woodside, L.

Hunt of Kings Heath, L.

Jay of Ewelme, L.

Jones of Moulsecoomb, B.

Jones of Whitchurch, B.

Jones, L.

Kennedy of Cradley, B.

Kennedy of Southwark, L.

Kennedy of The Shaws, B.

Kidron, B.

King of Bow, B.

Kinnock of Holyhead, B.

Kirkhill, L.

Knight of Weymouth, L.

Layard, L.

Lea of Crondall, L.

Liddell of Coatdyke, B.

Lister of Burtersett, B.

McAvoy, L.

McConnell of Glenscorrodale, L.

McDonagh, B.

McIntosh of Hudnall, B.

MacKenzie of Culkein, L.

McKenzie of Luton, L.

Mallalieu, B.

Martin of Springburn, L.

Massey of Darwen, B.

Maxton, L.

Mendelsohn, L.

Monks, L.

Morgan of Drefelin, B.

Morgan of Ely, B.

Morgan, L.

Morris of Handsworth, L.

Morris of Yardley, B.

Nye, B.

O'Neill of Clackmannan, L.

Palmer, L.

Pannick, L.

Patel, L.

Pitkeathley, B.

Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.

Prosser, B.

Puttnam, L.

Quin, B.

Ramsay of Cartvale, B.

Rea, L.

Rendell of Babergh, B.

28 Jan 2014 : Column 1154

Rooker, L.

Rosser, L.

Rowlands, L.

Royall of Blaisdon, B.

Sawyer, L.

Scotland of Asthal, B.

Sherlock, B.

Simon, V.

Smith of Basildon, B.

Snape, L.

Stevenson of Balmacara, L.

Stone of Blackheath, L.

Symons of Vernham Dean, B.

Taylor of Bolton, B.

Temple-Morris, L.

Thomas of Winchester, B.

Thornton, B.

Tonge, B.

Trees, L.

Tunnicliffe, L. [Teller]

Turner of Camden, B.

Wall of New Barnet, B.

Watson of Invergowrie, L.

Wheeler, B.

Whitaker, B.

Whitty, L.

Wigley, L.

Wilkins, B.

Wills, L.

Worthington, B.

Young of Norwood Green, L.


Aberdare, L.

Addington, L.

Ahmad of Wimbledon, L.

Alderdice, L.

Allan of Hallam, L.

Anelay of St Johns, B. [Teller]

Arran, E.

Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, L.

Ashton of Hyde, L.

Astor of Hever, L.

Attlee, E.

Avebury, L.

Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, B.

Balfe, L.

Bates, L.

Berridge, B.

Best, L.

Bew, L.

Bilimoria, L.

Black of Brentwood, L.

Blencathra, L.

Bourne of Aberystwyth, L.

Bradshaw, L.

Bridgeman, V.

Brougham and Vaux, L.

Browne of Belmont, L.

Browning, B.

Burnett, L.

Buscombe, B.

Cameron of Dillington, L.

Carrington of Fulham, L.

Cathcart, E.

Chidgey, L.

Clement-Jones, L.

Coe, L.

Colville of Culross, V.

Colwyn, L.

Cope of Berkeley, L.

Courtown, E.

Crathorne, L.

Crickhowell, L.

De Mauley, L.

Deighton, L.

Dixon-Smith, L.

Dundee, E.

Eames, L.

Eaton, B.

Eccles of Moulton, B.

Eccles, V.

Eden of Winton, L.

Edmiston, L.

Empey, L.

Faulks, L.

Fink, L.

Finkelstein, L.

Flight, L.

Fookes, B.

Fowler, L.

Framlingham, L.

Freud, L.

Garden of Frognal, B.

Gardiner of Kimble, L.

Gardner of Parkes, B.

German, L.

Glentoran, L.

Gold, L.

Goodlad, L.

Goschen, V.

Grade of Yarmouth, L.

Greenway, L.

Grender, B.

Hamilton of Epsom, L.

Harris of Peckham, L.

Henley, L.

Heyhoe Flint, B.

Hill of Oareford, L.

Hodgson of Abinger, B.

Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.

Home, E.

Hooper, B.

Horam, L.

Howard of Lympne, L.

Howard of Rising, L.

Howarth of Breckland, B.

Howe, E.

Howell of Guildford, L.

Humphreys, B.

Hunt of Wirral, L.

Hussain, L.

Hussein-Ece, B.

Hylton, L.

Inglewood, L.

James of Blackheath, L.

Jenkin of Kennington, B.

Jenkin of Roding, L.

Jolly, B.

Kilclooney, L.

King of Bridgwater, L.

Kirkham, L.

Kirkwood of Kirkhope, L.

Knight of Collingtree, B.

Lamont of Lerwick, L.

Lang of Monkton, L.

Leigh of Hurley, L.

Lester of Herne Hill, L.

Lexden, L.

Lindsay, E.

Lingfield, L.

Linklater of Butterstone, B.

Liverpool, E.

Livingston of Parkhead, L.

Lothian, M.

Lucas, L.

Luce, L.

Luke, L.

28 Jan 2014 : Column 1155

Lyell, L.

McColl of Dulwich, L.

MacGregor of Pulham Market, L.

McNally, L.

Maddock, B.

Maginnis of Drumglass, L.

Mancroft, L.

Manzoor, B.

Mar and Kellie, E.

Mar, C.

Marks of Henley-on-Thames, L.

Mayhew of Twysden, L.

Miller of Hendon, B.

Moore of Lower Marsh, L.

Morris of Bolton, B.

Morrow, L.

Moynihan, L.

Nash, L.

Neville-Jones, B.

Newby, L. [Teller]

Newlove, B.

Nicholson of Winterbourne, B.

Northbourne, L.

Northover, B.

Norton of Louth, L.

Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.

O'Cathain, B.

O'Loan, B.

O'Neill of Bengarve, B.

Oppenheim-Barnes, B.

Paddick, L.

Patten, L.

Pearson of Rannoch, L.

Perry of Southwark, B.

Phillips of Sudbury, L.

Popat, L.

Powell of Bayswater, L.

Purvis of Tweed, L.

Ramsbotham, L.

Randerson, B.

Razzall, L.

Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.

Risby, L.

Roberts of Llandudno, L.

Rogan, L.

Roper, L.

Rowe-Beddoe, L.

Sanderson of Bowden, L.

Sassoon, L.

Scott of Needham Market, B.

Seccombe, B.

Selborne, E.

Selkirk of Douglas, L.

Selsdon, L.

Shackleton of Belgravia, B.

Sheikh, L.

Shephard of Northwold, B.

Sherbourne of Didsbury, L.

Shipley, L.

Shutt of Greetland, L.

Skelmersdale, L.

Spicer, L.

Stedman-Scott, B.

Steel of Aikwood, L.

Stephen, L.

Stewartby, L.

Stoneham of Droxford, L.

Storey, L.

Stowell of Beeston, B.

Sutherland of Houndwood, L.

Suttie, B.

Taylor of Goss Moor, L.

Taylor of Holbeach, L.

Tebbit, L.

Thomas of Gresford, L.

Trefgarne, L.

Trenchard, V.

Trimble, L.

Tyler, L.

Ullswater, V.

Verma, B.

Wakeham, L.

Wallace of Saltaire, L.

Wallace of Tankerness, L.

Walpole, L.

Warnock, B.

Warsi, B.

Wasserman, L.

Wei, L.

Wilcox, B.

Williams of Trafford, B.

Willis of Knaresborough, L.

Wrigglesworth, L.

Younger of Leckie, V.

7.39 pm

Amendment 53ZAAB

Moved by Baroness Howe of Idlicote

53ZAAB: After Clause 73, insert the following new Clause—

“Duty to provide an internet service that protects children

(1) Internet service providers must provide to subscribers an internet access service which excludes adult content unless all the conditions of subsection (3) have been fulfilled.

(2) Where mobile telephone operators provide a telephone service to subscribers which includes an internet access service, they must ensure this service excludes adult content unless all the conditions of subsection (3) have been fulfilled.

(3) The conditions are—

(a) the subscriber “opts-in” to subscribe to a service that includes adult content;

(b) the subscriber is aged 18 or over; and

(c) the provider of the service has an age verification policy which meets the standards set out by OFCOM in subsection (4) and which has been used to confirm that the subscriber is aged 18 or over before a user is able to access adult content.

28 Jan 2014 : Column 1156

(4) It shall be the duty of OFCOM to set, and from time to time to review and revise, standards for the—

(a) filtering of adult content in line with the standards set out in section 319 of the Communications Act 2003; and

(b) age verification policies to be used under subsection (3) before a user is able to access adult content.

(5) The standards set out by OFCOM under subsection (4) must be contained in one or more codes.

(6) It shall be the duty of OFCOM to establish procedures for the handling and resolution of complaints in a timely manner about the observance of standards set under subsection (4).

(7) In this section, internet service providers and mobile telephone operators shall at all times be held harmless of any claims or proceedings, whether civil or criminal, providing that at the relevant time, the internet access provider or the mobile telephone operator—

(a) was following the standards and code set out by OFCOM in subsection (4); and

(b) acting in good faith.

(8) In this section—

“adult content” means material which might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of persons under the age of eighteen;

“opts-in” means a subscriber notifies the service provider of his or her consent to subscribe to a service that includes adult content.”

Baroness Howe of Idlicote (CB): My Lords, the new clause to be inserted under Amendment 53ZAAB proposes, first, that we adopt a statutory foundation requiring internet service providers and mobile phone operators to install adult content default filters, overseen by Ofcom. Secondly, it proposes that these are backed up with robust, statutory age verification, which must be conducted before these filters are disabled. In doing so, I wish to express my sincere thanks for the support that I have received from across the House, which can be seen through the fact that the amendment has been co-signed by the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes of Stretford, the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, who had to disappear because of the lateness of the hour to give an award to a Member of your Lordships’ House, and the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, of Beckenham. I am very grateful for their support. I also am particularly grateful for all the support I received from outside organisations, such as the Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety, which represents all the major children’s charities, including Barnardo’s, NSPCC, the Children’s Society, et cetera, and sees the pressing need for my amendment.

In embarking on this debate, I should like to put on the record my thanks to the Prime Minister for the progress he has made in enhancing child safety online on a self-regulatory basis through the code of practice being implemented by the big four internet service providers. However, I also want to argue that, while welcome as a first step, self-regulation will not be anything other than a short-term solution and that regulation should now be placed on a robust statutory footing. In a previous debate, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, set out the very important principle that if child protection is sufficiently important to merit statutory protection offline, the same must be true online.

One of the most basic principles underpinning any civilised society is that those who are vulnerable—a category that certainly includes children—should be

28 Jan 2014 : Column 1157

subject to particularly developed protections through the law. As a consequence of this, the United Kingdom very properly approaches the subject of child protection on a statutory foundation in the offline world. This can be seen, for example, with respect to accessing sex shops, and buying adult material, or purchasing 18-rated DVDs. While the law makes clear that if something is illegal offline, it is illegal online, I am convinced that the protections we put in place to prevent children accessing legal but adult content should be as robust in legal terms online as they are offline. If this were not the case, the Prime Minister would not have worked with ISPs to introduce default filters, albeit on a self- regulatory basis.

I will remind noble Lords of the sort of material we are discussing today by referring to the so-called “tube” sites, which offer hardcore video at the click of a play button, with no warnings, splash pages, or any means of restricting children’s access. If we look at some Experian Hitwise statistics for UK visits to just six “tube” sites, the figures are staggering: PornHub gets 66 million monthly UK hits; xHamster, 63 million; XNXX, 29 million; RedTube, 28 million; Xvideos, 28 million; and YouPorn, 26 million. That is a total of 240 million hits from the UK in a single month to adult sites, without any form of onsite child protection.

7.45 pm

We restrict children’s physical access to cinemas so that they cannot see an 18 certificate film. We do not allow a retailer to sell a child an 18-certificate DVD, and the content on television is all regulated to protect children. If it is necessary to provide all of these protections for children accessing content offline, the same level of protection really must be delivered online. It is not as if children are less vulnerable online; indeed, as noble Lords will realise, in many ways they are more so.

Given the force of this argument of principle, it is not a surprise that when one examines the practice of self-regulation, significant problems quickly become apparent. First, although the big four ISPs have a self-regulatory code that provides for default filters, this still leaves between 5% and 10% of the market—well over 1 million households, and therefore hundreds of thousands of children—unprotected. Indeed, at least one ISP, Andrews and Arnold, has publicly stated that it will not introduce default filters. Its home page proudly proclaims, “Unfiltered internet for all”—including, presumably, for all children. Clearly it has no intention of introducing default filters, and will do so only if required by law. If we had a statutory approach to default filters, as set out in my amendment, all ISPs, including all those that service the remaining 5% to 10% not covered by the big four code, would have to introduce default filters.

Secondly, the level of protection pertaining to the market that is now subject to the code, is in any event limited because of the industry’s refusal to provide proper age verification. The provision of default filters can only really provide proper child protection if it is combined with robust age verification of anyone electing to disable default filters, so that they have to demonstrate that they are 18 years old or over. This provision,

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which is crucially set out in my amendment, is particularly important, because although adults are the ISP account holders and pay the bills, often their more technically literate children do the set-up, which involves making the decision about whether to keep or disable adult content filters.

Indeed, instead of age-verifying those seeking to disable default filters before they are allowed to proceed, the approach the industry has adopted—called the closed loop—simply involves sending an e-mail to the account holder, an adult, after the setting has been changed to inform them of this fact. This is completely unacceptable. What happens if it takes the account holder a week to read the e-mail? During that time, their children could be downloading all kinds of inappropriate adult material. What if the account holder never opens the e-mail?

This is concerning, because polling conducted over the weekend for the charity CARE, by ComRes, demonstrated that a total of 34% of British adults— 16.3 million people—say that they would not read an e-mail from their ISP immediately; 11% said that they would probably leave the e-mail unread for up to a week; and 9% would be likely to leave it for more than a week. A staggering 14% said that they were simply unlikely to read an e-mail from their ISP. That figure rises to 18% when we look at the parents of children between five and 10 years old. These statistics demonstrate that, far from proposing an acceptable means of avoiding the need for proper age verification, the self-regulatory closed loop is no basis on which to demonstrate Britain’s commitment to child safety online.

The self-regulatory experience of mobile phones, which of course stretches back further than the much more recent ISP codes, is equally concerning. In 2010, it became apparent that mobile phones using BlackBerry were not providing adult default filters, in contravention of the code. BlackBerry was exposed in December 2010 and then agreed to change, but it is of huge concern that many children were denied default filters over the five-year period because of BlackBerry’s failure to have regard to the code.

Then just last month, Tesco Mobile was similarly exposed for flouting the code. This is particularly embarrassing for the Government, because the Prime Minister had declared in July that all mobile phones were already subject to default filters, when the reality was that you could download anything and everything through Tesco Mobile phones. Moreover, the Government had invited Tesco to sit on the UK Council for Child Internet Safety.

Of course I welcome the fact that BlackBerry has now put its house in order and I understand that Tesco has done so, too. The truth, however, is that this is par for the course if you do not consider child protection sufficiently important to warrant the necessary mobile phone legislation, which is again proposed by my amendment. If there had just been the BlackBerry case, one might be tempted to dismiss it as a one-off—but as Tesco has so eloquently demonstrated, it was not a one-off, and one wonders whether any other providers are similarly flouting the code, or indeed whether at some future date, when the media spotlight is less fixed on the subject, some providers may become less rigorous

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than they are now in complying with the mobile phone operators’ code, lacking as it is, any kind of legislative sanction.

I wish again to make it absolutely clear that I am aware of and applaud the progress that has been made with respect to default filters on a self-regulatory basis. Indeed, I very much welcome it. However, while this self-regulation is certainly a step forward, it fails to cover 100% of the market, does not provide proper age verification and has not been consistently applied in relation to mobile phones. The end result of these failings, which crucially are all corrected by my amendment, is that children are much more likely to stumble on or access adult material than would be the case if statutory default filters were in place.

Most of the speeches that we have heard already today on the Children and Families Bill have shown a huge concern—and there have been excellent speeches—about the sexual dangers that today’s young people face. We have an opportunity today to take the next step forward that will move the UK beyond the weaknesses of self-regulation to a robust, statutory, properly age-verified approach to default filters. I very much hope that the House will support my amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Benjamin: My Lords, I support the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, and I congratulate her on doing so because there are grave concerns about the damage being caused to children's mental, physical and moral well-being. Some children as young as six have been affected because of the inappropriate online adult material that they have been exposed to. Websites such as those containing sexual, self-harming or bullying content are taking their toll, as reported by children’s charities, educationalists, newspapers, politicians, religious leaders and child psychologists.

Some people are calling this concern a moral panic, but I call it a moral emergency. I hope that the Minister agrees that unless we do something soon we will have a lost generation of adults who have little understanding of what a healthy, joyful, loving and sexual relationship is, not to mention thousands of girls who will be psychologically damaged by their first sexual encounters with boys who have become addicted to porn since they were very young. These boys themselves are also damaged because psychologically and mentally they find that girls are not matching up to the warped sexual fantasy of the ones whom they see online. Then there are those children who self-harm or commit suicide. Sadly, there are such reports almost daily due to the sites young people are accessing.

I thank the Minister for preparing to revise the statutory guidance on safeguarding children’s personal safety online and protecting them from all inappropriate online content through PSHE. I also congratulate the Government on taking such a robust stance on working with the online industry to find solutions to this plague that is spreading among the nation’s children, many of which are having some effect. However, the amendment, to which I put my name, goes further as it compels ISPs and mobile phone companies to comply with the regulations rather than relying on self-regulation, because some have been found to be avoiding their responsibilities. Who else in the future will do just that?

28 Jan 2014 : Column 1160

As well as education for children and parents to help them deal with the dangers of the internet and to show them how to navigate their way about it safely, there need to be other techniques to achieve this. This amendment is another tool to use to do just that. There are arguments by those who fear filtering will threaten their rights and freedoms. But surely the protection and safeguarding of children’s mental, physical and moral well-being override all those.

We must all accept that the internet is both a wonderful resource as well as a place where evil lurks. We need to confront that boldly and strategically. I realise that this amendment has come late in the day to a full and wide Bill where many issues have been adopted generously by the Minister—and I thank him for that. But I also ask him fully and carefully to give consideration to this amendment to take a stance against those who are prepared to harm our children’s well-being.

Lord Harris of Haringey (Lab): My Lords, I support the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, and her amendment. I wish to make only one point because I associate myself fully with what she has said, and that is in favour of the recommendation in the amendment about robust age verification. The loop that she described of sending an e-mail to the purported address of the parent is simply inadequate.

Requiring robust age verification would mean that ISPs would have to find a way of doing this effectively. That would not only have a spin-off benefit in terms of child protection, but all sorts of other benefits where age verification would be helpful. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will be prepared to accept this amendment, particularly in the light of that point.

8 pm

The Earl of Listowel (CB): My Lords, I rise briefly to offer my strongest support to my noble friend’s amendment as vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children and Young People in Care and Leaving Care. Many of these children have very unfortunate early experiences of a sexual nature, and as they grow up through life, they are more likely to become involved in addictions of various kinds such as alcohol, drugs and cigarettes. They are more likely to start on these things than other children. If one looks at their mental health, according to the Office for National Statistics, 10% of children in the general population have mental disorders; roughly 40% in foster care have mental disorders and 69% in residential care have such disorders. My concern is that these young people will particularly tend to look for comfort from this sort of stuff on the internet—to see it, perhaps, as a form of self-medication and become addicted to it. I therefore strongly support my noble friend and hope the Minister will accept her amendment.

Lord Hope of Craighead (CB): My Lords, I would like to add a brief word of my own in support of the amendment. It is a feature of the amendment, as noble Lords will have noticed, that it places important duties on Ofcom. In fact, the position that Ofcom occupies in the structure has been designed to give a

28 Jan 2014 : Column 1161

robust nature to the system that is being set up: Ofcom will play a vital part in setting standards, issuing codes and so on. It is worth noting that the proposal fits very well with the structure of the Communications Act 2003, which places duties on Ofcom itself. It also provides that Ofcom shall have such other functions as may be conferred on it by any other enactment, which is what this amendment seeks to do.

Among the duties set out in the 2003 Act is the duty,

“to further the interests of citizens in relation to communications matters”—

a very broad duty. In performing those duties, the Act also says that Ofcom must have regard to,

“the vulnerability of children and of others whose circumstances appear to OFCOM to put them in need of special protection”.

The system that is being devised, therefore, is very much in keeping with the structure that was set some 10 years ago for Ofcom. For that reason, among others, I strongly support the amendment and, in particular, the detail built into it.

Lord Lucas (Con): My Lords, while I share the concerns of the noble Baroness—particularly as I have an 11 year-old daughter—I do not think that her amendment achieves anything. It asks ISPs to do something that is impossible. How can they provide subscribers with an internet access service that excludes adult content? People can use proxy servers; they can link across to their parents’ computers if they have set their parents’ computers up right; they can use sites that are newly created every day and whose URLs are spread by e-mail; they can indulge in these things through chat programmes, where there is nothing about the site that tells you what it is being used for. There are so many ways in which the nasty side of the internet can spread. It is utterly impossible for ISPs to block; there is no technology that would enable them to perform the functions set out here. How does a little ISP know which sites in this swiftly moving internet are offering the content which offends this amendment that were not doing so yesterday and may not do so tomorrow? They get passed around by kids and are designed to be fast moving. I cannot see how there is anything in this approach of requiring individual ISPs to do things that has any hope of success or of producing a law that is feasible and possible for individual companies to do.

If we were to approach this, perhaps, on a national level by asking our friends in Cheltenham—who, presumably, already read most of this stuff—to put a stopper on the stuff that would offend, perhaps we would have some hope of keeping up with the pace of the avoidance mechanisms that are out there. Unless we do it in a co-ordinated way like that, we really have no hope of achieving exclusion. I therefore beg the noble Baroness to think again and to look rather at enabling parents to exercise proper jurisdiction over what their children are doing. It is really quite hard to find good programmes that you can put on your children’s machines that will tell you what they have been doing and enable you to share with them what they have been seeing and experiencing on the internet and to educate and guide them. By and large, those

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programmes are not available on ISPs’ websites. Individual parental responsibility has a much better hope of looking after our children than pretending that we can block something when we cannot.

Lord Sutherland of Houndwood (CB): My Lords, the previous speaker has made very plain that the ingenuity of young people is very considerable. I admire greatly his technical knowledge and understanding of the issues before us now. However, I draw attention to a very important point made by the noble Baroness: that it seems appropriate in the non-internet sphere to have regulations to do what we can; yet the ingenuity of young people is huge there as well. Big brothers buy cigarettes or alcohol for small brothers. There are ways of pretending that you are 16 when you are only 14 and a half; huge ingenuity can be shown. If regulation is important, as we accept in the law in the non-internet sphere, then surely there is a case for considering it in the sphere of the internet. The benefits of it are huge, but the downsides are massive as well, and I look for consistency between law dealing with non-internet activity and with the internet.

Baroness Hughes of Stretford: My Lords, I, too, speak in support of the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, which is also in my name, and congratulate her on encompassing in the amendment the main elements of her Online Safety Bill. I shall be brief, given the time, but the fact that I am being brief does not mean that I do not think that this is an incredibly important amendment, which I support strongly.

We have heard in this and previous debates about the growing awareness of, and concern about, the impact on young people of unfettered access to pornographic and other adult material. The noble Baroness outlined the measures in the amendment which, among other things, would introduce a mandatory requirement for default filtering to restrict access to adult content, an age-verification process and further regulation by Ofcom. Those are very important measures.

I accept that there are legitimate arguments about what filtering and age-verification can achieve, but I disagree profoundly with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, that the amendment contains measures that would be either futile or impossible to achieve. He will know that they are already being achieved to a degree by some ISPs in some circumstances. The problem is that that level of good practice is not being achieved consistently or universally, but very imperfectly.

I suspect, given our debates so far, that most people across the House would support the measures in the amendment. The Government and, perhaps, one or two others, may argue that the voluntary approach is either more effective or preferable or both. I understand the argument in favour of self-regulation—at least in trying that first. Under the Labour Government, I chaired the internet safety sub-group for a while. It is appropriate to try self-regulation first, but I am clear that although it is good that the Government have built on that approach and recognised the importance of the issue, it is time to put these measures on a statutory footing.

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