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House of Lords

Thursday, 13 March 2014.

11 am

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Newcastle.

Royal Assent

11.06 am

The following Acts were given Royal Assent:

Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) Act,

Children and Families Act,

National Insurance Contributions Act,

Citizenship (Armed Forces) Act,

International Development (Gender Equality) Act,

Leasehold Reform (Amendment) Act,

Offender Rehabilitation Act,

Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act,

Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act.

Social Tenancies: Home-working

Question

11.07 am

Asked by Baroness Grender

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress has been made to encourage social landlords to amend new and existing tenancies to make it easier to work from home under schemes such as the new enterprise allowance.

Earl Attlee (Con): My Lords, this Government are helping entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises to start and to grow by ensuring that the business support provided is simpler, more joined-up and accessible. The department has also alerted social landlords to guidance issued by the Chartered Institute of Housing which advises them on how to support and encourage their tenants to work from home, including information on how to amend existing tenancies if necessary.

Baroness Grender (LD): My Lords, I recently met a lady who is setting up her own business at home. However, because she is a council tenant she has to get permission. While the best councils and housing associations have already removed this restriction, many others have not. Does the Minister agree that this can be very constraining and is a bureaucratic and old-fashioned practice that should go? What can he do to urge all landlords to encourage rather than constrain their own tenants?

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Earl Attlee: My Lords, as I have indicated, we have put out advice to all social landlords on the need to seriously consider allowing their tenants to set up businesses. There is a misconception among social tenants that they cannot run a business from a council flat. They can, but they need to apply for permission from the landlord. This process is necessary because the landlord needs to be able to accept sensible web-based businesses while not allowing industrial processes to be carried out from the flat.

Lord McKenzie of Luton (Lab): My Lords, should a social landlord acknowledge a room as being available for home-working, would that preclude it being a spare bedroom for the purposes of the bedroom tax?

Earl Attlee: My Lords, the noble Lord has not disappointed me one little bit: I was certain that he would not be able to resist this opportunity. The spare room subsidy encourages people to make full use of their property and to consider running a small business—which I think is highly desirable.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes (Con): My Lords, is the Minister aware that under planning law you are entitled to carry out any sort of business if it is your own property, provided that it is subsidiary to the residential use? I had a dental surgery in a house we lived in and that was permitted. Has the law changed, or is a restriction in the lease imposed by the landlord preventing tenants having this right?

Earl Attlee: My Lords, the matter we are discussing is a restriction in the lease which can appear to discourage tenants from carrying on their business. Some leases are drafted in a way that makes it clear that the landlord is likely to agree to sensible variations, while other leases appear not to be so helpful. A properly educated person will realise that there is a distinct possibility, whereas others could be discouraged. I think that that is one of the issues that my noble friend Lady Grender raised with me.

Lord Howarth of Newport (Lab): My Lords, further to the question put by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, can the Minister advise the House whether it is now the case that planning regulations no longer constrain the scope for people to nurture fledgling businesses—and, indeed, more substantial businesses—in their own home, because that used not to be the case?

Earl Attlee: My Lords, that is a detailed question about the planning rules and I shall have to write to the noble Lord.

Lord Taylor of Goss Moor (LD): My Lords, in 2008, in the rural housing review that I conducted for the previous Government, I precisely recommended that no social landlord should require a tenant to seek permission to run a business from their home if doing so would cause no nuisance. I am glad to say, as chair of the National Housing Federation, that that is the recommendation that we make to all our housing association members and that most of them agree.

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However, does my noble friend agree that in order to access the opportunities that running your own business from home can provide, it is almost universally necessary these days that you have internet access, but that whereas 90% of those in the private sector have access to the internet, fully 30% of those in social housing do not? Is there anything that Ministers can do to help social tenants get access to the internet—and to do so as a matter of right in the modern world, not as a matter of whether they can afford it?

Earl Attlee: My Lords, we are acutely aware of the need for internet access. I am sure that my noble friend is right about the percentages, but I do not think that it is that difficult to secure an internet connection. He suggested that landlords should not have the right to restrict people from starting up businesses. It is right that landlords should be involved in such decisions on behalf of other tenants in order to make sure that undesirable businesses are not started up in residential accommodation.


Alcohol: Calorie Labelling

Question

11.13 am

Asked by Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answer by Earl Howe on 11 February (HL Deb, col. 535), whether they will publish a list of the alcohol producers and retailers who have pledged themselves voluntarily in the Responsibility Deal to display the calories and sugar content of the drink on the labels of their alcohol products.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): My Lords, we welcome companies such as Sainsbury’s, which have taken action in this area. While there is no responsibility deal pledge to voluntarily display energy and sugar content on the labels of alcohol products, we will continue to consider what more can be done through the responsibility deal to improve public health, including through consumer information.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe (Lab): I am truly grateful to the noble Earl for the efforts he has been making to try to persuade the drinks industry and the supermarkets that they have to accept some responsibility for the damage to health that alcohol causes. From the pledges he has been given by the producers and the supermarkets, can he say how many have as yet actually displayed calories and sugar on the labels of their lagers and beers? While I acknowledge that progress is happily now being made with wine, will he say what he intends to do, given that Tesco and Morrisons have now publicly stated that in no way will they go down this route?

Earl Howe: My Lords, I mentioned Sainsbury’s, which is setting a very good example in this area, but I can tell the noble Lord that Waitrose and the Co-op have also taken steps to display calories on their

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own-brand alcohol labelling. Naturally, we hope that others will follow their lead. As yet, none has, and it is a pity that Tesco has said that it will not, but we will continue to work on this issue. Work is also going on at a European level, and the noble Lord may like to know that the UK pressed for mandatory energy declarations during negotiations on the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation. It met with significant resistance, and we did not succeed, but we are still pressing for that.

Baroness Sharples (Con):Does my noble friend have any estimate of the number of shoppers who actually read the labels?

Earl Howe: No, I do not, but it is worth noting that 49 businesses have signed up to the voluntary responsibility deal pledge on awareness of alcohol units, calories and other information. Those organisations have published calorie information on their websites about every single alcohol product. If one is buying online, it is possible to compare one product with another.

Lord Turnberg (Lab): My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that alcopops are rearing their heads again? These sweetened drinks have sugar added to them to make them attractive, in a cynical attempt to bring the young on board to alcohol. They contain more than 170 calories a bottle—about the same as a sweetened chocolate milk drink—as well as the alcohol. Is there anything we can do to bring this to the attention of the supermarkets? I believe Sainsbury’s has alcopops on its shelves now.

Earl Howe: My Lords, in fact, sales of alcopops are in marked decline, to such an extent that the market for these products looks like disappearing in the next few years. Nevertheless, I take the noble Lord’s point. It is always a concern if people are putting their health at risk by drinking too much alcohol or consuming too much sugar. At the same time, one should not always assume that an alcopop is a high-calorie drink. For example, ready-mixed gin and tonic is technically an alcopop, but very often low-calorie tonic goes into it.

Lord Taverne (LD): My Lords, there is an unfavourable contrast in the behaviour of the UK alcohol industry as compared with the French when it comes to social responsibility. The UK alcohol industry strongly markets super-strong beers and lagers as the cheapest way of getting alcohol, whereas the French industry has suppressed access to low-quality wines and other cheap drinks through pricing. Would my noble friend urge the industry in the UK, as part of the social responsibility deal, to follow the French example?

Earl Howe: My noble friend may like to know that, in fact, 125 companies have pledged, under the responsibility deal, to help people drink within the guidelines. Perhaps the most significant pledge that has been made is the one by more than 30 alcohol retailers and producers to remove 1 billion units of alcohol from the market—around 2%—by the end

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of 2015. Companies, pub chains and retailers have also made a whole range of other pledges. We are making significant progress in this area.

Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top (Lab): My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Earl is aware of quite how much this costs the NHS. Abuse of alcohol is very damaging to families and to individuals but also costs the NHS a fortune. Is it not about time that we, and the Government, took responsibility by backing the consumer, the patient and the taxpayer rather than siding with the drinks companies? Is it not about time not only for labelling, as my noble friend has called for, but for a minimum pricing policy?

Earl Howe: The noble Baroness raises a number of areas. We believe that this issue can benefit from action on a number of fronts. One of them is the responsibility deal to persuade the industry to take voluntary action. We are making significant progress in this area. Of course, the other is behaviour change by individuals and the choices that people make. Ultimately, people need to take control of their own behaviour, and the Chief Medical Officer is currently overseeing a review of the alcohol guidelines so that people can make informed choices about their drinking at all stages of their life.

Lord Lawson of Blaby (Con): My Lords, my noble friend Lord Taverne asked my noble friend the Minister to commend the French for their high-price wine policy. I commend them for their low-price wine policy. At home in France, I buy a very good everyday drinking wine from my local wine grower for €8 for a five-litre box.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Earl Howe: My Lords, I would love to receive details but, once again, it is a question of how much my noble friend consumes rather than how much he pays.

Lord Harrison (Lab): My Lords, the Minister may recall that last September I shared with him my concern at the ever-rising alcoholic content of wines that are on sale in supermarkets and the need for greater provision of lower percentage wines so that the consumer can indeed make a choice. What progress has he made in that area?

Earl Howe: My Lords, this area is currently under scrutiny by my ministerial colleagues in the Treasury.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab): My Lords, the noble Earl mentioned the Chief Medical Officer. Did he see her comment last week that the Government ought to consider a sugar tax? What response have the Government made to their own Chief Medical Officer?

Earl Howe: My Lords, as I have just indicated to the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, taxation is always an instrument that Governments consider. We continue

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to keep the international evidence on that under review, but we think that for now the voluntary action we have put in place is delivering results. We will keep a close eye on progress but taxation is always an instrument that Governments can deploy.


Railways: High Speed 2 Review

Question

11.22 am

Asked by Lord Truscott

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will reconsider their decision not to publish the November 2011 Major Projects Authority review into HS2.

Lord Popat (Con): My Lords, the Government do not intend to reconsider their decision not to release the November 2011 MPA report. The decision to exercise the power of veto to override the decision of the Information Commissioner to release the report was not taken lightly and carefully took into account the views of the Cabinet and the Information Commissioner, and the wider public interest.

Lord Truscott (Non-Afl): I thank the Minister for that reply, but if HS2 is such a good project, I still cannot see what the Government have got to hide. However, does the Minister agree with that group of dangerous left-wing environmentalists—the Institute of Directors—that:

“Across the country, there simply is not the level of business support to justify blowing Britain’s infrastructure budget on a project with such potential to turn into a white elephant”?

Lord Popat: My Lords, there has been widespread discussion in this House and the other place and there is widespread acceptance by all the political parties of the benefits of HS2. HS2 is about not just speed but capacity, regeneration, job creation and growth. It will connect nine major cities. It is one of the largest infrastructure projects we have and we should welcome it.

Lord Clark of Windermere (Lab): My Lords, will the Minister confirm that there is no business case whatever for HS2 north of Manchester? Will he further confirm that the decision not to have tilting trains inevitably means that all the stations north of Wigan will in fact have an inferior service?

Lord Popat: My Lords, I do not have in my brief details of the line north of Manchester. I will be happy to write to the noble Lord.

Lord Bradshaw (LD): Does the Minister agree that a lot of the demands that we have just heard for the publication of out-of-date information are really mischief-making by opponents of HS2, who wish to use the information only to pick further holes in the case? Last weekend, I was handed a leaflet by people who are against HS2 which referred to the “ultra high-speed

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line”. That is absolute nonsense, because the trains will run at the same speed as they do now on the Great Western and north-eastern lines and have done for 40 years. Does the Minister agree that it is right to leave the matter in the hands of the extremely competent chairman of HS2, who will come forward shortly with his proposals to cheapen and extend the project?

Lord Popat: I agree with the noble Lord that we have in Mr Higgins the best of chairmen for HS2. The Major Projects Authority, which was set up by this Government, monitors all major projects in the UK such as HS2 and gives us an annual report on whether we are on time, within cost and how well the project is doing.

Lord Cormack (Con): My Lords, how can my noble friend justify not releasing the report? He says that we want a widespread discussion. How can we have that discussion if we are kept in the dark on certain vital pieces of information? Those who are opposed are going to suspect the worst. If the report presents an absolutely clinching argument for HS2, let us have it.

Lord Popat: My noble friend makes a very important observation here. I again stress that the decision not to publish this report was not taken lightly. It was decided not to publish because it was not in the public interest to do so. The Secretary of State’s reasoning has been laid before the House. He focused on three specific reasons as to why the report was an exceptional case: first, the exceptional importance of the HS2 project; secondly, the extremely strong public interest in showing that expenditure on HS2 is properly and robustly overseen and controlled; and, finally, the short timeframe between the production of the project assessment review and the request for information, and the timing of the request at this particular stage of policy development within the HS2 project.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, is it not in the public interest to have transparency and access, as the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, has just said, to all the details? How can we have a well informed public debate? Will the Minister at least tell the House the Government’s current estimate of what HS2 will actually cost?

Lord Popat: On the noble Lord’s first point, this Government have a strong record on transparency.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Popat: Yes, they do, my Lords. Last year, they published the first ever Major Projects Authority report, covering transparency on all our major projects. The HS2 project is already subject to extensive scrutiny, including 10 public consultations in the first three years, lasting a combined total of more than 12 months. In addition, it has been scrutinised by the National Audit Office, the Public Accounts Committee, the Transport Select Committee, the Treasury Select Committee and the courts—most recently, the Supreme Court.

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Lord Grocott (Lab): In the further interests of transparency, will the Minister make available and easily accessible in the Lords Library the debates in the Lords on the original line of the London to Birmingham railway in the early part of the 19th century? Noble Lords can read there of the ferocious opposition there was from all quarters of this House, explaining that the line would destroy wildlife, wreck communities and be a white elephant. I congratulate the Government on standing firm on this issue. Why look in the crystal ball when we can all read the history books?

Lord Popat: I take the point that the noble Lord has made. I will ask the department to make sure that something is placed in the Library from the public records.

Baroness Wheatcroft (Con): My Lords, might this be a more popular project if we stopped referring to HS2 and referred to North-South 2?

Lord Popat: My Lords, we have HS1 and this is HS2. It is in a “Y” shape, so it will go to both the east and the west from the south.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab): My Lords, the noble Lord said that this Government are interested in transparency. Is he aware that we are still waiting for the publication of the risk register about the nonsensical Health and Social Care Act 2012? As to the public interest, does the noble Lord agree that in addition to the issue of speed, the key issue is capacity? The fact is that trains on the current lines going through the Midlands to the north are very full indeed, and capacity has to be dealt with.

Lord Popat: My Lords, since privatisation, capacity has doubled in the past 20 years and hence we have HS2 coming. In the mean time, we are addressing capacity as the number one issue and the whole purpose of HS2.

Crimea

Question

11.30 am

Asked by Lord Renwick of Clifton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what further measures they intend to discuss with their European Union and NATO partners concerning the prospect of Russia proceeding to a formal annexation of Crimea.

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): My Lords, the European Council agreed on 6 March that if Russia does not co-operate in de-escalating tension in Crimea, a second phase of measures, including asset freezes and travel bans, will be implemented. If further unacceptable Russian steps are taken, there will be additional far-reaching

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consequences. NATO has put the entire range of NATO-Russian co-operation under review and suspended working-level meetings. NATO will continue to make strong political statements if Russian behaviour warrants it.

Lord Renwick of Clifton (CB): I thank the Minister for that reply. Clearly, the formal annexation of Crimea by Russia will require an additional western response. Otherwise, if Russia were emboldened to seek to intervene also in eastern Ukraine, that would lead to a shooting war and an uncontrollable situation. I feel sure that Members of this House will wish to see a clear warning given to Russia and effective assistance to Ukraine.

Baroness Warsi: My Lords, the Government’s position, supported by the Opposition, has always been to try to de-escalate the situation and ensure that diplomatic contact is the way that this matter is resolved. The matter is continuously changing. My noble friend Lord Hill of Oareford updated the House by repeating the Prime Minister’s Statement earlier this week. I can inform the noble Lord that further meetings are planned for tomorrow and we are doing all we can to persuade Russia that the annexation of Crimea and, indeed, the referendum, which we see as illegal and illegitimate, should not go ahead.

Lord Wood of Anfield (Lab): My Lords, I ask for clarification of the Government’s approach to this crisis. The UK is a signatory to the 1994 Budapest memorandum, which protects Ukraine’s territorial integrity. What is the Government’s legal understanding of what action that commits the UK Government to in the event that another signatory, such as Russia, violates its terms? Is the UK Government’s position that the aim of talks between Ukraine and Russia, which we all hope will take place in the near future, is to reaffirm the commitment to the Budapest memorandum or to supersede it with a new agreement?

Baroness Warsi: My Lords, the Budapest agreement is very clear. It basically lays out Russia’s obligations in relation to respecting the territorial integrity and independence of the state of Ukraine. We believe that Russia’s actions are in breach of that. That is why we have made it clear that it is important that we try to resolve the matter by de-escalating what military activity is happening on Ukrainian soil and through talks.

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon (LD): My Lords, is my noble friend aware that evidence has come to light in the past 48 hours that Russia is now directly interfering in the domestic affairs of Bosnia-Herzegovina in a way that can only have the effect of encouraging Serb secessionism in that country? Given the fragility of Bosnia and its history, both recent and long past, is not an attempt to draw Bosnia-Herzegovina into the wider Ukrainian crisis an act of breathtaking irresponsibility, and what will the Government do to encourage the European Union to take the strongest moves on this matter?

Baroness Warsi: My noble friend is a huge expert in this area. Part of our diplomatic efforts in the current crisis have been to avoid this spreading much wider. There have been real concerns about comparisons that

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the Russians have been drawing between other disputes, past and present, and Crimea. My view is that of my noble friend, which is that Europe must continue to concentrate on trying to resolve the challenges that we have in the Balkans and not allow the two issues to be mixed.

Lord West of Spithead (Lab): My Lords, 213 years ago today, Lord Nelson, en route to the Battle of Copenhagen, wrote to Lady Hamilton:

“I hate your pen and ink men; a fleet of British ships of war are the best negotiators in Europe”.

I am not suggesting for a moment that there should be a military solution to this, but does the Minister not agree that the abysmal spending on defence across the EU means that we have no hard power as an adjunct to soft power and that, in a world inhabited by people like President Putin, you need both?

Baroness Warsi: My Lords, I hear what the noble Lord has to say but the Government’s clear view, and indeed the view of the EU and the US, is that this matter needs to be resolved through political and diplomatic means.

Lord Bowness (Con): My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the actions of the Russian Federation are clearly contrary to the provisions of the Helsinki Final Act? Therefore, what role does she see for the OSCE in this matter? What discussions are we having within that organisation? Are any actions proposed? I ask these questions as a member of the OSCE parliamentary delegation.

Baroness Warsi: I agree with my noble friend’s assessment of the situation. He may be aware that OSCE observers are on the ground at the moment in Ukraine. They have not been given access to Crimea. They are there at the request of the Ukrainian Government. We feel that further access should be given so that we can get a better assessment of the situation on the ground.

Lord Anderson of Swansea (Lab): My Lords, President Putin appears to assume that the western response will be weak, relying on the precedents of Georgia, Litvinenko and Magnitsky, and of course the clash of interests. Building on what the noble Lord said about the OSCE, does the Minister agree that there are implications for Russian membership of the Council of Europe, the senior human rights organisation in Europe? Should the Government consider taking the initiative in the Council of Ministers in response to the Russian invasion?

Baroness Warsi: My Lords, there are implications for Russia’s membership of all sorts of multilateral organisations as a result of its actions. The G8 preparations and talks have been suspended and the OECD has now suspended accession negotiations, which will have a real impact on Russia’s standing regarding trade and investment. I can inform the House that there will now be a Secretary Kerry/Lavrov meeting in London tomorrow and we hope that some progress will come out of that.

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Lord Howell of Guildford (Con): My Lords, although I appreciate the call from the noble Lord, Lord West, for more frigates to meet the situation, does my noble friend recognise that in today’s world the most powerful means of persuasion lie as much in the area of electronic communication, cyber operations and financial and electronic operations as they do in the classical 20th-century ideas of more dreadnoughts and more troops on the ground?

Baroness Warsi: They do, and of course trade and investment are a huge part of that. The losses suffered on MICEX a few days ago have had an impact and it has not completely recovered. There is clear evidence that this is having an impact on the Russian economy and we hope that these are factors that the Foreign Minister will bear in mind when he has discussions tomorrow.

Education: Social Mobility

Motion to Take Note

11.38 am

Moved by Lord Nash

To move that this House takes note of the role of primary and secondary education in improving social mobility.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash) (Con): My Lords, I thank noble Lords for the opportunity to debate the role of primary and secondary schools in improving social mobility. We believe in higher standards for all, no matter what a child’s background, and we are committed to getting every child’s education right. From early years education and curriculum reforms through to more freedom for teachers and better vocational education, improving social mobility underpins absolutely everything that we are doing. Our reforms can be summarised in a few words: raising the bar and closing the gap.

It is possible to look at the education sector in this country with the benefit of hindsight and conclude that successive Governments have managed it for appearance’s sake. Over the past third of a century the number of pupils getting a C grade in GCSE maths has risen from 22% to 73% with no apparent increase in performance, and between 2006 and 2009 alone the number of pupils getting a C grade in GCSE maths and English rose by 8% when, at the same time, PISA showed a slight fall in the proportion of English pupils who achieved highly.

Then we had the greatest confidence trick ever perpetrated on the English public: the absolute scandal of GCSE equivalents, whereby subjects that were often not valued by employers and did the pupils taking them no favours were hugely overrated in terms of their GCSE-equivalent status.

You might think that a young person who has five A* to C grade GCSEs, including English and maths, would indeed have five GCSEs, but not a bit of it. In many cases they merely had English and maths and the rest were entirely made up of equivalents, often in

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merely one subject. For instance, a BTEC higher-level diploma in fish husbandry, in which there were no examinations, equated to four GCSEs. Other favourite equivalent subjects of mine are cake decorating, health and safety and hazard control. The fact that many pupils took these subjects is not the fault of teachers, as they can only respond to the incentives put on them by Governments, but as a result of these incentives, under the Labour Government, the number of pupils taking a core academic suite of subjects fell from 50% to 22%.

Something similar happened to content. For instance, more than 90% of questions answered on novels in English literature are on three books: Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird and Lord of the Flies. In the country that gave us Chaucer, Hardy, Dickens, Trollope, Austen and the Brontës—I could go on and on—how can this be, excellent though these books are? It is an example of how the curriculum has been hijacked by political correctness, victim culture, guilt trips and the concept of relevance. For instance, in history, children are doing Nazism over and over again with no concept of the broad sweep of history.

Additionally, about a third of a century ago there grew up a myth that the human brain was like a computer or a calculator and that it just needed to acquire skills and did not need knowledge. More recent cognitive science shows that in order for the brain to learn skills, it needs knowledge to apply what Michael Young of the Institute of Education has called “powerful knowledge”.

Throw in a couple of other things, such as the false perception that there was such a thing as the perfect Ofsted lesson, minimum teaching from the front, group work, lots of activities, peer review, a plenary at the end, the abolition of competitive sports in many schools and the fact that many teachers were unaware of the boundaries to the behaviour strategies they could employ, and it is hardly surprising that during the first decade of this century we plummeted down the international league tables as other countries in the Far East and eastern Europe overtook us. Nor is it surprising that our school leavers are among the most illiterate and innumerate in the developed world, coming joint bottom in a recent OECD survey of 24 countries for literacy and 21st out of 24 for numeracy; or that, as Alan Milburn tells us, we are the most socially immobile country in Europe, so that we, the sixth-largest economy in the world, rank in the mid-twenties for the quality of our education.

This cannot go on. It is not fair on our children. We cannot compete internationally with education of this standard, and the only way we can break that dreadful cycle of worklessness and generational unemployment that we see in so many of our inner cities, coastal towns, former mining villages and other areas is through education. That is why this Government have such an extensive programme of educational reforms in place.

We know that the barriers to social mobility start right from a child’s early years. By the time children reach the age of five there is already a 12% achievement gap between those from lower-income households and the rest. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds

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can, therefore, benefit most from attending a high-quality pre-school setting. We are the first Government to fund 15 hours of free childcare for all disadvantaged two year-olds, we have extended the benefits of funded early learning for three and four year-olds from 12.5 to 15 hours per week, and we are raising the status and quality of the early years workforce.

My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Schools is currently making a Statement in the other place about action we are taking to deliver fairer funding in English schools. For too long, the system has been out of date, and schools with many disadvantaged pupils can end up being funded at a level well below nearby schools in affluent areas. Today we are announcing a substantial, £350 million, boost to schools in the least fairly funded local authorities in this country. This represents a huge step forwards towards fair funding in English schools and will make a real difference on the ground. The details of our proposals are set out in a consultation document being published today, and a copy will be placed in the House Library.

It is also important that children are well fed. Nutrition is the foundation of effective learning and development, which is why we are funding free school meals for all infant school pupils from September this year, and why we are also providing funding to help set up breakfast clubs and providing every primary school pupil with a free piece of fruit each day.

We have provided additional funding for disadvantaged children through the pupil premium. Pupil premium funding will rise from £1.9 billion to £2.5 billion in 2014-15. The primary school rate will increase from £900 to £1,300 and, for the first time, all pupils who are looked after or leave care through adoption, special guardianship or residence orders will attract £1,900 from April 2014. We are starting to see the positive impact of the pupil premium. In July 2013’s key stage 2 tests, the gap in attainment between these pupils and other pupils in key stage 2 has narrowed by 3.7% since 2010, moving from 17% to 13.2% in 2013. The gap is also starting to narrow in secondary schools.

While closing the gap, we must also raise the bar across the system and we are committed to reforming the school curriculum and exams. We are reforming the national curriculum to equip all young people with the essential knowledge and skills they need to succeed in life by working with academic experts from around the world. In particular, we know that a confident grasp of maths and English is vital, with maths providing the strongest links to future earnings and employment. That is why we have made it a priority to ensure that no student leaves school without reaching a good standard in both disciplines.

In primary schools, we have introduced phonics at every stage of English teaching so that teachers can intervene early to help children catch up and we are increasing the emphasis on spelling, punctuation and grammar. We are strengthening the primary maths curriculum with a greater emphasis on arithmetic. We are introducing a new requirement to teach a foreign language at key stage 2. At secondary school level, we are providing a literacy and numeracy catch-up premium of £500.

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We are introducing a new computing curriculum which encourages students to see how they could create technology as well as simply use it and is unique among major economies. Our new design and technology curriculum places a greater emphasis on the links with maths, science and computing and will prepare pupils for the cutting-edge technology industries of the future. All students, whether on academic or vocational courses, will be expected to continue to study English and maths if they did not achieve a GCSE grade C in these subjects by the age of 16.

In further education, we are introducing new core maths qualifications which build on GCSE study for students who achieve a B or C in GCSE maths, and will also be valuable for those with A* and A who are not taking A or AS-level maths. In addition, we are supporting increased take-up of A-level maths and further maths. Maths and English will also play a more important role in vocational education. From 2014-15, all intermediate apprentices will be required to work towards a level 2 in English and maths, and all people undertaking a traineeship will also be required to study English and maths, unless they have achieved a GCSE A* to C in those subjects.

Aside from the importance of developing strong literacy and numeracy skills, we know that disadvantaged children, in particular, benefit from the core cultural capital that comes with access to a breadth of basic knowledge and a core suite of academic subjects, as is found in all successful education jurisdictions. This was recently confirmed in a study by Edinburgh University. To quote the right honourable Diane Abbott MP:

“It is precisely if you don’t have parents to put in a word for you in a tough jobs market that you need the assurance of rigorous qualifications”.

Our EBacc measure is achieving exactly this. Since the EBacc’s introduction, the proportion of students taking the academic subjects in state-funded schools has risen from 22% to 35%, and we are expecting that to grow further this year. The proportion of FSM pupils taking the EBacc has more than doubled since 2011. In the past year alone, history entries went up 19% and geography by 21%. Language study is also increasing rapidly, with Spanish up 31% since 2012.

In addition, we are making GCSEs and A-levels more stretching. Following a public consultation in 2013, the new GCSEs have been drafted by experts to ensure that the reformed qualifications match those in line with the highest-performing jurisdictions. We are working with Russell group universities to restore rigour to A-levels so that students from all backgrounds can apply to university with highly valued qualifications. We are already seeing success. In March last year, UCAS reported that the proportion of 18 year-olds from the most disadvantaged backgrounds applying to university increased to the highest level ever recorded.

Another way to ensure that disadvantaged children have access to cultural capital is through a rounded curriculum that includes character-building activities. We are strongly encouraging as many schools as possible to set a longer school day, including rich, raising-aspirations programmes for their pupils. We also want pupils to be able to access the cadet experience as part of school life. We are making progress towards this,

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having already established 28 cadet units. Our target for 2015 is 100 units. We are ramping up the National Citizen Service, and investing £150 million in primary school sport.

It is vital that we make schools more accountable for the achievement of our most disadvantaged children. As the Shadow Secretary of State for Education said recently:

“The great crime was an awful lot of effort being put on kids getting a C at GCSE, then not going further. There should be no limits—the system should be saying how far can this child go?”.

I could not agree more. Hence our move towards the new Progress 8 measure from 2016. That will track the progress of all pupils of whatever ability throughout their school careers, rather than encouraging schools to focus excessively on their pupils who are near the GCSE C/D borderline. We will value the progress of every child—low attainers and high performers alike. In addition, schools will not normally be judged outstanding by Ofsted if disadvantaged pupils are not making at least good progress. We are also publishing details of the attainment of disadvantaged pupils and the in-school gap between them and their peers.

None of what I have outlined above would be possible without our brilliant teachers. I have often said that teaching is the most noble profession. Teachers do a wonderful job, and those many thousands of dedicated, hard-working individuals working in our schools are transforming the lives of thousands of children. We now have the best generation of teachers ever working in our classrooms. Education is now the most popular career destination for Oxford graduates. Some 14% of its graduates enter teaching—a remarkable figure—and 74% of graduates entering teaching have a First or Upper Second degree, the highest percentage since records began. We have quadrupled the size of Teach First, now the largest recruiter of graduates in our country, and extended it into primary schools as well as to every region of the country.

We are also changing the way we recruit teachers. The School Direct programme, launched by Charlie Taylor, an outstanding headmaster, enables our best schools to hand-pick the most exceptional candidates and our prospective teachers to start their careers in our best schools. That has proved extremely popular with both schools and trainees, attracting more applicants per place than any other training route, with three applicants for every place compared with 1.8 for training provision delivered by a university.

We are also offering new bursaries worth up to £25,000 to attract top graduates into teaching maths, physics and chemistry. Last year we recruited a record number of physics trainees. For those already in the profession, we are giving heads more freedom and scope to make decisions in line with pupils’ needs. Our new Teachers’ Standards remove unnecessary bureaucracy, and we have freed up teachers to teach as they wish so long as pupils are making progress.

We have strengthened the ability of teachers to discipline pupils and, through reform that links pay and performance, we have made it easier for schools to reward good performance and attract the top graduates and professionals. We have set up almost 350 teaching

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schools which support other schools to improve teacher training. In addition, of course, there is the academies programme.

The genesis of the academies programme itself was of course the city technology programme introduced by my noble friend Lord Baker, whereby 15 failing schools were essentially taken over by entrepreneurs. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, took that programme and beefed it up substantially, and by 2010, 15 CTCs had become 203 academies with about 70 in the pipeline. I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and my noble friend Lord Baker—both of whom I am delighted to see in their places today—for the sheer brilliance of the academy concept. We have taken the number of sponsored academies now to more than 1,000 up and down the country. Schools that were left to languish in failure by their local authorities for years, with perhaps occasional and soft intervention, are now being turned around permanently by strong academy sponsors.

Those are schools such as ARK’s Charter Academy in Portsmouth, where results have more than trebled since the school became an academy in 2009 against a backdrop of high local deprivation, with 68% of pupils gaining five A* to C grades, including in English and maths, in 2013. Then there are Outwood Grange’s Portland Academy, where results rose from 57% of pupils achieving five A* to C grades, including English and maths in 2012, to 75% in 2013, and Greenwood Dale’s Stanground Academy in Peterbrough, where results have improved from 39% achieving five A* to C grades, including English and maths, in 2012, to 62% in 2013.

The academies programme is working across the piece. The performance of sponsored academies is far outstripping that of other schools; for instance, sponsored academies that have been open for three years improved their GCSE results last summer by 12% versus 6% for other schools. The latest Ofsted Annual Report on schools found that:

“Sponsor-led academies are delivering a step change in performance for chronically underperforming schools”.

We have also allowed all good schools to become academies in their own right, and a further approximately 2,500 schools have done this. These convertor academies do better than local authority maintained schools against the new tougher Ofsted framework.

Some 60% of secondary schools are now academies or on the way to becoming academies. We have now focused our attention on primary schools; indeed, we are the first Government to really focus our attention on the underperformance of primary schools. Some 11% of primary schools are now academies, and we have taken more than 500 underperforming primary schools and turned them into sponsored academies. We are focusing the academy programme on school-to-school support by groups of schools in local geographic areas. Half of academies have engaged with a vulnerable school or schools to raise standards.

We have also taken the academies programme and expanded it into the free schools programme under which any group can apply to the Government to open a new school. Our free schools programme is benefiting disadvantaged children in particular, with 70% of open secondary free schools in areas of basic need, and

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every primary free school in an area of basic need. We have created 150,000 new places through this programme. At the end of 2013, 73% of free schools inspected were rated good or outstanding, compared to 64% of all schools inspected in the same timeframe.

I think we have all been a little confused about the Labour Party’s policy on free schools, but I am pleased to see that the shadow Education Secretary has now made it clear. He originally said that it would be parent-led academies, but I was delighted to see that on the “Sunday Politics” show recently he amended this to say that they will be academies led by social entrepreneurs and parents—in other words, free schools with another name.

Alongside academies and free schools, both our UTCs and studio schools provide high-quality technical education to 14 to 19 year-olds alongside academic GSCEs and A-levels. There are currently 17 open UTCs which have been designed and delivered in partnership with more than 200 employers and more than 40 different universities, with a further 33 approved. Twenty-eight studio schools are now open and over 400 employers are involved, with a further 18 approved.

The last piece of our holistic reform of education is ensuring that success at school is transferred into gainful employment. To equip our young people to compete in a global market, we need to end what my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education has called the,

“apartheid between academic and practical learning”,

and see practical, technical and vocational training integrated and as rigorous as academic learning. Professor Alison Wolf carried out an independent review of vocational education; she found that vocational education was immensely valuable as part of a broad curriculum, but made it clear that changes were needed to prevent schools enrolling pupils on low-quality qualifications that do not promote progression to further education or employment. We have slashed the number of qualifications approved for reporting from 3,175 to 180 for 14 to 16 year-olds and from 3,721 to 318 for 16 to 18 year-olds. Along with our TechBacc, these reforms will identify existing high-value vocational qualifications, spur the development of new vocational qualifications and provide students in England with a respected, high-status vocational training route to help them compete in the world and give them the skills that employers need.

Ofsted reports that schools have improved faster in the past year than at any time in its history. Our reforms are working. They are extensive, but they are necessary and I commend them to the House.

11.59 am

Lord Storey (LD): My Lords, on this auspicious day when the Children and Families Bill receives Royal Assent, I congratulate my noble friend the Minister—the noble Lord, Lord Nash—on having secured this important debate.

I am always conscious that when we in Parliament at Westminster debate education, schools and schooling we are talking only about England. We are not talking about Scotland. The only power that we have in Scotland

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is over teachers’ conditions of service. We are not talking about Wales either, so let us be clear that the debate in many respects is about the English education system and English schools. Perhaps we should give our Secretary of State the new title of Secretary of State for Education in England.

Why do some talented children grow up to fulfil their potential and develop their talents in particular fields while others, sadly, never reach their potential? Or, to put it another way, what can we do to help all children succeed in life? There is no one answer, but surely it is our job to ask these difficult questions and find common threads that can help.

A person’s life chances ought not to be decided by the circumstances of their birth. Education and schooling must be the key to unlocking the door so that all children have the opportunity to thrive and prosper. What happens in the period from birth to the age of seven will decide a person’s life chances. It is suggested that all interventions after that period will have only a marginal effect. The country’s poorest children are likely to do worse, and make less progress, than their better-off classmates. I am reminded of the saying attributed to Ignatius Loyola: “Give me a boy to the age of seven and I’ll make him a man”. It is a little outdated, yes, but the maxim is as true today as it was hundreds of years ago.

Of course, we know that a child’s brain does not fully develop until about the age of seven, so the foundations need to be laid at this formative stage to make sure that learning can flourish and grow. We need to make sure that any problems are indentified at an early stage and, once they have been identified, that intervention strategies are put in place. Take reading, for example, which is probably the building block of all school learning. If a child is struggling with his or her reading by the time they get to key stage 2, it is an uphill struggle from there on in. Let me emphasise again—I underline it and underline it—that if a child is struggling with reading by the time they get to key stage 2, it will be a real struggle. As the Native American poet, Sherman Alexie, put it:

“If one reads enough books one has a fighting chance. Or better, one’s chances of survival increase with each book one reads”.

This sounds like an easy solution, but the fact of the matter is that, sadly, we can pinpoint the problem exactly. It starts when children come from homes where there is no love of books, no ethos about the importance of reading, and where parents, or carers, do not share books with their children. Children need, and thrive on, verbal communication. They need to feel, touch, explore, and even chew books when they are babies. They need parents to share stories with them every day. A true love of reading needs to be kindled, and nurtured, from a young age. You can literally say that non-readers and struggling readers will have a huge uphill struggle once they get past seven.

The figures speak for themselves. Children who do not reach the expected attainment levels of English and maths at seven are unlikely to do well at 16. Fewer than one in six children from lower income families who have fallen behind by the age of seven go on to

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achieve five good GCSEs, including English and maths. If a child from a disadvantaged family is already behind with reading by the age of seven, they have only a one in five chance of going on to achieve a grade C in GCSE English. We must, and should, ensure that building blocks are in place at an early stage, as falling behind at school, as I have suggested, has such a monumental impact on a child’s future life chances, and hence their social mobility.

The qualifications a young person leaves school with matter enormously to their chances of future employment. Just look at the furore at the PISA results. Indeed, Save the Children showed that, never mind the lack of opportunities afforded to the child, this also results in a massive cost to the health and coffers of the nation.

I mentioned early identification of problems and intervention strategies. Again this is crucial to the life chances of any child. Imagine the damage we do to a child by leaving the barriers to their learning and development unchecked, unnoticed and unresolved. That is why many of us have gone on and on about how teachers should, for example, be trained to identify dyslexia, how schools should have a trained person to test and advise, and how schools should have the necessary resources. However, there are many barriers to learning apart from dyslexia. If we could find out what they are early on, we could then deal with them, help the child flourish with their learning and go on to reach their full potential—and, by the way, help the UK economy.

If noble Lords will forgive me, I will stray slightly from the exact wording of the debate and remind us how parents need support in those crucial years of a child’s development. As the Education Select Committee recommends, we must focus our minds not on only a child’s educational development but on facilitating better parenting, improving health outcomes and helping parents back to work. That is why Sure Start centres were so important; they were targeted at the most deprived areas of the UK. Their success meant that there was a demand for universal provision, which strayed slightly from their original remit and purpose.

Some 3,500 centres were developed, which meant that we achieved almost nationwide coverage of children’s centres, but there is a wide variance in what is offered to different communities. Some have fully integrated centres while others have smaller signposting centres. Even with budgetary pressures, there are still 3,000 centres operating, and they have a crucial part to play in child development through the support that they can give to parents.

Yet we have lost direction from the original purpose of these centres. There is confusion as to the lack of a clear, defining model, and there are disparate versions of what is on offer. I agree with the conclusions of the excellent report produced by Barnardo’s, What are Children’s Centres For?. Barnardo’s suggested that they provide early intervention so that they become recognised as an early help service. Children’s centres should focus exclusively on providing services to families, from a child’s conception to school starting age. I

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suggest as much to the Minister. Perhaps the functions, duties and oversight of children’s centres should be placed on a statutory footing. I will leave that with my noble friend.

I mentioned earlier that we are talking about the English education and school systems, but whether a child is in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, a number of important characteristics matter to all children, their learning and their social mobility. That must be about the points that I have perhaps overegged: the importance of the years from birth to the age of seven, and the importance of early identification of problems and early intervention. It is also about having primary and secondary schools with highly motivated teachers who are qualified, valued and respected. I was pleased and impressed to hear the information given by the Minister about, for example, graduates coming into teaching. That is hugely important.

We also need—I would say this, wouldn’t I?—the best possible school leadership. I regret the decision to close the National College for School Leadership, because leadership is not something that you just apply for; you have to have the qualities and characteristics to understand how leadership works. There are other areas that, again, are crucial to social mobility. I do not have time to go into them now but careers education is one example.

I end by saying that I hope we have seen some cataclysmic changes in the English education system over the past few years. I hope that we can start to come to a point where education is no longer an area that we constantly change, and that the political parties will come to a consensus and work with teachers, parents and pupils to ensure that the social mobility that we all want actually happens.

12.10 pm

Baroness Coussins (CB): My Lords, the coalition Government have said that they want to close what they called “the vast gulf” between the life chances of children educated in the state sector and those from independent schools. I should like to use the opportunity of today’s debate to draw attention to the role of learning foreign languages in achieving that objective. If by social mobility we mean being equipped to have more choices, broader horizons and greater employability, then language learning must be a vital component in any educational or wider public policy strategy. Sadly, the status quo is that languages at GCSE, at A-level and at university are increasingly seen as a mark of the advantaged elite. I believe that state schools where languages are not offered or encouraged are doing their pupils a huge disservice in terms of the quality of their education and their future chances in a global labour market.

Before I go on, I should declare interests as chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages and as a vice-president of the Chartered Institute of Linguists.

I know that I am, in theory, knocking on an open door with this argument. DfE Ministers made it clear that the gap between rich and poor in language learning was one of the main drivers behind the EBacc initiative. There has certainly been a positive impact on take-up

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of languages at GCSE in the past two years, attributable to the EBacc. It was notable that the increase was concentrated in schools with the highest levels of social deprivation. The latest GCSE entry figures for languages also show the gap between independent and state schools beginning to narrow. The Government deserve credit for this, but the EBacc is just one part of the jigsaw and by no means enough on its own to turn round the decade of dramatic decline that we have witnessed since 2004, when languages became optional after the age of 14. Indeed, a parliamentary Select Committee report on the EBacc raised questions as to its effectiveness as a measure of progression and social mobility. Nor is it enough to claim that things will improve over time because of the introduction of compulsory languages at key stage 2 from next September. Thoroughly welcome though that is, a great deal of support, recruitment and training still needs to be put in place to ensure the genuine success of key stage 2 languages.

Perhaps I may briefly summarise the evidence for languages being such an important part of any person’s skill set for the 21st century. It is a myth that English is enough. Certainly no one will go very far in business or international relations, academically or culturally unless they speak English. However, if they speak only English, they will find that that is a huge drawback and a limitation on their choices and advancement in pretty much any field. British employers regularly express dissatisfaction with school and college leavers’ foreign language skills. A CBI survey in 2013 revealed that only 36% of employers were happy, although 70% of businesses said that they would value such skills. Our school leavers have the worst language skills in the whole of Europe and are increasingly losing out to their peers from other countries—not just from the EU but from the US, India, China and elsewhere—in a global labour market. A British Academy report last year pointed out that language skills are needed at all levels of the workforce, not just for an internationally mobile elite. A survey in 2011 showed that 27% of vacancies in the UK for admin and clerical jobs went unfilled due to shortages of foreign language skills.

Specialist linguists are needed too, of course. We are desperately short of English native speakers in the interpreting and translation services of the EU and the United Nations. There is a shortage of public service interpreters in this country—those who translate and interpret for people in hospitals, courts and police stations. Language skills are also needed for defence, security and diplomacy purposes. Ironically, some of the languages most needed for this work are present in abundance in our own communities, such as Tamil, Turkish, Somali and Farsi—I could go on. But the Government, very short-sightedly, scrapped the Asset Languages programme which had provided a way for children who speak another language at home to develop that language in a more formal way and have it accredited at GCSE level. What a waste of talent. Will the Minister please take this issue back to the department to persuade the Government to think again about how we can offer children with English as an additional language, who often come from the most socially deprived areas and schools, the opportunity

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to have their language skills recognised and rewarded and shown how this could lead to a range of professional opportunities when they are older?

It is also important to know that learning a foreign language helps you learn everything else. That is another reason why schools are misguided if they deny their pupils a chance to take languages because they are not considered bright enough. Robust evidence shows that learning another language improves children’s literacy and oracy in their own language. Research from America shows that language learners are better at maths and reading tests. At key stage 3, the cognitive benefits from language learning transfer to problem solving, lateral thinking and critical analysis across the curriculum. It is therefore extremely disturbing that the practice of disapplication, whereby certain pupils are removed from the statutory language teaching during key stage 3, seems to be on the increase. I have had the benefit of seeing a preview of the 2013 Language Trends survey; it will be published in a couple of weeks and I have been authorised to refer to it today. It shows that a significant and increasing number of state schools carry out some form of disapplication of pupils from languages at key stage 3, with the result that many lower ability pupils have no experience of learning another language at all. Will the Minister agree to study with particular care this aspect of the Language Trends survey when it comes and take steps to discourage schools from this practice so that all pupils, whatever their level of ability, have access to the cognitive, social and employability benefits of learning a foreign language?

Despite the boost to take-up at GCSE from the EBacc, I am afraid that nearly half of all secondary schools still say that they have no plans to improve their language offer. Take-up overall has halved post-14 in the past decade. Twice as many pupils in independent schools take a language GCSE than in state schools. Even within the state system there is a very worrying variation, with only 14% of children eligible for free school meals getting a good language GCSE, compared with 31% of other state school pupils. This pattern carries on to A-level and to university. A third of all MFL entries at A-level are from independent schools, and at university 28% of students going on to do modern language degrees come from the private sector, compared with only 9.6% across all subjects. Alongside this, there is a distinct lack of opportunities to study a language as part of any vocational course. Only a very small number of FE colleges offer languages and this in turn has implications for employability and the general divide between those who are seen as the academic elite and the rest.

Despite the recent signs of improvement at GCSE and the advent of languages taught at primary school, it has to be said that our language provision is fragile. Competence in at least one language in addition to English should be a 21st century skill that our young people can take for granted. Those who have it will be not only more socially mobile but more culturally aware. Those without it will be left behind. Individual schools should not have to sort this out by themselves, however much the Government want to give them freedom over the curriculum. The Government must give a stronger lead and I urge the Minister to accept this challenge.

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12.20 pm

The Lord Bishop of Newcastle: My Lords, I, too, welcome this debate about the role of primary and secondary education in improving social mobility, and I want to speak from my experience as a bishop in the north-east of England for the past 16 years. The north-east faces serious and significant challenges. Despite having the best record of exports of any region in the country, we have a higher level of unemployment than any other region, particularly youth unemployment, and significant and intractable levels of poverty.

Before I went to the north-east, I served as Bishop of Kingston upon Thames, and the differences are huge and stark. It has been like living in two very different countries, two very different worlds. Social mobility is a much trickier and more complicated concept than it might at first sight appear. We have always to remember the distinction between relative and absolute mobility, but in everyday understanding of the term, I use it to refer to the opportunity for individuals from socially disadvantaged backgrounds to move on in the world. It is about closing the attainment gap between the results achieved by children from disadvantaged backgrounds compared to children elsewhere. The relatively newly formed north-east local enterprise partnership has put schools at the heart of the strategy for economic development of the north-east. It calls for a north-east challenge modelled on the success of London Challenge. However, schools cannot do it all. They can be part of the solution, of course, but there has to be a wider and more integrated response.

In my diocese we have more than 50 Church of England schools. Most are primary or first schools which do very well. Indeed, all across the north-east, at the early years foundation stage the children achieve a good level of development—slightly below the national average, but not much. Furthermore, our primary schools have been judged by Ofsted to have some of the best leadership in the country, and results at the end of key stage 2 seem to support that. However, performance in our secondary schools is not strong—what someone has described as the north-east conundrum. Perhaps that is hardly surprising given the nature and reality of the social context beyond the school gate, where 18 to 24 year-olds experience much higher levels of youth employment than anywhere else. It is quite hard to convince some young people that education really matters.

Just for a moment I want to take your Lordships with me to south-east Northumberland, a former coal-mining area clustered around the famous town of Ashington, home of the Pitmen Painters, and Jackie Milburn, Jack and Bobby Charlton and Steve Harmison. Several years ago I was asked, and I asked myself, “What is the single most important thing we can do for the young people of this area? What is the one thing that would do most to transform the lives of these young people, their families’ and their community?”. The answer was to provide the very best kind of school and education that we could. This led to the birth of the Northumberland Church of England Academy, where the diocese of Newcastle and the

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Duke of Northumberland worked in partnership with the help of the Government to establish this new school. We had to raise £1.5 million to found an academy in those days. It is the largest academy in the country, located on five different sites, serving 2,500 children aged from three to 18. The school has within it a wonderful centre for 100 children and young people with severe and multiple disabilities and special educational needs. I am as proud of the care and the commitment shown by the staff and of the development of those young people there as of anything else that we do—even though, of course, that never ever shows up in school league tables.

More than one-half of all the children in the academy receive free school meals; 47% of the children there are officially defined as living in poverty. There is real deprivation all around. And yet last year half of our young people in the upper sixth—I still cannot get used to calling it year 13—went on to university, one-quarter into apprenticeships and the rest either into further education or some kind of employment. Three-quarters of our 16 year-olds now stay on into the sixth form and, crucially, parental engagement with the school has increased significantly. School attendance is improving, the teaching quality is getting better and progress is moving towards the national averages.

The academy is charged with being a catalyst for change in the community. That is a very big challenge, but it has transformation of the community at its heart. It is about beginning to change the culture and developing children who are well educated in the broadest sense, young people who are resilient, creative, articulate and socially engaged. Education is the only means I know to help social mobility and to begin to break down some of the barriers that hold young people back. To build an aspirational culture that values, encourages and equips every child it has to permeate all that we do, so that we can overcome the social background of disadvantage in which our children find themselves and enable each and every one of them to be the best that they can possibly be. Last year, pupils eligible for the pupil premium outperformed their ineligible peers in GCSE maths, a small indication perhaps that a young person’s background need not hold them back and that, when our schools get it right, we can overcome disadvantage and transform both lives and communities.

So what conclusions do I draw? If our schools are to be successful in transforming communities facing adversity they will need to be supported by a whole and committed network of other groups, including local business, local government, the arts, churches and other local institutions. Partnerships are absolutely vital, whether they be with, say, the Army—which has led to the Combined Cadet Force being established in the academy last year and allied to the Coldstream Guards—or with other schools elsewhere, including independent schools. We need to continue to find new ways of building new networks which will successfully work in harness with our schools.

While good attainments and high-quality qualifications are crucial, we have also got to develop character, confidence, resilience and spiritual development as

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well as academic standards. As the noble Lord, Lord Storey, said, we need clear pathways and encouraging support for young people as they make key decisions about their future. Imagine how hard it is for the bright young girl or boy who is the first in their family ever to consider applying for university to make the kind of choices that will affect the rest of their lives. I know about that from personal experience because I was such a person once upon a time myself. Guidance and good advice are crucial.

This country has some of the very best education institutions in the world and some of the most able and dedicated teachers. Here I join the Minister in paying tribute to our teachers, many of whom are working heroically by almost always going the extra mile, sometimes working against the odds, and yet not feeling as valued and appreciated by the rest of us as they should. We must not underestimate the challenges we face if we are to unlock the potential of every single child so that they have the widest opportunities to become the best they can be. They, like we, can then give back to our own society.

A few weeks ago noble Lords would have found me in the miners’ welfare in Ashington. It is a community centre that is open seven days a week and it is superbly led by a very able young woman. Originally from Ashington, she went away to university but then, crucially, returned to give back to the wider community the benefits of the education that she had received. We need more people like her—people not using their education to escape from the area, but realising that with well trained minds and warm hearts they have much to give for the common good. Fortunately, resilience and a strong sense of local identity, together with shared communal values, are still a strong feature of life in the north-east. To build on them with the best kind of schools we can offer is the way to bring hope for the future, both for individual young people and for their communities, and indeed hope for us all.

12.31 pm

Lord Baker of Dorking (Con): My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Nash on initiating this important debate and I thank him for explaining to the House the various initiatives the Government have taken in order to achieve improvements in the education system. Social mobility has to start in our schools or it can start nowhere. If it does not start at school, there will be virtually no social mobility. In one striking area it has worked very well: namely, in the expansion of universities. Parties around the House have supported this expansion. When I was the Education Secretary, the percentage going on to university was 15%. Just before I left that job I forecast that it would rise to 30% by 2000, and that was slightly exceeded. Today it is close to 50%, and there is no doubt that many children from disadvantaged families now experience the huge richness of university life.

So, three A-levels and a university degree are one pathway to success. I suspect, however, that it will be a rather less crowded pathway in the immediate future because graduate unemployment has now become a common feature. One study examined students who graduated in 2010 to see what they were doing two

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years later. At that point, four out of 10 had got jobs at graduate level, two had jobs at below graduate level, usually in bars and cafés, one was unemployed, and the others were trying to recycle themselves back into the education process. Added to that is the fact that students will now leave university with debts approaching £40,000, so many young people who in the past would have thought about going to university will be looking for other things to do. I rather welcome that in several ways, because a university system that turns out people who are unemployable is not a very effective system.

The days have gone when large numbers of unskilled jobs were available. Very few unskilled jobs are available in our economy today. We therefore have to find other pathways to success beyond three A-levels and a university degree. That is the reason why, with Ron Dearing, I established five years ago what are now called university technical colleges. Seventeen are already open and a further 33 have been approved. They aim to give young people skills. The pupils are aged between 14 and 18. The UTCs operate on a normal working day, so pupils have to turn up between 8.30 in the morning and five in the afternoon. However, we see very high levels of attendance for those hours, at 95%. Students learn for two days of the week by making things with their hands or designing things. We are giving them the skills that will make them employable.

I think that the employability potential of education is one of the most important tests. Every school, whatever it is doing at secondary level, should report on the employability of its students when they leave. I am very glad to say that the employability of students from UTCs is really quite remarkable. Our target is that when youngsters leave at 16 and 18, none of them gets jobseeker’s allowance or joins the ranks of the unemployed, and I am glad to say that in the two that have had leavers at 16 and 18—the first being the JCB Academy in Staffordshire, which has had 300 leavers since it started—everybody got a job, an apprenticeship, a place at college or a place at university. Twenty-three went to university and 84 became apprentices, while others went on to study A-levels or went into work. That is a remarkable achievement for any school.

The one in Walsall, which has an average comprehensive intake, is in a much more challenging situation. It took over the remnants of a school that was closing, with very disgruntled students. It has had 107 leavers, and I am glad to say that none of them joined the ranks of the unemployed and there were no NEETs. Fourteen went to university, 30 or so to apprenticeships and some into work or other colleges. That should be the target for all schools—no NEETs. I think it is the intention later this year to judge schools on the destinations of their pupils. If a school, of whatever nature, manages to ensure that none of its pupils become NEETs—they all get a job or go on to further education—it cannot possibly be described in an Ofsted report as inadequate. That would be a contradiction in terms, as it is a major achievement.

The other thing that we have now developed, alongside UTCs for the STEM subjects, are career colleges for the other range of skills such as hospitality, catering, tourism, the creative arts and logistics. Two of these colleges, based on UTCs, are going to start this year in

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Oldham and in Bromley and 60 other schools are interested in becoming ones. We have established the success of specialist colleges for 14 year-olds in promoting social mobility. Many of these youngsters at 13 and 14 would be disengaged and would switch off from education, but we are engaging them and giving them a real opportunity which they would not otherwise have. I really believe that unless we increase the numbers of these colleges very considerably, we will rather stifle social mobility. These are alternative pathways of success, with pupils going to university, in some cases, or getting into very good jobs.

Finally, I remind your Lordships of the success of some of the old technical schools that existed in 1945. The committee established in 1941 said that the pattern of education after the war should involve selective grammar schools, selective technical schools and secondary moderns. There were 300 technical schools, which all closed in five or six years. They were closed by snobbery—everybody wanted to go to the school on the hill like the grammar school, not the one down in the town with the dirty jobs and greasy rags. It was a massive mistake, which Germany did not make in adopting its education system, which is one of the reasons why Angela is ruling the roost.

The success of those technical schools was really remarkable, and I will just leave noble Lords with the names of four people who went to them and are today very distinguished. The vice-chancellor of the University of Leeds, one of the biggest universities in our country, Sir Alan Langlands, who ran the health service for six years, went to a technical school in Glasgow that also received Charles Rennie Mackintosh through its doors—a very distinguished figure. Mike Turner, the chairman of Babcock and GKN, who ran BAE Systems very effectively for many years, went to a technical high school. Sir Mike Tomlinson, the former Chief Inspector of Schools, started his life at Oakwood Technical High School. Coming to your Lordships’ House, the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd—the dear, beloved Betty Boothroyd, former Speaker of the House of Commons—went to a technical school. Those technical schools were real agents of social mobility, as they can be again today.

12.39 pm

Baroness Massey of Darwen (Lab): My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Nash, for giving us the opportunity to debate the issue of social mobility and education and I thank him again for his flexibility on the Children and Families Bill. However, I might dispute some of his rhetoric today, some of which I found somewhat selective. It is surely the case, as the right reverend Prelate said earlier, that social mobility is much more complex than I think the Minister made out. I share the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Storey, that education should not be a political issue. Children are too important for that. We have enough research and experience now to know what benefits children. I call for a consensus based on independent evidence.

I declare an interest as chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children and a trustee of UNICEF. I will reflect for a minute on social mobility,

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recognising that it has many more influences than education, and then give some examples of what I think schools might do.

If every head teacher of a primary or secondary school was a brilliant and inspiring leader, as many are, and if every teacher was relentlessly focused on raising standards, building social skills and closing attainment gaps, as many are, we would still have problems in this country with social mobility. Schools can make a difference. I appreciate what the right reverend Prelate said but I also think that social mobility—or immobility—can begin at birth.

The National Children’s Bureau was founded in 1970. In 1973, it published a study called Born to Fail?, which looked at the experience of children from poor, disadvantaged backgrounds and how their lives were damaged, resulting in poor health, underachievement at school and lack of opportunity to fulfil their potential. I am not sure whether the term “social mobility” was used then, but that last phrase summarises for me what social mobility is about: the opportunity to fulfil one’s potential—perhaps, in the process, moving from the social class and limited ambitions of parents and communities.

Fifty years on, the NCB has just produced another report, called Greater Expectations, which examined whether children in this country are still suffering from inequality and disadvantage. The findings are stark. The number of children in poverty has increased by 1.5 million since the publication of Born to Fail?. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds do worse educationally and their health is poorer. The report calls for a new course of action so that our children do not,

“grow up in a state of social apartheid”.

Of course, there have been signs of progress. Examination results have generally improved, with more children going on to higher education, but that is not the whole story. Alan Milburn, the Government’s adviser on social mobility, criticises all political parties for being on,

“a carousel of short-termism that prevents them from addressing the deep-rooted causes of inequality and social immobility in the UK”.

He blames decades of entrenched elitism, which may well worsen because of the breakdown in the link between economic growth and the wages of most workers. Sir Michael Wilshaw, Chief Inspector of Schools, has criticised selective school systems for not improving social mobility. Top jobs tend to go to people who have been to elite schools. There is a concentration of power and influence in the hands of a minority.

Of course, for some children, education is the way out and up—the opportunity to achieve potential. This is not about picking out small numbers of children and sending them to elite schools; it is about increasing opportunity for the majority of pupils. Some academies have failed; some free schools have failed, with damage done to children before mistakes have been discovered. Government cuts to the Building Schools for the Future programme have led to shortages of school places; for example, in Swindon North.

An independent taskforce chaired by Professor Chris Husbands reported last week and recommended major reforms to the 14-19 education system. The report states

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that we have a poor record of delivering high skills and effective qualifications for that 50% of young people overlooked by the Government who wish to pursue a vocational route through education. The report proposes a rigorous technical baccalaureate—I am now looking at the noble Lord, Lord Baker—driving up standards in English and maths and strengthening character and resilience, about which I shall say more later. It is simply disgraceful that we lag so far behind other countries in this area.

I worry about the early years, about access to childcare, about the depletion of Sure Start centres and about the paucity of school counsellors, careers advisers and school nurses. I worry about the seemingly growing emphasis on the expectation of academic achievement without the building blocks being in place to achieve that.

I turn to some things that schools could do which may enhance social mobility—I am trying to be realistic here. The first is to improve pupils’ confidence in their own ability to learn and communicate, and have ambition. I have discussed personal, social and health education in this House more than once. Let me give one more inspiring example from a primary school that I visited two weeks ago. The school is in Watford, an area with much disadvantage. It has set up a centre of excellence for social learning and it makes visible the social aspects of learning in every part of school life. The centre brings together academic research and practical innovation to improve outcomes for pupils—and it does improve outcomes, providing significant benefit to individual children, accelerated progress and raised attainment, a learning community, and maximised individual learning potential. Such a model can and does improve social mobility early by giving pupils social and academic confidence.

It is interesting that a Demos report in 2011 noted that soft skills such as communication, teamwork and application were as important as academic ability in the prediction of earning rates at the age of 30. A DfE-commissioned report in 2012 found that children with higher levels of emotional and behavioural well-being have higher levels of success in school. The CBI in 2013 called for a more “rounded and grounded” education, concluding that personal behaviours and attributes play a critical role in determining personal effectiveness. What more do we need to convince Government that PSHE is a vital component of a child’s development and essential for social mobility? I think that the noble Lord, Lord Nash, understands this, but do his colleagues in government? If so, I wish they would say more about it.

The Association of School and College Leaders has identified the need for other structural changes in addition to good PSHE; for example, improving quality in the early years workforce, building on London Challenge and City Challenge, monitoring the comparative performance of academy sponsors, more incentives for teachers and so on.

Another intervention which can have a great impact on social mobility is the mentoring of pupils—a one-to-one, adult-to-young person system which boosts ambition and achievement. The Aspiring Professionals Programme is open to ambitious students who may

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not have family members with relevant educational achievement. The Amos Bursary, of which I am a supporter, enables ambitious black boys to achieve through a mentoring system and other support. Some banks have teamed up with the Sutton Trust to boost access to careers in banking through training and support. Future First connects students to successful role models—people who went to their own school and are now at college, university or in jobs. It builds communities of former students around the school, most of which have twice the national average of free school meals, to provide support through mentors and work experience. The programme has had a significant impact. Eighty per cent of students say that they feel more confident that they can succeed in the world of work and 75% say that they have been encouraged to work harder.

The word “support” has occurred many times in my previous sentences. I wish that all means of support could be drawn together. Every child who could benefit should have a mentor from outside the school, someone who will push and encourage. More industries and communities could be encouraged to supply such people. Will the Government survey mentoring and support schemes to see whether they could be extended? I know that good practice in PSHE is being surveyed, thanks to the Minister’s intervention on the Children and Families Bill but, as I said, it is not emphasised by Ministers.

Social mobility is indeed a complex issue. It is societal as well as individual. All children deserve opportunities to succeed, and we are up against some enormous barriers. We must get the 14 to 19 offer right. We must increase mentoring and ensure that PSHE is integral to every school. I hope that some of the thinking in this debate will have an impact on improving systems to enable children to achieve their full potential in their lives.

12.50 pm

Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD): My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend for initiating this debate on a topic which is of importance to those in education but, even more widely, to the well-being of our society. This debate follows one called by the noble Lord, Lord McFall, last month on the impact of inequality on social mobility and the report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility published earlier this year—a group chaired by my noble friend Lady Tyler, who has great expertise in the subject and whose contribution we await with interest.

There have been several reviews, reports and strategies on the subject in recent years, all from slightly different vantage points, but with general agreement that social mobility makes for a fairer society and a stronger economy. As the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission highlighted in its excellent report:

“When one in six children—2.3 million—is officially classified as poor, it exacts a high social price. There is an economic price too in wasted potential and lower growth”.

My noble friend Lord Storey highlighted in his comments the importance of parents at the start of children’s lives. Indeed, they are crucial to children’s development, helping them learn and build their self-confidence.

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Government can play a part at that early stage by improving the focus on parenting skills within relationship guidance, which forms part of such programmes as PSHE or citizenship. Such lessons are appropriate before young people become parents.

The noble Baroness, Lady Massey, is a doughty champion of PSHE, but the Minister will be only too well aware of the support around the House for the teaching of life skills within the curriculum. I draw to the Minister’s attention the report from the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, which makes a recommendation to,

“bring together organisations from across the third and private sectors to develop an innovative parenting campaign with clear strategies to target those at the lower end of the income spectrum”.

What progress is being made on that? How might such a parenting campaign be introduced to the parents of the future while they are still at school?

As has been mentioned, the OECD has found that in the UK, more than in other countries, the start of a child’s life has a powerful effect on that child’s educational success. We seem to face greater challenges than elsewhere in breaking the cycle of deprivation for children from disadvantaged backgrounds and giving them the skills, self-confidence and aspiration to better themselves. We very much welcome the moves that the Government have taken with such developments as the pupil premium to try to redress that balance.

Schools have a distinct part to play in preparing their pupils for life with the soft skills that are essential to social mobility, but they also need to prepare them for the world of work. I add my voice to those concerned at the direction being taken over careers advice and guidance. The indications are that many schools have been struggling to provide comprehensive advice about the range of opportunities in the world of work that their pupils might consider. From primary school age, a child’s interest can be captured by exposure to jobs and careers outside their immediate experience. Children are open to new ideas, through visits to workplaces and by coming into contact with people who are engaged and enthusiastic about their work—people who they may never have come across within their close circle of family and friends.

Those links with the world of work help them make connections between lessons and future opportunities, between study and business, between paying attention in class and earning a living. They can have a very positive effect on behaviour and engagement in school studies. For all young people, these connections are important. They are particularly so for those who do not take naturally to formal learning but who may have talents and find motivation in craft, technical or business activities—such as are encouraged in my noble friend Lord Baker’s technical colleges—or indeed in modern languages; I entirely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, that foreign languages can also open doors and broaden aspiration and understanding.

The Government rightly take pride in the growth of apprenticeships—not only in their numbers but in their status, as they come to be seen as a valid alternative to university. This standing is helped by their extension

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to higher-level skills and into professions such as insurance, accountancy and the law. What place will progression to apprenticeships have in school league tables? I note what my noble friend Lord Baker said about the importance of the employability of school leavers. We hear all too often of young people aspiring to apprenticeships being encouraged—sometimes even coerced—into applying to university instead. What encouragement is given to schools not only to record progression to apprenticeships but to celebrate their students’ success in being taken on as apprentices with the same enthusiasm as they report progression to higher education? It is very difficult to find from school reports, from their websites or indeed the notice boards in front of their schools any mention of where young people have gone on to these keenly sought future careers.

Of course, many professions used to have direct routes from school, which were as highly regarded as graduate entry and led to careers that could be just as successful. Those were the days before university fees. Those routes were a powerful means of enabling social mobility. Increasingly, young people are finding it attractive to learn and earn, but it is important that their achievement has the recognition that it deserves from schools and from parents. It would benefit the country if, as recommended, non-graduate routes became the norm across the professions.

I would not wish this debate to pass by without paying tribute to youth organisations for the part that they play in social mobility. They provide invaluable services, particularly in more disadvantaged areas, and give young people an opportunity to develop personal and social skills, take responsibility, gain confidence and learn both self-respect and respect for others. The Minister made reference to the value of the cadet forces, as indeed did the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle, and it is encouraging to hear that there will be an increase in cadet units within schools.

With uniformed organisations such as the cadets, Scouts, Girl Guides and many others, and with schemes such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award, young people are faced with challenges. They learn how to manage risk and how to channel their youthful exuberance into positive action and to develop in ways that, whatever their start in life, can lead to a fulfilling and useful life. Schools have a part to play in encouraging their pupils in these formative activities.

I join in the tributes to the teaching profession; the teachers that I know work amazingly hard and give of themselves to their pupils, often at very low rates of pay. They can be transformational in young lives. However, society as a whole has a responsibility to enable young people to achieve their potential. Schools have a key role in opening up opportunities, encouraging aspiration and making the UK a country where, whatever a child’s start in life, he or she will have a chance to shine.

12.58 pm

Lord Northbourne (CB): My Lords, I thank the Minister for bringing forward this debate today on this hugely important subject. I was, however, very

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disappointed that his introductory speech made it perfectly clear that the Government believe that schooling is only about cognitive learning and cognitive achievements. I am going to follow the noble Lord, Lord Storey, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Massey and Lady Garden, in taking a rather different view. In my view, the key to social mobility is hope.

The glass ceiling of social mobility is a lack of self-confidence and self-belief. Self-belief, or the lack of it, starts in the family on the day the child is born with the experience of being, or not being, loved, the experience that to someone you matter and the experience of feeling safe and belonging. That is why to me social mobility depends so much on the first few years—indeed, on the first few months—of a child’s life, which is usually spent in the family. That is why I believe that families are important and that we should be including them in our debate today.

This Government and, indeed, previous Governments have for some time realised the importance of what are called the early years. The noble Lord, Lord Storey, referred to seven years. Some would perhaps say that the first three years are the most formative in a child’s emotional development. Governments have introduced many excellent interventions, not least children’s centres, the positive attitude towards supporting childcare and so forth, but what they have so far significantly failed to do is to encourage and require schools, particularly secondary schools, to develop in their pupils the personal and interpersonal skills—the soft skills we were talking about—which they will need to create a secure, nurturing environment for their child in the home.

Why are we not doing more through schools to promote those so-called soft skills which are so central in creating a secure and supportive family environment for the young child? Why are we not doing more in secondary schools—indeed, in all schools—to help pupils grow up to be positive, confident, hope-giving, love-giving parents and to ensure by doing so that a child grows up full of hope?

I remember being privileged to give the prizes at a school in Eastbourne for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties. It was a weekly boarding school. I was talking to the headmaster, a very wise and experienced man, and as I had some time to fill in, I asked, “How do you make contact with new pupils when they arrive in the school?”. He said, “I sit the child down in my study, I make him comfortable and say, ‘Tell me about yourself’. Half an hour later, sometimes three-quarters of an hour later, the child has told me about all the awful things that have happened in his life, how hopeless he is, the mistakes he has made, all the disasters and how everything is hopeless. When he dries up, I say, ‘Right. Now you’ve told me about the things you can’t do. Let’s talk about the things you can do’”. I suspect the Government’s education system is not really addressing that problem.

The importance of hope and self-belief was strongly emphasised four or five years ago when Ofsted did a special report on 16 primary schools and 12 secondary schools, I think, which had outstanding records but were taking young people from very disadvantaged areas. Ofsted was trying to find the common factors which made those schools so successful. Among the

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first three common factors was every child believing that they can succeed. There is a message here for those who think that only academic learning is important.

The ability to rear a child who can succeed is highly relevant to the issue of social mobility. We need to do more in schools to develop confident, competent adult parents. Some of your Lordships will know that I have been boring on about parenting in your Lordships’ House for the past 25 years. What surprises me is that so little is being done by the Government or local authorities to try to improve the quality of parenting children are receiving by doing more to prepare teenagers when they are still in school for the challenges they will encounter as they grow up and become parents. What is needed is not prescriptive advice to pupils about the details of parenting, but, as noble Lords have already suggested, to develop, as they grow up in school, the self-confidence, understanding and personal and interpersonal skills which they will need if they are to be able to give their children the confident love, support and guidance they need in the home in the early years. I call upon the Government to recognise the importance of these relationship skills and soft skills and to do more to encourage secondary schools to recognise that their job is not only to produce academic success for young people but to prepare them for the challenges of adult life.

I shall mention one more thing: teachers. Teachers are a great problem. There is a terrible lack of teachers who have any training or skills in developing social skills and helping children to develop their social skills. Will the Government please do more to ensure that secondary schools take this responsibility seriously? Our secondary schools should be encouraged to accept that their role is to educate the whole child and to prepare their pupils for the challenges they are likely to meet as they move into the adult world.

1.07 pm

The Lord Bishop of Winchester: My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Nash, for the opportunity of this debate. I shall focus on the impact made by initial teacher training on social mobility. I begin by quoting from the Government’s 2010 White Paper The Importance of Teaching:

“All the evidence from different education systems around the world shows that the most important factor in determining how well children do is the quality of teachers and teaching”.

I have a particular interest in teacher training as I am the spokesperson for the Bishops on higher and further education, and in my diocese 12% of the University of Winchester’s intake is trainee teachers wanting to play their part in transforming lives and enabling social mobility. I also declare a personal interest as my daughter has recently trained as a teacher on a mixed-mode teacher training programme and is now a teacher working in a school just north of Southampton.

We are debating the impact of schooling on social mobility, and noble Lords will know the Church of England’s long commitment to education, particularly for the disadvantaged. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle has well illustrated this. My main point is that teachers can make the greatest difference to pupils from the most disadvantaged communities. Thus without a strong cohort of excellent teachers, we

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cannot hope to inspire disadvantaged young people with the confidence to contribute to society and equip them with the tools to seize opportunities. Academic success is vital, but so too is capacity, resilience and spiritual maturity.

It is from this perspective that I question whether the Government’s policies for improving the quality of teaching have been fully effective and will enable social mobility. I am particularly concerned about the School Direct programme. In fact, I suggest there is an urgent case for rethinking arrangements around initial teacher training before a crisis develops. School Direct gives individual schools responsibility for running teacher education. The school adapts the programme for the local needs and distributes funding as it sees fit, buying in training, sometimes from universities, either as part of a PGCE or as a bespoke qualified teacher status package.

In a number of examples, the policy has worked very well. Canterbury Christ Church University for example, which has an Anglican foundation, is working with a great many schools over a wide area to support their recruitment and training of teachers in the classroom. Indeed, I visited that university yesterday and I commend to noble Lords the work of the Kent and Medway Progression Federation, energetically promoted by Canterbury Christ Church. It is a partnership between universities, local authorities and more than 40 schools and colleges in Kent and Medway, working together to raise the attainment and aspirations of disadvantaged young people who may not otherwise consider higher education. Results have been extremely positive, with 26% of the tracked participants from deprived areas progressing to higher education. However, I fear that these successes cannot be taken as the rule, and there are three major concerns about aspects of School Direct I should like to share with your Lordships.

My first concern is that the take-up of the School Direct programme has been rather disappointing, and raises the danger of a damaging teacher shortage very soon. The move to School Direct has been rapid. This year, the allocation for School Direct will jump from 25% to 37% of all ITT places. However, last year it was widely reported that only two-thirds of School Direct places had been filled. This might not be particularly troubling had the core allocations for existing universities not also been reduced. For every School Direct place unfilled there is one less teacher available in the classroom. Your Lordships will be aware that primary schools are in many areas experiencing a high pressure on places, and this pressure will soon flow through into secondary schools. This is not the time to pressurise schools to take on training responsibilities when many are desperate for new teachers. The Government must surely recognise that this policy is simply not attractive to schools in the numbers they first imagined. If the aim is to get good-quality teachers teaching in the classroom, then now is the time to free up those surplus places to universities, many of which have 200 years of experience in training some of the best teachers in the world.

My second concern is that by placing planning decisions in the hands of individual schools, the Government are jeopardising the financial viability of our teacher training institutions. It is my privilege to

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be working with the 11 Anglican universities which account for 24% of primary initial teacher training and 12% of secondary. They are enormously valuable institutions for our whole education sector, and they see initial teacher training as core business. The School Direct policy is undermining these institutions and runs the risk of putting them out of business.

They report a number of very real dangers. For example, as I have said, a significant increase in places allocated for School Direct limits the funding for traditional PGCEs. Last year, Cumbria University lost 60% of its core PGCE provision. Secondly, where universities are involved in providing training for School Direct places, this is at significantly reduced funding per student. It also requires each contract to be renegotiated every year—not only a labour-intensive process but an arrangement that makes long-term strategic planning extremely difficult, not to say almost impossible. Lastly, as the number of classroom-based routes into teaching increases, universities are finding it harder and harder to identify school placements for their students. This means that one of the central advantages of university-based training, the opportunity to work in a number of different schools, is left vulnerable.

I am not asking your Lordships to be sympathetic to Anglican universities. Rather, I am highlighting that their vulnerability has grave implications for social mobility and our wider education system. These institutions host high-quality, long-standing ITT departments which provide specialist lecturers and resources, access to continuous professional development and leadership training. Through these universities and their ITT departments, research is conducted on the efficacy of different teaching practices. Our understanding would be deeply diminished without them.

These universities also maintain and develop a mixed ecology of teacher training routes by keeping open the opportunity of university routes for those who are keen to start their career with the benefit of the highest-quality tuition and the widest possible experience of schools. To jeopardise these institutions and all that they offer the education system is surely an act of great folly which will not serve a Government committed to improving social mobility, but will rather pull apart the very institutions dedicated to the primary engines of social mobility: excellent teachers.

My third concern is that we run the risk of demoting the academic rigour of teaching that underpins its practice. I have referred already to the importance of teachers in equipping young people from disadvantaged backgrounds with the tools they need to take advantage of opportunities placed before them. Excellent GCSEs alone are not a passport to success. What we ask of our teachers is not to fill empty vessels with knowledge, but to inspire young people, to nurture them, and to give them the confidence to make the most of themselves and to contribute to society.

If we are to ask this of our teachers, we must provide them with appropriate training. On-the-job training is good, but not if it focuses too heavily on planning, marking and behaviour management at the expense of developing a confident understanding of pedagogy and child development. It is from that deeper

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background and understanding that teachers can impart a vision for getting on in life and work.

My own experience, in a previous role, has allowed me to see, around the world, the importance of education—to see the power of quality teaching and teachers for transforming students from disadvantaged backgrounds, nurturing them to become the nation-builders of their countries. However, quality teaching and teachers need quality preparation and training and I am not sure School Direct will do it on its own unless it is set within a wider ecology of university and research.

The universities are not against classroom-based routes into teaching. Canterbury Christ Church University was the first institution to take up the Teach First programme, and has been deeply involved in its development since then. Indeed, more widely, 18% of all School Direct allocations for 2014-15 were in partnership with Anglican universities, often as part of a PGCE.

I have no doubt that many School Direct programmes are working very effectively. However, we must keep a careful eye on how the policy is implemented because it is the young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who will be disproportionately hit by the looming crisis. I urge the Government to reflect again and to promote a truly mixed ecology of teaching training that allows for proper planning and forward thinking, ongoing research in education as well as an entrepreneurial spirit for how teachers are trained.

1.17 pm

Baroness Perry of Southwark (Con): My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for initiating this debate with such a powerful speech. His own record in offering truly life-changing opportunities to hundreds of children in the Pimlico Academy stands as an example to all providers, whether local authorities or sponsors of free schools and academies.

Although I am a once-upon-a-time philosopher, I will resist the temptation to deconstruct the phrase “social mobility”, complex as it is. We all know what we mean by it and recognise it when we see it. If an individual rises in social and economic status over their lifetime, and if they rise beyond the social status of their parents, we say that they have achieved social mobility. Much of our proper concern as a civilised and prosperous society has been towards breaking what Keith Joseph—the late Lord Joseph—called the cycle of deprivation, in which children from the poorest parents never rise above the level of their parents’ deprivation, and nor do their children or grandchildren. All Governments have tried to find ways to break that cycle, beginning with the Education Act 1870. Rightly, in my view, they have looked to education as the means of breaking it. A brief look at the history of those efforts, all of them top-down, may help us to understand why the Government are tackling the issue in a new way now.

I will not weary the House with a complete history of education, but I must pause on the effects of the Education Act 1944, which was so earnestly well meant and which was, in my view, so sadly misguided. That Act provided that something between 15% and 25% of

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young people, depending on the local authority, would be selected at age 11 for grammar schools. These academically excellent schools provided the young people with the skills needed for white-collar jobs at the least, or with access to the professions via university at best. Although the excellent ambition for technical schools was a part of the Bill, we now know, as the noble Lord, Lord Baker, so eloquently said, how little was achieved in providing that demand in technical education. That left up to four-fifths of the population sent—as failures—to secondary modern schools which provided at their best a generalised and undemanding curriculum, which in my less kind moments I describe as soup-kitchen education.

That model was based on an economy which had already begun to die. It assumed a structure in which 80% of workers could be unskilled—an economy which our competitors in Germany, Japan and elsewhere had abandoned. They saw the need for all workers to be skilled in industries where technology was taking the place of the unskilled workers, and they rejected our 1944 model in favour of a model which ensured that 100% of their young people were given a demanding education, both academically and technically. Our error did more over those crucial post-war decades to deny social mobility and economic growth, as we saw in our competitors. So many of our young people simply lacked the skills for the changing economy.

Like many of my generation, I hoped that the move to comprehensive schools would reverse our educational and economic decline. By offering all children access to the same good-quality education, we hoped that all would leave with employable skills and opportunities that had been denied to their parents. I will not enter the argument about why the original comprehensive failed to deliver. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis—the much admired pioneer of the academies movement, as several noble Lords have said today—makes clear the reason that they failed in his excellent book Education, Education, Education. He commented that,

“too many comprehensives were simply a continuation of the secondary moderns”,

and that even the celebrated Holland Park and Pimlico schools,

“soon became educational battlegrounds in the face of low standards, poor teaching and hard-left politicisation”.

So, comprehensives were not the answer, though for my part I remain wholly convinced that selection is not the answer. I do, however, believe that elective differences in the route through education for older pupils—a formula which works for most other successful economies and which has been offered by the UTCs of the noble Lord, Lord Baker—should be the way ahead for this country.

Experience over the years had demonstrated all too clearly that top-down reform and diktat has had little impact on the quality of education. As many began to understand, it was the quality of the leadership and the initiative of the individual school which determined the success of its pupils. Some years ago I was entranced by the words of a Scandinavian educator who declared at an international conference:

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“The school is the living cell of the body educational; it is the health of the individual school we must address if the body is to become well”.

I equally rejoiced in the words of the chief inspector of Ofsted at the launch of his annual report this year, when he said that we should end the categorisation of children as either “deprived or well-off”. Their social background, he said, is not the arbiter of their success; there were simply “lucky or unlucky” children: those who went to a good school were lucky; those who went to a poor or inadequate school were unlucky. This puts the emphasis on the quality of education each child receives and not on their social background.

We have spent far too long being emotionally concerned about poverty and too little concerned in shining a light on the crucial contribution of schools. Good schools have been shown time and again to be able to grant success to all their pupils regardless of background. It was this understanding which led to the founding of independent state schools, first started as CTCs in the 1990s, as has been said, and then becoming the academies movement, first under the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and now hugely accelerated under my right honourable friend Michael Gove.

Academies have autonomy over many aspects of their provision. Their quality depends on the leadership and expertise of the head with her or his staff. Control from the centre has been replaced by responsibility at the school level, with freedom for the professional judgment of heads and teachers to meet the needs of their individual children and the community from which they come.

One story of an academy trust illustrates the huge success of this approach. My noble friend Lord Harris of Peckham started one of the first CTCs back in the 1980s. Now there are 27 academies in the Harris Trust, 17 secondary and 10 primary. Those schools were previously classed as failing or near failing: 45% of the pupils qualify for free school meals, and 44% come from black and ethnic minority backgrounds. Under their previous management thousands of children would have been consigned to educational failure and to a lack of any prospect of social mobility. Now, 20,000 “lucky” children are finding success; 72% of the pupils in these schools achieved the magic five good GCSEs—well above the national average—and that improvement has been sustained year on year since the schools became independent.

The Harris Trust story has been matched up and down the country by over 3,500 schools, now with over 2 million pupils. These schools have taken the opportunity to determine their own professional destiny, backed by powerful and supportive governing bodies. These independent state schools are innovative, using all the professional skill and judgment of the teachers and their leaders. Uniformity imposed from the state or local authority too often stifled innovation and the flowering of professionally creative schemes in the academies has been a delightful feature. Examination success has not been their only contribution. Music, art, dance, drama and creative writing have flourished as teachers have felt free to share with their pupils their own enthusiasm and skill. To the noble Lord,

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Lord Northbourne, I would say that good teachers very much recognise the need for emotional development, emotional skills and emotional intelligence.

Not all academies and free schools will succeed; in any system there will be problems and failures. However, there are mechanisms for those to be dealt with quickly and firmly in the way that local authorities manifestly found it difficult to do with the huge number of failing schools under their control.

We are watching a revolution in education. It is a benign revolution. It is contributing hugely to social mobility and has brought life-changing opportunity and the experience of success to thousands and thousands of children. The academies movement is one which all who care about the future of our young people should welcome and celebrate. I am pleased to do so in this debate today.

1.27 pm

Baroness Taylor of Bolton (Lab): My Lords, I will also start by congratulating the Minister on initiating this debate. When I heard his first few words, I thought that I would agree with much of what he was to say, because he talked about the importance of education in breaking the cycle of deprivation and praised teachers, and I was very happy with that. However, I am sorry that he then went on to be so aggressively political in his opening remarks, and so critical of the previous Labour Government. That made me cast my mind back to 1997, when class sizes were often over 40, and we had to make a pledge to bring them down to a maximum of 30; when many of the schools I visited had leaking roofs and even outside toilets, and we had to have a fantastic building programme to get them up to scratch; and to the initiatives we took on pre-school education and on early years generally, especially with Sure Start.

I am very proud of many of the things that the Labour Government did, and I am sorry that there has not been more scope from what the Minister said in his early remarks about us working together on these issues. In all parts of the House there is a great deal of consensus about what should be happening in education and how we should value each and every child. We can all agree that social mobility is important and that schools play a vital role in that. Incidentally, I hope that we can also agree that education is more than just about the product of providing social mobility. Education is of value in its own right for each and every one of us, as it gives people confidence, the equipment they need to face their lives and, indeed, enjoyment.

The noble Baroness, Lady Perry, has just said that it is very difficult to define social mobility. I have read with some interest some of the definitions that have been provided. I saw one that said that absolute mobility is whether a person is better off financially than their parents. Mention was made of Alan Milburn, whose concerns might be very well founded, given the level of personal debt that we see many young people having and, indeed, the difficulties that people will have providing for their pensions in future. So that type of social mobility is actually quite difficult. Then I saw a definition about relative mobility—a measure of which rung of

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the ladder a person lands on compared with their parents. Personally, I am not very comfortable with using any definitions like that whatever. Perhaps the noble Baroness is right that we should just say that we know what we mean, but I think that we should be careful about how we assess an individual’s contribution to society and, indeed, to their families.

What I think that we have to accept from the research is that in 2014 there is still, from all the analysis, a dreadful and unfortunate link between poverty and limited educational attainment. Too often that is true—not universally or absolutely, but too often. When the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, talked about language skills, her comments reinforced that. Too many social and economic outcomes are almost predictable, with too much in education reinforcing advantage and, indeed, privilege. To my mind, education should be about countering disadvantage, not reinforcing privilege, and about giving very real opportunities to all—and I mean all—of our children. We should be grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle for putting the context in which many children are making their decisions about their futures.

Many of us got educational opportunities that our parents never had. That may make us more socially mobile, but I would put it that we got opportunities to make decisions and have more choices about our lives, and that is what we should be talking about when we try to advance every child. I do not think that the amount of debate on the structures of our education system provides the answers. I am sorry that the Minister boasted so much today about the success of free schools and academies and placed so much emphasis on that, not least because, as we all know, there have been some very well documented failures that have recently been reported. Just the other day, I heard about Goole High School, which became an academy in 2011 when rated good by Ofsted; since November of last year, just two years later, that school has been put in special measures, with Ofsted concluding that it was inadequate in all categories—a pretty horrific decline in a very short time. When the Minister was talking about academies providing a step change, I do not think that he was thinking of it going in that direction.

I could certainly boast about the success of many local comprehensives that I know of in many different parts of the country, but that does not get us very far. However, I must take issue with the Minister when he says that local authorities often leave schools in difficulty to languish in failure. I do not think that trying to undermine what local authorities do in that way really helps us at all. I wish that he would not push the idea that academies and free schools are the answer to everything. Yes, we should have some flexibility. The Minister knows that my football club, Bolton Wanderers, which is on a high at the minute—we will see how long it lasts—has recently been given the green light to have a free school, which is almost a pupil referral unit with, of course, an extra dimension. I am not saying that we should not look at how to provide different structures in education, but we should be cautious in presenting any one form as a panacea.

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Thinking about this debate made me think back some time. More than 50 years ago, in a primary school in a council estate in Bolton, a class of 10 year-olds sat the 11-plus examination. Education at that time required children to stay at school to the age of 15, but those children who passed the 11-plus for grammar schools were required to stay at school to 16 and complete O-levels and examinations. Indeed, parents had to sign an undertaking to that effect. I passed my 11-plus and my parents signed happily. My best friend also passed the 11-plus for grammar school, but her parents refused to sign the form. They just did not see the point of it. Our head teacher eventually persuaded them to change their minds and sign, and my friend went to grammar school—albeit without a school uniform. She was a bright girl and did very well; but that was not the end of the story. When she was 15, her mother found her a job in the local shop, took her out of school and paid a fine in the magistrates’ court to effect this—no exams, no qualifications and no further education. They were not bad parents; they just did not see the point of education.

I am not sure that all the factors that influenced those parents are not still present today. As the noble Lord, Lord Storey, pointed out, not all parents read to their children, have books in the home, see education as a priority or understand its importance. If we are going to counter disadvantage, we have to tackle the causes of parents not being engaged and deal with this vital issue, because anyone who has ever taught in a school knows that, if parents are interested and involved, teaching that child is so much easier. That is why we cannot simply talk about structures or parental choice—and we certainly cannot just talk about league tables and results. As others have said, we have to look at this issue long before children go to school.

I have a few suggestions to make to the Minister on the other things that we should be doing. We need a different outlook, which sees education as being about opening doors for young people, not creating a series of hurdles, which I think we are still doing. One day I hope that we can discuss credit accumulation for qualifications. The noble Lord, Lord Baker, touched on the fact that we have to value not just the traditional pinnacle of education. What he has done in terms of other pathways, university technical colleges and career colleges is something that we can all learn a great deal from, not just in providing routes for young people but in giving real value to some of those alternatives.

We also have to teach children how to learn. The Minister said that we had to emphasise facts, and facts come into this—they play a part. But we have to teach people using modern technology in teaching, mentoring and monitoring, and do it in a way that is relevant to the modern world, whether it is talking about relationships, social media dangers or the dangers of payday loans. The noble Baronesses, Lady Massey and Lady Garden, both made very important points in that respect.

I come back to one of the essential points. We have to start very early. In a way, I was disappointed not just with the closure of so many Sure Start schemes but with the attempt by some in government almost to undermine them. If there are problems, we should build on the experience and look to close them. We

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need to look at what we need to do to engage parents as soon as possible. If you have a baby in hospital today, you are given a freebie bag when you go, with free nappies and free creams. There should be a children’s book in there, and things that would start to engage the child in the right way. When we talk about steps to advance social mobility, we have to start talking about the period before any child ventures into school.

1.39 pm

Baroness Greenfield (CB): I would like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Nash, on introducing this highly important topic for debate. As a neuroscientist, I can appreciate only too well the impact that the environment, and thus the experience in the home and the classroom, can have on the physical brain processes, and subsequently on the unique individual that each child will become. The human brain is astonishingly “plastic”, which is why we as a species occupy more ecological niches than any other on the planet.

Our brains are constantly adapting to wherever we are placed and to whatever we are doing. Even thinking alone can drive an observable physical change in the brain. An intriguing study, which is much cited, showed this very well. It involved three groups of volunteers, none of whom could play the piano. Over a five-day experiment, the control group was exposed to the experimental environment but not to the all-important factor of five-finger piano exercises, while a second group learnt the exercises. Even within five days, you could see an astonishing change in their brain scans. However, the third group was the most remarkable. In this group the subjects were required merely to imagine they were playing the piano, and their brain scans showed almost identical changes to those who did the physical practice. Therefore, the important issue here is not the contraction of the muscle but the thinking that preceded it.

Such endless neuronal updating on a “use it or lose it” basis is particularly marked in critical timeframes during development within the first 10 years or so of life. So, if that is the case, what would be the ideal educational outcome in terms of mental prowess? For example, the Education Minister, Michael Gove, has suggested that all young children should learn a poem, but surely the more important, and harder, goal would be that they should understand it. There is a temptation sometimes to adopt the Gradgrind approach from Dickens’ Hard Times to aim simply to transmit facts. After all, you can readily train a brain—in certain cases, even that of a parrot—to give the right responses to a given input and to answer factual questions with factual answers. However, such success in, for example, activities such as Trivial Pursuit or pub quizzes is not regarded by even the most enthusiastic fans as the apotheosis of intellectual endeavour. Facts on their own are not enough; information is not knowledge. While collecting information may be simply gathering dots, knowledge is being able to join them up, seeing one thing in terms of another, and thereby understanding each component as part of a greater conceptual whole.

I would like to suggest that the more connections you can make in your brain across an ever wider and disparate range, the more deeply you will understand

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something. This connectivity, which is achieved through the plasticity of neuronal connections during development, could then be the key feature that defines real learning, and which sets the human brain above and beyond the information processing of a computer.

The work of the late educational neuroscientist John Geake provides hard evidence for this proposition. Geake’s imaging studies on gifted children revealed that their brains showed greater interconnectivity than the brains of those with average cognitive ability. Specifically, Geake’s findings led to the idea that giftedness is linked to analogical reasoning: for example, the analogy of the extinction of a candle with the extinction of life, as in the famous soliloquy in Macbeth. This ability to make connections where they did not exist before—to connect the dots—probably accounts for exceptional talents and creativity in many areas, including art, philosophy, mathematics, science and music.

So, how can the education system best provide an environment conducive to making such connections? Some might think the answer lies in digital technology. One meta-analysis of 46 different original studies involving a total of more than 36,000 students showed significant positive effects of computer use on mathematics achievement. Similarly, a recent large-scale analysis reviewed how educational software programs could beneficially affect reading outcomes in some 84 studies based on more than 60,000 students. Yet a report commissioned by NESTA in 2012, entitled Decoding Learning, concluded:

“In the last five years UK schools have spent more than £1 billion on digital technology. From interactive whiteboards to tablets, there is more digital technology in schools than ever before. But so far there has been little evidence of substantial success in improving educational outcomes”.

How can we reconcile these seemingly conflicting perspectives? I think it is done by flagging one all-important additional factor. The findings of the meta-analysis had indeed suggested that various reading programs, predominately computer delivered, generally produced a positive, but small, effect on reading skills. However, the really significant factor to emerge time and again has been that innovative technology has much more positive impact when accompanied by teacher support, so the greatest promise of digital devices lies not so much in the software and screen delivery themselves but in their use in close connection with teachers’ efforts. For anyone who has read The Primeof Miss Jean Brodie, or Goodbye, Mr Chips, this will come as no new insight. Nothing beats an inspirational teacher—not even an iPad.

Education research and practice supports this argument too. Sir Michael Barber has stated that the quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers. Meanwhile, Pearson Education, in a recent report on worldwide school attainment, states that there is no substitute for good teachers. This conviction would seem nowhere more relevant than in schools in low-income areas. Take, for example, Mulberry School in Tower Hamlets—a non-selective, fully comprehensive school in which 76% of the pupils are entitled to free meals. The school has a policy to concentrate its resources on developing teachers and using as much of its budget as it can to pay for extra teaching and support for learning in a multitude of ways so that it

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maximises the amount of focused attention which pupils receive. The results have already shown considerable success. GCSE results doubled between 2005 and 2011 from 34% gaining A* to C with English and maths, to 78%, and, most commendable of all, 80% of students at this school now go to university.

So when it comes to giving a child the best start in life, to realise their potential irrespective of their background, we need to focus on ways of helping the young brain to join up the dots and to understand deeply what they are learning. This is best done by someone who can interact with them personally and act as an intellectual guide—a mentor. A mentor has been defined as someone who believes in you more than you believe in yourself. Could not more of the education budget go on ensuring that those key players—the teachers—have the best possible pay and conditions, so that they can focus on being much needed mentors, especially in cases where, as the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, has already flagged, a child comes from a background where perhaps they have not been able to believe in themselves at all?

1.47 pm

Lord Lingfield (Con): My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for choosing this important subject for debate and refer noble Lords to my education interests in the register. I hope that your Lordships will forgive me for straying out of the realms of primary and secondary schools into an area of education which, if it were more successful than it is at the moment, could practically guarantee an increase in social mobility in this country. I refer, of course, to the further education sector.

In 2012, the Government’s own statistics show that, of 16 year-old school leavers, an incredible 28% were functionally innumerate, at best with the arithmetical accomplishments normally associated with a nine year-old, and just under 15% were functionally illiterate, using much the same criteria. These young people cannot even enter the gateway of social mobility unless further education providers pick up the pieces and teach them skills that should have been dealt with at primary school. It is an appalling indictment of our teaching system that this should be so, and that so many pupils have been let down by it. One sincerely hopes that the reforms which the Government are carrying out, and which the Minister mentioned today, will help to alleviate this serious problem in the future.

I pay tribute to the dedicated teachers in our FE colleges who attempt to remediate underachievement in these subjects, although for many of their students, it is almost too late. The huge task of teaching what are often kindergarten skills to these young people, also, in my view, has a profound effect on FE providers and too often distracts them from their primary mission, which should be to teach vocational subjects to those who, we hope, will be the technically accomplished workforce of the future that will enable this country to outperform its competitors in a difficult economic climate.

I have in the past couple of years had the privilege of visiting many excellent further education providers, and yet I am also aware of many that are mediocre and, indeed, a small minority that are, frankly, of

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extraordinarily poor quality. One of the ways in which the Government hope to improve quality across the sector is gradually to identify the very best providers, to give the professionals who run them and those who govern them as much autonomy and freedom from government control as possible, and to allow them to flourish and spread best practice throughout further education.

To this end I have accepted the challenge of creating a new body that will receive into membership only the most distinguished providers. This will be known as the Institution for Further Education and I have petitioned the Privy Council for a royal charter, which will give this group of colleges, whether public, charitable or private, a collective status akin to that which a university has. Although the new body is being created with seed-corn funding from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, to perform its task properly it must be authoritative and entirely independent of government. The petition makes it clear that, like the other royal chartered institutions, it will be governed by professionals from the sector itself.

Prospective member colleges and private and charitable providers will have to demonstrate high-quality provision, including consistently good teaching, learning and assessment. They must: provide direct routes to higher education; have strong leadership, management and governance; and provide first-class professional development. They must show a culture of innovation and high levels of satisfaction from students. Most importantly, as my noble friend Lady Garden of Frognal reminded us, they must have effective involvement with employers and a strong contribution to economic well-being and growth in their areas. They also must have a high commitment to transparency. Evidence will include Ofsted grades, robust self-assessment reports, an inspection regime, rigorous peer review, and references from a range of employers.

There are some 1,100 providers within the sector, serving more than 4 million learners. One of their strengths is that they are a mixed economy, dealing with further education, full-cost work for United Kingdom and foreign customers, and, in the case of most colleges, higher education. As Ofsted deals with only a part of these providers’ work, and the Quality Assurance Agency only their degree courses, there is at the moment no single quality-assurance association for them, and the new royal chartered institution will endeavour to be that.

It is our hope that a significant number of providers will aspire to membership during our first years and that the institution’s device, which it will be entitled to display, will be a mark of the highest quality for students and employers alike. In the fullness of time there is no reason, in principle, why every FE institution should not qualify for membership. As with other such bodies, any that are seen to be diminishing in quality could be asked, of course, to demit their membership.

We hope that opportunities will be given for collaborative work and the spreading of the tradition of a high-quality service to students throughout the sector, thereby driving up vocational standards nationally. I hope very much also that in time the new institution

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will help bring some rationality to the plethora of vocational awards that bewilders employers and students alike. In 2012 there were 164 national vocational awarding institutions and many thousands of vocational qualifications. The Government have in the past two years, as the Minister told us, bravely set about rationalising the approved list and have cut it considerably. However, the time is long overdue for the establishment of a simple set of benchmark qualifications for the sector that are easily understandable by all and guaranteed to be of high quality. In higher education, bachelor’s and master’s degrees are easily recognisable by employers; there should be parallels at FE level.

There is no doubt that the gaining of a valuable vocational qualification by a young person not only leads to a greater sense of self worth, to far more opportunities for gainful employment, to the possibility of entry to higher education and to the respect that professional skills bring in our society, but enhances immeasurably his or her chances of social mobility.

1.56 pm

Lord Addington (LD): My Lords, it is interesting that I have not totally disagreed with anyone who has spoken in this debate—it is always nice when you can pretend you totally disagree with someone. But the theme that is coming across from the debate is that everyone understands that it is complicated and difficult to talk about social mobility, the lack of it, how to encourage it, and the role that education plays. We all agree that it has a role. Education allows you to become more socially mobile.

It is also worth pointing out—no one has done so yet—that if you fail in education you can become downwardly socially mobile. I have made that point because I want to draw attention to hidden disabilities as a factor in this cocktail of reasoning and pressure. I will talk primarily about dyslexia because I am dyslexic and know more about it than the other conditions, but hidden disabilities are a group of conditions that covers such things as dyslexia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia, to which can be added the higher-functioning areas of autism and numerous other conditions. It means that you do not relate to your environment, particularly your educational environment, in the way in which others do. It means that you are always going to have more problems with the educational part of your life than others will.

This is probably very much accepted now. When I first spoke about this subject nearly 28 years ago in this Chamber, it was more of a revelation. People asked, “Is it there? Is it really happening?”. Now the vast majority of people understand and accept dyslexia. We still occasionally hear from the “It doesn’t really exist; I have a miracle cure” brigade. However, if we accept that these factors are there, how do they affect this argument about social mobility?

After first accepting that the factors are there, we must then identify them. If we cannot do so, it does not really matter what is in place or what understanding we have because we will not be helping the right person at the right time. We have a history of saying, “Yes, we should do something”, but not putting enough

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in place to do it. All political parties bear a degree of blame for this, because it is much easier to pass a piece of legislation than it is to change structures, provide funding, and change the structures that administer the funding. There is not much doubt about that.

How does this affect our outcomes? What if you cannot access, for instance, the written word successfully enough to get a qualification that says you have passed? Most structures and exams are training paths towards taking a job that provides status and money. Both are factors in social mobility; having enough confidence in yourself to apply or encourage your children to do so is another factor that we should not forget. The noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Bolton, talked about things that are “not for us” and not relevant. These things are still happening, not in exactly the same terms but the principle is still there, based on the assumption that we know what normal is—“Normal is me”.

What do we need to do to improve this situation? The first thing we must do is to train our foot-soldiers—that is, our educationalists at all levels—to identify these problems early. This situation is better than it was, but we are still not investing enough in the teaching profession as a whole for it to be able to say with confidence, “I think that person is dyslexic and they should see X and Y”. There are still far too many cases in the dyslexia world of the parent going to the teacher and asking, “Why is my child not succeeding?”, and that is what inspires the movement through the machinery which this House and others have put in place.

Of course, my noble friend will point out that the big change that we are celebrating today—the big change in that recent Bill—means that we now have a duty to identify the problem, and to identify those at risk, if I remember correctly. When the Bill was going through the House, I said that this was a fundamental change, but do we have the foot-soldiers in place to do this easily and well? I would say that at the moment the situation is better than it has ever been, although it is still nowhere near good enough. However, at least having that duty is a step forward, so let us not get bogged down in it too much.