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Lord Whitty: My Lords, the debate that we are stimulating relates to the issue of GM in all its contexts. The issue of the farm-scale trials is a relatively narrow aspect; namely, whether, on what basis, and under what regulation one might allow the commercialisation of particular crops. That is a specific question which requires a commercial-scale trial evaluation, the results of which will begin to come through in the next three months, with completion due to take place next year.
Lord Winston: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that there has been a general failure on the part of the public to recognise that, in the past 20 years, genetic modification in the case of animals has led to one of the most important advances in our understanding of a whole range of medical issues such as cancer? Does he further agree that genetic modification holds huge prospects for parts of the world where people are starving, or are short of water? The modification of crops could lead to alleviation of the effects of drought and to an improvement in much-needed food sources in the under-developed world?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I accept that there are substantial potential advantages from certain forms of genetic modification. As I said, some have been demonstrated in the medical field. I accept, however, that there are significant public anxieties about how, and how far, we allow the commercial development of genetic modification in the provision of foodstuffs and its impact on the environment as a whole. Therefore, there is a valid and profound discussion to be had. The whole point of this public debate is to ensure that all points of view are considered and, we hope, to create a greater consensus. One of the difficulties is that
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, there are no substantive changes to the core literacy and numeracy strategy. We will continue to develop and to raise standards. We will intensify support to schools, examine further the success of phonics teaching in the light of good practice, and introduce a major new leadership programme for primary head teachers. Our literacy and numeracy strategies will be at the centre of our over-arching strategy for improving teaching and learning within a broad and enriched curriculum.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, but her colleague Mr Stephen Twigg in another place did, in fact, announce changes to the literacy and numeracy strategy. Why are the Government so prescriptive? Why can they not leave the best schools and the best teachers to teach literacy and numeracy in the way they know best and at the time they believe appropriate, and instead concentrate their efforts on failing schools and teachers?
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, my honourable friend Mr Stephen Twigg announced that we would appoint a national primary strategy director and bring together the field forces. The Question that I answered was about the substantive changes in schools. There will not be substantive changes. We believe that the numeracy and literacy strategies have been successful.
As for prescription, the results speak for themselves. The literacy and numeracy strategies were based on good work undertaken by teachers and developed to enable other schools to benefit from that good practice. The results have been good. We will continue to build on that work and enable schools to develop the strategies in the way that best suits them and their pupils.
Lord Tanlaw: My Lords, do the Government's strategies in this area include the use of broadband communication? In the rural and upland areas of Scotland and northern England, access to broadband looks as if it is a long way off. That must include schools. Will any financial help be given to small
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, broadband is an important part of the ICT strategy in the department. It will be important as we develop Curriculum Online to ensure that schools can access broadband. That is part of a strategy towards which we shall move.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that Ofsted, in recent reports, said that numeracy and literacy strategies work best and achievements are highest when teachers combine them within the general curriculum? Why, therefore, do the Government continue to pursue the strategies as independent programmes rather than encourage teachers to broaden out and do what they want and so bring the strategies within the curriculum?
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I hope that I partly addressed that question in my Answer. We believe that there is one primary school curriculum: it is an enriched curriculum. It is very important, as the noble Baroness said, that we build on the success in the primary schools that have strengthened and developed the literacy and numeracy strategies right across the curriculum. It is our wish to build on the best and to ensure that all schools are involved.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, my honourable friend Mr Twigg is holding conferences with primary head teachers. The ambition within the Government is to ensure that primary head teachers have the opportunity to develop leadership skills. I do not have the figures before me. I will write to the noble Lord. I can tell him that this year we have made available £42 million to support head teachers in providing booster classes for children. We have made available a further £11 million to enable local education authorities to develop the kind of workshops that will support classroom assistants and enable schools to have booster classes and teaching within the Easter period if they so wish.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, does the Minister agree with me that, in today's world, literacy includes foreign language literacy? Given that, and the considerable shortage of teachers in this area, does she agree that the BBC's approach to producing help with online curriculum studies is a plus rather than, as some people think, a minus?
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the Minister said that there would be more exploration of phonics teaching. Until a greater proportion of teacher training deals with phonics teaching, that progress cannot be made. Are there any plans to beef up the proportion of phonics teaching for teachers in teacher training?
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, in the next few weeks, the department will be looking at bringing together experts on phonics to help to examine how best we might develop a more supportive framework for those in teacher training and teachers themselves. I can tell the noble Baroness that, in the next financial year, we are supporting year 3 teachers, in particular, in attending training on phonics. We think that year 3 is the right point to focus on at this time. I shall come to the House and talk further about our phonics strategy as it develops. The noble Baroness's point is well made.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to make provision making it unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of age, gender reassignment, religion or belief or sexual orientation; to make new provision with respect to discrimination on the grounds of disability, race or sex; to make provision making it unlawful to harass or victimise another person on any of those grounds; to make provision facilitating progress towards the achievement of equality as between persons of certain descriptions; to establish and provide for the functions of the Equality Commission for Great Britain; and for connected purposes. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.