6 Baroness Flather debates involving the Department for Education

Education: British Values

Baroness Flather Excerpts
Thursday 26th June 2014

(9 years, 12 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Flather Portrait Baroness Flather (CB)
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My Lords, time is short and I will run through the thoughts that I have.

From the beginning to the middle of the 1980s, an inquiry into the education of children from ethnic minorities was set up. It was called the Swann Committee. Its report had some quite startling conclusions, although I am sorry to say that it has not been much used. First, there was the question of faith schools. At the time we had only Catholic, Anglican and Jewish schools. The Swann Committee suggested that even these should be phased out. The reason for Anglican schools was that they were the only ones that provided education for poor children. The reason for Jewish and Catholic schools was that many schools did not take Jews or Catholics. All that had changed and there was no longer a particular need for faith schools, so they should be phased out.

Learning from the example of Northern Ireland, everybody felt that it was not a good idea to separate children. But what are we doing now? We are separating them ad infinitum: between this faith and that faith. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, says that children should be taught faith values. They can be taught faith values, but at home. They should be taught faith values in their churches, temples and synagogues. This is not the schools’ job to teach faith. It is the schools’ job to teach non-faith values: values that are universal. That has been mentioned and it is the way forward.

For me, some of the things that the faiths have done are completely unacceptable. People might say that this is not written in the Koran or that something else is not written in the Bible, but you are doing it, either because you do not know it or because you do not care about it. Discrimination against women is rife in Muslim culture. This is not written in the Koran, but everyone is doing it. If that is going to happen in a faith school, girls and boys are going to be taught separately, which is already a negation of British values.

As for gays, are we going to “string them up”? That is also a total negation of British values. Many Muslim countries have brought in the death penalty against gays. We have to be extremely careful about faith-based teaching, and whether it is or can be acceptable. I am sorry to say that for me it is not.

Catholics do not believe in contraception. What kind of world are we living in? This is the 21st century, and girls cannot have contraception? In Africa, the Bishop of Kampala has told everybody that there cannot be contraception, that it is a sin and if you use it you will go to hell. All right, they are going to hell—but what about those children who are being born and have nothing to eat?

I am sorry. My time is up. I have a lot more to tell your Lordships, but I cannot.

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Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie
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My Lords, I fear that the attempts to define and perhaps codify British values will be as difficult, and ultimately as successful, as trying to nail jelly to a wall. If we are looking for a definition of values, it is important that it is inclusive and cohesive. I regret that the noble Lord, Lord Storey, did not seem to quite get the point that I was making earlier about the very title of this debate, which suggests that due consideration has not been given to the various constituent parts of what is currently the United Kingdom, and which I fervently hope will remain the United Kingdom on 19 September this year. I refer to the casual approach, which almost says that England is Britain and Britain is England, that antagonises a lot of people in other parts of the UK.

I will give an example that will perhaps seem rather trite to noble Lords: the World Cup. I am a Scot domiciled in England, married to an Englishwoman, with a son who is therefore half-English. I bear the English football team absolutely no ill will and indeed I hoped that they would do well in the World Cup. But then I sit down and watch the game. Just before the game, the players line up and what happens? I hear “God Save the Queen”. I am sorry, but “God Save the Queen” is not the national anthem of England. It is the national anthem of the UK—play it at a ceremony at the Olympic Games. But at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next month, English athletes, who will probably win more medals than anybody else, will have their medals put round their necks after “Land of Hope and Glory” has been played, not “God Save the Queen”. There is an English national anthem. Whatever the English people want as a national anthem is up to them but I am sorry, it is not “God Save the Queen”, and that shows that greater thought has to be given, in this example and indeed others, to the inclusivity of the United Kingdom if we are really going to put together British values.

Baroness Flather Portrait Baroness Flather
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I am very interested in the national anthem. I am not sure that it relates exactly to the values in schools. If Scotland wants its own national anthem to be played on Scottish occasions, it is for Scotland to work for that, but it is not about values. Values in schools concern all of us, not just this country or that country.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie
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I always listen to the noble Baroness very carefully and I enjoyed her recent contribution but I am not talking particularly about schools. We are talking about British values; it does not relate just to what is or is not said in schools. The point I am making is that, if we are going to have British values, it has to be much wider than that.

In closing, I will comment about Magna Carta apparently being mentioned as the centrepiece of any attempt to put together British values. I think that is strange, not least because, to come back to my original point, Magna Carta was a very English—not British—document. I will simply quote from the commentator Owen Jones, who wrote very recently about Magna Carta, highlighting the fact that the values of many people in Britain are diverse, quite apart from whichever part of the country they originate from. Mr Jones said:

“Here was a charter imposed by powerful barons—hardly nascent democrats—on the weak King John to prevent him trampling on their rights: it didn't satisfy them, and they rose in revolt anyway. It meant diddly squat to average English subjects, most of whom were serfs”.

Yet this is on what we are proposing to base a discussion around fundamental British values. I end where I began: I think it will prove to be a fool’s errand.

Education Bill

Baroness Flather Excerpts
Wednesday 26th October 2011

(12 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Benjamin Portrait Baroness Benjamin
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for the letter dated 14 October that he sent to the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes, in which he gave assurances that Ofsted’s inspections will consider how well schools provide the well-being of those to whom equalities issues apply and that equalities issues will underpin the whole approach to inspection and will include all protected groups under the Equality Act 2010. It is also good to learn that Ofsted will consider how well gaps are narrowing between the performance of different groups of pupils both in the school and nationally because, as we all know, the gap in social mobility is growing wider among certain groups. It is important that schools are judged on the quality of their teaching, which should cater for the range of needs to help all pupils to progress and to inspire them to have high aspirations in a fair and equal way and, as the Minister said in his letter, free from bullying and harassment because of their culture or background, from which so many children in our schools suffer. I am delighted that these issues are being addressed and that the well-being of all children is being taken into consideration.

How can we make sure that equality issues are delivered in schools day in, day out? What measures will be put in place if schools do not comply with these ideals? I ask these questions because just today I received an e-mail from a supply teacher with a complaint from children who feel that their equality issues have been violated in a school during a lesson. They have asked me for help and guidance, so I would like the Minister to help me with my guidance. I will be interested to hear his answer to this question.

Baroness Flather Portrait Baroness Flather
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My Lords, I shall speak to my Amendment 78, which is in this group. It is a very simple amendment to put community cohesion back on the list of items Ofsted will inspect. When I learnt that it had been taken out, I was very perturbed because if schools have responsibility for community cohesion, as I have been told, I believe that it is necessary for Ofsted to look at what they are doing for it. I think that this is more than ever an extremely important area for schools to concentrate on. It is about not racism or equality; it is about the community in which they live and being part of that.

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Moved by
78: Clause 40, page 36, line 43, at end insert—
“( ) the contribution made by the school to community cohesion.”
Baroness Flather Portrait Baroness Flather
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I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, for her comprehensive statement, but I regret very much that I did not get from it the flavour of community cohesion as I perceive it. I perceive it to be cohesion within the community, not just within the school. The school must promote that by teaching children about the community that they are in.

We now have free schools which will be very different from state schools. They will be free schools, so they will need that particular provision even more. We also have faith schools that will definitely be single faith schools, not schools where half the pupils or two-thirds of the pupils are from other faiths. It is extraordinarily important not only that those schools have responsibility for community cohesion but that Ofsted has the responsibility to check them for it. I am not satisfied that that point has been sufficiently accepted, so I wish to test the opinion of the House.

Education Bill

Baroness Flather Excerpts
Monday 24th October 2011

(12 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Bishop of Ripon and Leeds Portrait The Lord Bishop of Ripon and Leeds
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I still think that the amendment is undesirable and I think that the noble Lord does so, too.

The main point is that within the maintained sector we have a dual system in a country where more than 70 per cent of people describe themselves as Christian, and it serves very well the duality of purpose in terms of the whole development of the child. It is a system that has led to significant degrees of integration within our communities, and much of that has been led by faith schools. I hope that we shall reject these amendments and that we shall do so in the cause of community integration.

Baroness Flather Portrait Baroness Flather
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My Lords, I should like to make a few points on this subject. I think that we should turn the issue round a bit and ask ourselves what the 15 year-old derives from morning collective worship. I heard what the right reverend Prelate said about primary schools. It is much more likely that children at primary school will accept whatever is said to them, but these days in secondary school children are open to a lot of experiences, which was not the case, say, 20 or 30 years ago. I think that we need to see whether morning collective worship is still relevant to children. The question regarding these amendments is: are they relevant to young people? They are of course relevant to a Christian country but at the moment the practice of Christianity in this country is not really in your face. Falling levels of church attendance and so on are happening all around us.

From my days at school I remember that we always met for assembly in the morning. Everyone had to go. We did not have worship. We had something that taught us about life, behaviour, ethics, and right and wrong, but it was not geared to a particular faith. I still believe it would be far more useful if all the young people in a secondary school came together and discussed issues that are relevant to their everyday life, not something that is many steps away from them.

Education Bill

Baroness Flather Excerpts
Wednesday 20th July 2011

(12 years, 11 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Baroness Flather Portrait Baroness Flather
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My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 116. All the amendments concern the role of Ofsted and it is very interesting to me—although not comprehensible—why community cohesion, as a separate fact, has been withdrawn from the responsibilities of an Ofsted inspection.

I have had a look at Ofsted’s document about inspectors’ responsibilities, especially in relation to community cohesion. It does not say anything except “community cohesion”, which is quite worrying, because I am sure that noble Lords around us in this Room have their own ideas about what amounts to community cohesion. It speaks mainly about well-being, which has just been referred to. That is certainly one of the issues that Ofsted has to look at, but there is nothing about community cohesion.

I spoke to an inspector who told me that her notion of community cohesion was, first, understanding one’s local community, which makes sense; secondly, understanding the national community, which makes sense; and, finally, understanding the international community, which makes sense as well. Why we should withdraw this duty from Ofsted, I fail to understand.

I have been sent a letter by the Minister which says that inspections will be related to schools’ “core responsibilities”. Why community cohesion should not be part of the core responsibilities is again not clear to me. Our country now encompasses many different types of people, cultures and development. If ever there was a need for community cohesion, it is now and for the future. To withdraw that seems to be spitting in the wind. We have schools which are different; we have faith schools. We need to know whether faith schools in particular are encouraging community cohesion. One can be faithful to one’s faith, but community cohesion is for all of us, of whatever faith we are. I would have thought that that was an integral and important part of any faith school. I am not speaking about Church of England schools’ bishops, because they are very good; I do not have much of a problem with them.

The Minister said in his letter that community cohesion is to be,

“considered in a proportionate and integral way”.

If it is not considered as a separate issue, I do not know how it becomes proportionate and integral, because it is a particular area which needs to be understood. The Minister went on to say that it would be considered,

“through looking at pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development”.

I am sorry. That is not about community cohesion; it is about a pupil’s well-being and making sure that they are well rounded. I do not understand where community cohesion comes in.

This is a very important area for the future of our nation. I remember very clearly, not so long ago, the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, being made Minister for Community Cohesion in the House of Lords. What happened to that? I had thought that community cohesion was a “big buzz” thing. Whether it is a buzz thing or not, it is important that schools do not lose sight of it.

Baroness Whitaker Portrait Baroness Whitaker
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My Lords, I very much agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, but in the interests of time I shall speak only to the amendment in my name, Amendment 116A. This gives Ofsted an additional task, to inspect the effectiveness of education as influenced by the buildings and design of the school. I do not expect that this is what the Government really want, but I would urge them to take the opportunity of this amendment to embed the importance of properly designed school buildings in the assessment of the education they provide.

I shall not repeat what I said on the earlier group of amendments, but I think that it is all the more important in view of the Minister’s response on design standards. I briefly draw attention to the recently published Space for Personalised Learning report commissioned by the previous Government. In changing their approach to school building, I implore the present Government not to throw the baby out with the bath water and ignore this treasure trove of expertise. Learning is changing, and so is our understanding of it. Even if we return to chronological history and Latin, both of which I rather like, our children need to be at home with and, indeed, masters of, the modern world and its changes. They need to earn a living in that world, and they need to be able to contribute to UK growth and culture and their own self-fulfilment. The essential message of the report is that buildings and the designed space matter very much for effective learning, inclusive learning, safe and secure learning and enthusiastic and creative learning. If our inspectorate does not pay attention to this aspect of education and further it where it can, we shall all lose out.

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Ofsted recently commented that well-being will be at the heart of the new framework, because it will require inspectors to consider the full range of experiences for pupils. This demonstrates clearly its commitment to covering pupil well-being appropriately. It also confirmed that community cohesion remains in scope for inspection. In practice, that involves inspectors evaluating pupils’ understanding of their own culture and those of others locally and nationally. As part of overall effectiveness, inspectors will consider how pupils develop the skills to enable them to participate in a modern, democratic Britain, and whether pupils understand and appreciate the range of different cultures within school and beyond school as an essential element of their preparation for life. I hope that that will provide noble Lords and, of course, the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, with some assurance on this matter. I am sure that we are all delighted that she and the noble Lord, Lord McAvoy, have become soulmates.
Baroness Flather Portrait Baroness Flather
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Will the noble Baroness take on board that it is not just about culture?

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait Baroness Garden of Frognal
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Indeed we take that on board.

Amendments 118 and 120 seek to ensure that particular groups of pupils are considered as part of school inspections; namely, those benefiting from the pupil premium and those given specific reference in the Equality Act 2010. Clause 40 requires inspectors to consider the needs of the range of pupils at the school. This is a phrase lifted from the current inspection legislation. It is a useful catch-all that avoids the needs for lists in the primary legislation. Inspectors will pay particular attention to the extent to which gaps are narrowing between different groups of pupils in a school and compared to other schools. They will evaluate teaching with an eye to how well teachers engage, motivate and challenge the most able pupils.

In the case of protected groups, additional assurance is provided by the fact that Ofsted is subject to the public sector equality duty, which is provided for in the Equality Act 2010. This commits the inspectorate to playing its part in promoting equality and eliminating discrimination, including through its inspection activity. We do not therefore believe that it is necessary to replicate this within the clause. The best place for these references is not in the primary legislation, but in the framework and supplementary guidance—the detailed documents that determine how inspections are delivered on the ground—and that is where they will be found under the new system.

The last set of amendments in this group all seek to add to the inspection provisions explicit references to various subjects and aspects. Amendments 117 and 121 concern linguistic skills and modern foreign languages. I entirely endorse what was said by the noble Baronesses, Lady O’Neill and Lady Coussins. Here I would highlight the benefit of the new arrangements in giving inspectors more opportunity to focus on teaching and learning, observe lessons, listen to pupils read, and talk to individuals and groups of pupils. In terms of inspection of modern foreign languages, Ofsted conducts a rolling programme of subject surveys, and that will continue to be the way in which it assesses individual curriculum areas in future.

Moving to careers advice, I note that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, spoke on this on behalf of our joint noble friend Lord Boswell of Aynho. This will be captured within the new inspection arrangements. Inspectors will consider, for example, the extent to which pupils have a well informed understanding of the options and challenges facing them as they move through school and on to the next stage of their education, training and employment.

I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, raised the matter of school buildings and design at the recent meeting hosted by the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan of Huyton. I am aware that we have discussed this before and, if she will forgive me, I will skip over a further to reply on that, but I assure her that what she says is being taken on board.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan of Huyton, pointed out during Second Reading,

“There are always perfectly good reasons to add to an inspector’s remit”.—[Official Report, 14/6/11; col. 737.]

However, we have a real opportunity here to start afresh, to streamline the requirements on inspectors, to provide more coherence to the arrangements, to clarify to schools what is expected of them and to provide parents with more meaningful assessments of their child’s school. It is vital that Ofsted is allowed to stay focused on the key aspects set out in Clause 40. This will not be the last time that we discuss these important issues, but I hope for the moment that the noble Baroness will support this important ambition by withdrawing her amendment.

Education Bill

Baroness Flather Excerpts
Monday 18th July 2011

(12 years, 11 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Baroness Massey of Darwen Portrait Baroness Massey of Darwen
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My Lords, I wish to speak to Amendment 97 in my name. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for his eloquent and informative introduction to this group of amendments, and of course I agree with the issues he raised. I, too, should declare an interest as secretary of the British Humanist Association and a patron of the National Secular Society. I wish to speak mainly as someone who has been involved in teaching in various schools over a number of years. I should make it clear from the beginning that I think that a daily gathering—an assembly, if you like—of the whole school is of immense value. Such gatherings can be informative, uplifting and inspiring, and they do not need to be Christian.

I have taken part in many assemblies in my time and have noted that often in those assemblies Jewish, Muslim or Hindu children sat in the classroom outside the assembly because they did not wish to participate and were doing very little, as far as I could make out. Schools are not churches, synagogues, mosques or temples. They are places of wide learning, and I am disappointed that—despite opposition from educational practitioners and a government commitment to free up schools from prescriptive rules and regulations—a repeal of the duty on all schools to participate in a daily act of worship that is “broadly Christian in nature” is not included in the Bill. This is surely an outdated law.

The law, in theory at least, impedes a school’s ability to provide assemblies that are not Christian but may be based on moral and ethical precepts. Some of the best assemblies that I have taken part in or witnessed have been based on such moral and ethical themes. For example, I remember an assembly on the theme of friendship. In it the story of Ruth from the Bible of course came up, but so did many inspirational texts. Pupils contributed their own views and readings about friendship. Such assemblies would have been technically outside the law—a law that is consistently flouted by schools. Why have that law?

The law also violates the human right of freedom of belief for children. As I have said, Christian-based assemblies exclude pupils from other faiths. My amendment would replace the requirement to conduct collective worship with a requirement to hold assemblies that would further the,

“spiritual, moral, social and cultural education”

of children. Assemblies should take account of the many faiths, religions and beliefs in one school. If the law were to be changed, shared values found in different religious beliefs, including humanism, could be explored and be based on our common ground of humanity. This would represent a new entitlement for pupils, unlike the current requirement to provide Christian collective worship. The law is outdated. Why keep it?

Baroness Flather Portrait Baroness Flather
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My Lords, I have put my name to the amendment. I want to tell you of my own two experiences of collective assemblies—not collective worship.

When I was a child in India, the school that I went to held an assembly every morning. It was not for worship but for learning. We learnt much more, as the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, has said, about how to be good people, good citizens and good human beings than we would have done with one faith. My second experience was later in life when I went to a Methodist college, where we were made to go to chapel every day. It took place in the middle of the day, so that one could not arrive late. The teachers would go round the classrooms making sure that none of us girls was skiving. I am not saying that this happens now in schools, but quite often in those assemblies anti-Hindu and anti-Muslim sentiments were expressed. That left us with a very bitter taste. Frankly, I never understood what Methodism was about until I came here and worked with Methodists in my area—they do much good work. However, we did not know that and we did not learn about the good things. We were told only about the belief system.

The time has come to widen the remit and allow schools to focus on the needs of all the children in the school, because I do not believe in children withdrawing from a morning assembly. If you start to do that and the parents start to withdraw their children, you do not have a group spirit. The attitude is, “These people are there and those people are there. These children will not be coming”, and so on. That is a very retrograde step. It should be compulsory for all children to attend an assembly in the morning, and that assembly should be such that it is meaningful to everyone. I do not understand why the principles of various faiths or religions cannot be used in that assembly instead of just the dogma, the doctrine, or whatever, that people feel that there should be. If we had other faith preachers come now and again to speak at an assembly, it would bring everybody together much more.

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Lord Quirk Portrait Lord Quirk
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My Lords, if there is one thing that is clearly agreed in the Committee this afternoon, it is the value of the assembly as a way of showing that the school has a sense of community. There is much good in the amendments put forward, but at the same time we should not forget that church schools happen to be extremely popular with parents, even those with no religion or religious beliefs of their own. Church schools are not popular by accident. If we wish to move from the current position, let us say in Northern Ireland, with mutually hostile but strongly religious schools, to something of the idealism put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, and the noble Lord, Lord Peston, we need to think very carefully about what we will put into this mix of idealism and discipline that appears equally in these amendments.

Baroness Flather Portrait Baroness Flather
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My Lords, church schools are extremely popular, especially with ethnic minority parents. They feel that there is more discipline and they are better controlled, and there is usually a uniform. Most ethnic minority parents like that. I am not sure it is because of collective worship and we should bear that in mind very carefully. If we take out the word “worship”, we have had things about spirituality and about Christian heritage. It is very important that children from anywhere and everywhere learn about the Christian heritage of this country. That is fundamental: if we do not know anything about the Christian heritage of Britain we do not know about Britain.

I would also like to point out that this is the most irreligious country I have ever come across. The people in this country are not religious and they do not even pretend to be religious. If collective worship is your idea to bring up a generation that will be more religious, it will not, because it has not done so. As far as the worship in the Chamber is concerned, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Peston. I went once; I could not go again, simply because it is so ludicrous. Turning your back and showing your bottom is just not on. I would never do that. I do not mind a few words thanking God et cetera—that is fine. I have no problem with any religion, or no religion. I was brought up to believe that all faiths, all religions, are pathways to God and they are equally valid in that sense. I have no problem with that, but there has to be a limit to how we deal with these issues. Certainly there are old people here and people of a generation who are used to that kind of thing. For me, it was very strange indeed. We talked about peer pressure. Peer pressure works here as well.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, that, during the years that I spent in voluntary work in Maidenhead, my closest allies were the Methodists and I have long since learned how good they are. I now judge people not according to what I learned once but as they present themselves to me. However, I would say that the Catholics suppress women, and hundreds of thousands of women die in childbirth. He may not like that, but I do not care.

Lord Hill of Oareford Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford)
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Behind me is a portrait of the judgment of Daniel. Actually, I think that it should be a portrait of the judgment of Solomon, given today’s debate—

Education Bill

Baroness Flather Excerpts
Tuesday 14th June 2011

(13 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Flather Portrait Baroness Flather
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My Lords, I listened to the Secretary of State at the Cross-Bench meeting last Wednesday and was charmed by him. Perhaps my fellow Peers who were there would agree that he charmed us. He is charismatic, charming and intelligent. However, when you think about the Bill more clearly, you can see very divisive aspects hidden in it which will emerge as time goes on and lead to division rather than cohesion. The noble Lord, Lord Willis, put his finger on some of those factors.

How can you say that autonomy is not good? It is wonderful to run your own institution, appoint your own governors and choose your own teachers. However, if the autonomy has a religious basis, you could discriminate against people who are not of your faith in admissions, employment and the appointment of governors. The noble Lord, Lord Baker, asked the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford whether Church of England schools admitted 25 per cent of pupils from other faiths. The bishop replied that he did not know because it was a decision for the governors or the diocese. Autonomy is wonderful but somebody has to keep an eye on it as it cannot be total. That is what worries me. We are going to have religious-based academies which will have a lot of powers. The noble Lord, Lord Parekh, has already mentioned some of the issues, particularly as regards discrimination in employment. I am extremely concerned about that, but I am also concerned about admissions.

If the academies start to make decisions on the basis of faith, where are we going? We are living in the 21st century, yet we are going backwards into an increasingly faith-based society. What do we want this country to be like in 20, 25 or 30 years? Do we want little groups of faith-based communities springing up here, there and everywhere? We already have faith schools, not just Church of England and Catholic schools. As the right reverend Prelate rightly said, the Church of England was the only institution that began to educate the poor. We have to accept that historical fact. Every country has to live with its history, but why all the other schools? They do nothing but segregate children. Do we really want segregation in this country? The more faith schools we have, the more segregation we will have. It stands to reason. If a Muslim school is there, non-Muslims will not attend it. Even if the school said, “We will have 10 per cent or 20 per cent non-Muslims”, who will go there? Would you send your child or grandchild to a Muslim school? I doubt it. This is my worry; we are creating all this superstructure of faith schools. Will we one day have creationist schools? Why not? Creationists say they are a faith. Will we have some other slightly strange religion? It is a worry and we ought to think very carefully about where we want to be.

We already have segregation. The Cantle report on the riots in the Midlands said clearly that they occurred because of segregation. If we keep on segregating our children, at what stage will we have community cohesion? If children are not educated together, they will never know each other. They will never get together. Even if you are grown up and at university, you find that the Muslim girls and boys stick together. They do not mix with the others. When I went to university, there were very few Indians there, but we never even thought about it. We were at university. Everyone was the same. It was the first time in my life that I felt that I was just a person. I was not a woman. I was not Indian. I was not this or that. This is what we need to be feeling—not feeling Indian, Muslim or Hindu. This is what we should be working towards.

I see that my speaking time is coming to an end. You cannot really consider some parts of the Midlands as part of this country any more. They look more like the countries of origin from where the people have come. Nursery schools for two year-olds should really concentrate on the children from such areas, because they do not speak English when they go to school, and that automatically sets them back. They lose two or three years while they are learning English. You might ask why the third or fourth generations still do not know English. It is because they marry in the village and one parent is therefore always without English. All the time it is one step forward and one step back. I cannot understand why Ofsted’s power to look for community cohesion in schools has been taken away. It is the most important aspect of this issue. A school is not just for itself but is also about providing for the whole community, not only for the governors or the pupils. Ofsted’s power to look for community cohesion is fundamental and should never be removed. Amendments to the Bill will come.