All 1 Debates between Baroness Flather and Lord Quirk

Mon 18th Jul 2011

Education Bill

Debate between Baroness Flather and Lord Quirk
Monday 18th July 2011

(12 years, 11 months ago)

Grand Committee
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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.