Lord Harries of Pentregarth debates involving the Department for Education during the 2019 Parliament

Mon 18th Jul 2022
Schools Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Report stage: Part 1 & Lords Hansard - Part 1
Mon 20th Jun 2022
Schools Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Committee stage: Part 1 & Lords Hansard - Part 1
Mon 23rd May 2022
Schools Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

2nd reading: Part one & Lords Hansard - Part one

Religious Education in Schools

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Excerpts
Thursday 18th January 2024

(5 months, 4 weeks ago)

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Asked by
Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to improve the quality of religious education in schools.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB)
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My Lords, the 2023 report by Ofsted on religious education could hardly be more damning. It said that, in too many schools, RE was of “poor quality” and “not fit for purpose”. Ofsted suggested that, as a subject, RE was “undervalued” and often considered as an “afterthought” by schools. It argued that the

“lack of clarity and support”

from the Government made the schools’ job “harder”. This is not a new situation but one that has been known for many years and, despite some input by government, the situation has continued to deteriorate.

Religious education is education. It is not propaganda. It is simply basic to any understanding of what it is to be a citizen of our society in the world today. First, it is impossible to understand the literature, art, music, history or political values of this country and Europe without some basic knowledge of the Christian faith and the Hebrew scriptures on which it was built. It should be general knowledge in our culture as to why we have Christmas and Easter, for example, but polls indicate a widespread ignorance. Teachers of literature in universities are appalled at the lack of any kind of knowledge of the Christian faith that permeates so much of what students will study. Then, in our plural society in which Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism, for example, are so widely present, religious education should give people the mindset to begin to enter into the narrative of other worldviews. It goes without saying that, in a world of conflict such as ours, where religion is so often a factor, this is more important than ever.

I am delighted that a number of my humanist friends will be speaking in this debate, but I stress to them that what we are talking about is education, not propaganda. Most young people today say, apparently, that they have no religion. This makes it all the more important for them actually to know something about what it is that they say they do not believe. Religious education is therefore essential for understanding both our own society and the world in which we live. Why have successive Governments allowed it to be so marginalised for so long?

At the moment, the major responsibility for RE lies with local authorities and SACREs. Some of them take this responsibility seriously but, in others, very little has been done. In August last year, a survey of LA funding to SACREs found that five authorities declared no spending on RE at all, and a further 34—39 in all, or 31%—stated they do not spend any money supporting RE in schools. Some authorities allocated sufficient funding for a proper review of the agreed syllabus in a timely fashion, but 21 authorities had a syllabus from before 2017—over five years old.

SACREs have, on the whole, worked well as enablers of co-operation and community between the different faith communities, but they have not been able to bring about the radical improvement in RE that has been shown to be needed for many years now. The time has come for much more direction at a national level. I agree with the Religious Education Policy Unit that there should be a properly funded national plan for RE, which should include a national curriculum. A national curriculum is used as a benchmark for standards in other subjects and, if academies do not choose to follow it, they must provide a curriculum that is similarly broad and ambitious. The present situation, where responsibility lies at a local level, means that there is no standard available to the Government to challenge weak or invisible RE provision.

The present situation is lamentable. In England, schools have a statutory obligation to provide RE to their students. However, according to the school workforce data, one in five schools offers zero hours of RE in year 11; this equates to around 500 secondary schools. In the absence of a national standard, the current Government have no mechanism to challenge this.

It should also be noted that no government money has been spent on RE projects in schools over the last five years—that is, 2016 to 2021. During this time, English has received £28.5 million, music has received £387 million, maths has received £154 million and science £56 million. With the Government’s stated “firm belief” in the importance of RE in mind, there should be a national plan for RE on a par, at least, with the national plan for music. There should also be, as part of this national plan, the provision of teachers who are properly qualified to teach the subject and able to take part in continuing professional development; this is not the case at the moment. The Department for Education has missed its recruitment target for secondary RE teachers in nine out of the last 10 years. While the total number of secondary teachers in history and geography has risen by 6% and 11% respectively during that period, the number of teachers of RE has declined by almost 6% in the same time. The result is that pupils are now three times as likely to be taught RE by someone with no qualification in the subject than, for example, in history. Some 51% of RE lessons are taught by people whose qualification is in a subject other than RE, and RE often becomes the lesson that is filled by a teacher with a few spare lessons on their timetable.

One way in which this situation can be addressed is through the provision of more bursaries for those training to teach RE in a way that is comparable to those training to teach other subjects where there is a shortage of teachers. I welcome the Government’s commitment to fund bursaries of £10,000 for trainee teachers in RE and the provision of eight-week subject enhancement courses. However, even with these measures, recruitment for this year was predicted to be 60% short of the target, and this has the further effect of putting university courses where people learn the subject under strain and creating a vicious circle of decline. Despite the sterling efforts of some schools and some SACREs, it is widely recognised that the present situation is lamentable, and it is failing to prepare pupils for understanding the key role of religion in our culture and history and its importance for good community relations in the modern world. What is happening now in RE is professionally unacceptable.

I am grateful to the Library for its briefing and to the Religious Education Policy Unit for its recommendations, which I follow, on the whole. Finally, I will press the Minister on whether she agrees that: first, we need a properly funded, clear national plan for RE and that it can no longer simply be left to SACREs, and this plan should include a budgetary provision at least comparable to other subjects that need a boost, such as music; secondly, this plan should include what is expected from the syllabus and that what happens locally should be judged by this benchmark; and thirdly, that RE should be taught by people who have qualifications in the subject and who are given regular opportunities to enhance their professional skills, and that more bursaries and more money for enhanced professional training should be made available to this end. I beg to move.

Life Skills and Citizenship

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Excerpts
Thursday 7th September 2023

(10 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB)
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My Lords, I was a member of the Select Committee that produced the report, The Ties That Bind: Citizenship and Civic Engagement in the 21st Century. It exposed major failings in the teaching of citizenship in schools. The Government’s response did nothing to suggest that these failings were being addressed. The Liaison Committee’s follow-up report, which was debated in April this year, again pointed out continuing failures in this area. All this is well set out in the excellent Library briefing.

The noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, the chair of the original committee, much regrets that he is not able to be part of today’s debate because of an operation. In April, he said that

“our follow-up report made a number of recommendations at paragraphs 72 to 77 about Ofsted’s work. It is no exaggeration to say that Ofsted rejected the lot. It persistently mixes up citizenship education with PSHE—personal, social, health and economic education. In truth, they are completely different”.—Official Report, 17/4/23; col. GC 178.]

Is the Minister satisfied that Ofsted now distinguishes citizenship education from PSHE, or is the former still too often subsumed in the latter?

I will again raise two of the many concerns from the earlier reports. First, is a record now being kept of the number of trainee teachers in citizenship education? If not, why not? Secondly, are bursaries now available for those who want to teach the subject, as there are in other subjects where teachers are in short supply?

When we look around the world today, we see far too many oppressive dictatorships, military coups, managed democracies and elective autocracies. Of the 195 countries in the world, only 72 are democracies or flawed democracies. Democracy is a precious historical achievement, but it is fragile, as the noble Viscount just emphasised. There is no guarantee that it can survive. Young people should be taught why democracy matters and how to be a responsible citizen in democracy. Too often, at the moment, this is not being done at all, or only very inadequately.

The Ties that Bind: Citizenship and Civic Engagement in the 21st Century Follow-Up Report

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Excerpts
Monday 17th April 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB)
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My Lords, I begin by paying tribute not only to the Liaison Committee for a very thorough job of work, but to our parliamentary system which provides for such committee. Its very existence and the reports that it produces make it more likely that important recommendations are put into effect, for it can show whether a Government have taken them on board—or not, as the case may be. Sadly, in the case of the recommendations of The Ties that Bind, it is the latter. What our Select Committee originally revealed—a very unsatisfactory situation—is shown by the Liaison Committee still to be highly unsatisfactory and very far indeed from what our committee thought it should be.

I believe that the need for citizenship and civic education highlighted in our 2018 report is even more pressing now than it was then, for we live in a world where there are not only dictatorships but managed democracies, democracies where human rights are not observed, and democracies where the rule of law is made subservient to political expediency. It is more important than ever that pupils coming out of our schools should have some grasp of the political system in which we live, its strengths as well as its weaknesses, and a sense of responsibility to live as an active citizen. That is, for the most part, simply not happening at the moment. Our report showed why, and the Liaison Committee’s report discloses the same fundamental failures.

The first issue, of course, concerns someone to take responsibility for this area. The noble Baroness, Lady Morris, put it so powerfully: there must be a Minister in overall charge. It is only when someone such as that is in place that things happen—when there is someone who is accountable. Our original recommendation was that this person should be located in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, but it has a very broad remit. Of course, so much of citizenship education is actually academic education, so if the Government continue to be very resistant to the idea of putting somebody in charge in that department, perhaps they would reconsider and see whether the Minister of Education themselves should be responsible for this area, with particular responsibility to relate to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities for that aspect of the work.

Secondly, as so many of your Lordships have emphasised, the situation as far as education itself is concerned is absolutely appalling. In so many schools, citizenship is taught only tangentially and in so many it is simply subsumed into PSHE. I will not repeat what has already been put so powerfully by other noble Lords, but imagine a school giving a wrong answer—as wrong as the answer we have disclosed—to Ofsted. Our recommendation is worth repeating:

“Citizenship should not be treated solely as part of pupils’ personal development. To do so is to misunderstand the nature of the subject in its entirety.”


Suppose a school gave an answer that totally misunderstood what it meant. What would Ofsted do about it? There would be black marks all over from any kind of examination system that gets that kind of report.

One aspect of democracy, and therefore of citizenship education, has to do with values—what has been termed fundamental British values. In its original report, the committee expressed concern about the wording of “fundamental British values” as originally conceived and suggested an alternative. Since then, I have tried to press this issue with a Private Member’s Bill, which sadly was not selected, and with amendments to the Schools Bill, which the Government sadly were unwilling to accept. The purpose of what I proposed was to give a much clearer definition of what should be taught under this subject. I will briefly repeat what I put forward:

“British values


(1) In any statement relating to British values for education purposes in England and Wales, the Secretary of State, OFSTED and any other public authority must include—


(a) democracy,


(b) the rule of law,


(c) freedom,


(d) individual worth, and


(e) respect for the environment.


(2) Any statement in subsection (1) must refer to British values as ‘values of British citizenship’.


(3) In subsection (1 )(c) ‘freedom’ includes—


(a) freedom of thought, conscience and religion,


(b) freedom of expression, and


(c) freedom of assembly and association.


(4) In subsection (1)(d) ‘individual worth’ means respect for the equal worth and dignity of every person.


(5) In subsection (l)(e) ‘respect for the environment’ means taking into account the systemic effect of human actions on the health and sustainability of the environment both within the United Kingdom and the planet as a whole, for present and future generations”.


I will continue to look for a legislative opportunity to bring about this change. If achieved, this will help give a much clearer notion of the nature of the democracy in which we live. The word “democracy” means everything and nothing. The majority of countries claim in some sense to be democratic, so it is necessary to state what we mean by the word; otherwise, pupils will grow up with an extremely vague and sometimes misleading idea of what it means, such as it meaning only elections. It means a great deal more than that.

As noble Lords have pointed out, it is not only important that Ofsted has a clear understanding of this subject and distinguishes it from PHSE; if the subject is going to be taught, it needs enough properly trained teachers. As we pointed out in our original report, and as the Liaison Committee emphasised and we mentioned again today, the Government have been unwilling to collect statistics on the number of trainee teachers in the subject or to put forward bursaries, as they are for other subjects, to attract teachers. That is another essential failure.

The Liaison Committee’s report several times looks forward to the then proposed White Paper on schools, in which it expected these serious concerns to be addressed. But there has been no White Paper, so where do we go from here? Who will address these concerns? Will the present Government do so? I am afraid the situation is lamentable. Major failings were exposed by our committee and the Liaison Committee has forcefully shown that the Government have not faced up to them. They are still glaringly obvious.

The noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, began by saying that he thought we had failed. We may have failed to achieve our immediate objectives but I hope we will not think that we have failed totally. I mean no disrespect to the present Government but, with an election coming up in a limited period of time, there will be a new Government—speaking as a Cross-Bencher, it may be either Conservative or Labour—coming in with fresh ideas. Already, people are beavering away, writing their manifestos and putting into their party documents the kinds of achievements they want in future. I hope those noble Lords with political influence are already working with the people devising manifestos and future programmes for government to ensure that these absolutely valid recommendations are not lost. They must be carried forward and, somehow, within the next one, two or three years, we must bring them into effect.

Schools Bill [HL]

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Excerpts
Moved by
101: After Clause 67, insert the following new Clause—
“British values(1) In any statement relating to British values for education purposes at primary and secondary level in England and Wales, the Secretary of State, OFSTED and any other public authority must include—(a) democracy,(b) the rule of law,(c) freedom,(d) equal respect for every person, and(e) respect for the environment.(2) Any statement under subsection (1) must refer to British values as “values of British citizenship”.(3) The values listed under subsection (1)(a) to (e) must be taught as part of citizenship, at the first to fourth key stages. (4) In subsection (1)(a) “democracy” includes—(a) an independent judiciary,(b) in a Parliamentary system, a Government that is accountable to Parliament,(c) regular elections, and(d) decentralised decision-making, accountable at an appropriate level to the electorate.(5) In subsection (1)(c) “freedom” includes—(a) freedom of thought, conscience and religion,(b) freedom of expression, and(c) freedom of assembly and association.(6) In subsection (1)(e) “respect for the environment” means taking into account the systemic effect of human actions on the health and sustainability of the environment both within the United Kingdom and over the planet as a whole, for present and future generations.”
Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB)
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I beg to move Amendment 101 on British standards, which stands in my name and those of the noble Lords, Lord Blunkett and Lord Norton of Louth, and the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher.

The Ofsted chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, has said:

“When it comes to British values, we often see an oddly piecemeal approach, which too seldom builds the teaching into a strong context … we see a lot of wall displays and motivational assemblies, but not much coherent thinking about how a real depth of understanding can be built through the academic curriculum”.


British values have to be taught in schools, but there is a fundamental problem at the moment about them being taught.

--- Later in debate ---
With that, I ask the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, to withdraw his amendment, and other noble Lords not to move theirs.
Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB)
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I thank all those who spoke in support of my amendment, and I listened with great interest to those who spoke so powerfully on a whole range of amendments. I thank the Minister for what she said, and for the offer to meet her to talk about guidance, but the problems are more deep-seated than just changing the guidance. One point that I want to correct is that I do not believe that my amendment involves a change of the curriculum; after all, fundamental British values have to be taught at the moment. This is not changing the curriculum; it is just exactly listing the values, to gain greater support from teachers and pupils.

I do not intend to divide the House tonight, although I know that there is very strong support all around it from all parties and I have not lost confidence in this amendment. A new Government are coming in in September, we have the Third Reading in September, the Bill still has to go to the Commons after us, and I believe that the reasons in favour of this small but significant change are so compelling that it eventually will be picked up by one Government sooner or later. With that, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 101 withdrawn.

Schools: Citizenship Education

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Excerpts
Wednesday 29th June 2022

(2 years ago)

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Asked by
Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the teaching of citizenship education in schools.

Baroness Barran Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education (Baroness Barran) (Con)
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My Lords, citizenship education is considered as part of Ofsted school inspections. In addition, Ofsted plans to undertake a review of personal development in schools in England. The review, which will include consideration of citizenship education, will involve analysis of inspection evidence, and culminate in the publication of a national report on personal development later this year. This will be similar to reviews that Ofsted has published for other subjects.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB)
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I thank the Minister for that reply. The report The Ties that Bind, from the Select Committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, made a number of recommendations on citizens’ education. Recommendation 16 said:

“The Government has allowed citizenship education in England to degrade to a parlous state. The decline of the subject must be addressed in its totality as a matter of urgency.”


In their response to that recommendation, the Government simply indicated what is in the subject and what schools may do, but said absolutely nothing about what the Government would do, so I very much hope there will be not only a report but some action after that report.

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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The Government share the noble and right reverend Lord’s aspiration, and the aspiration of the committee to which he refers. We want our children to leave school with the knowledge, skills and values that prepare them to be active citizens, and good citizenship education obviously can help to achieve that. We look forward to the report and acting on it when we receive it.

Schools Bill [HL]

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Excerpts
In my view, this amendment provides a solution. Its purpose is to counter what I describe as this obfuscation by enshrining in law a parental right to review curriculum materials that is presently merely alluded to in guidance. For all the reasons set out by the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, I strongly believe that this Government should do that.
Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB)
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My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 168 on fundamental British values. The law at present requires every school to teach fundamental British values and the purpose of my amendment is simply to build on what we have at the moment to strengthen it more firmly into the structure and teaching of the school.

The law we have at the moment was introduced in 2015 in the wake of the Prevent programme. Almost inevitably, it was orientated in a particular direction; the result is that it is lopsided and strangely missing in certain fundamental matters of our society. That law says that democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance of those of different faiths and beliefs have to be taught. It may be obvious to everybody that there is one fundamental gap in that list: the equal respect to be accorded to every person in our society. We all have one vote—only one, not less and not more—and the law has to treat each of us equally, whether we are wealthy or poor. Government departments have to treat everybody equally, whether they are powerful or powerless. This is of course not a value which has suddenly been dreamt up; it goes back to Runnymede. Therefore, in the revised list before us in Amendment 168, there is included

“equal respect for every person”.

The two first values on the list, democracy and the rule of law, remain unchanged but, as we all know, democracy can mean anything or everything. Most countries in the world claim to be democratic when, in fact, more than half of them are not at all, so it needs to be spelt out in law what we mean by a liberal democracy. That can be seen in proposed new subsection (4), and I shall mention two obvious things in it: “an independent judiciary” and

“in a Parliamentary system, a Government that is accountable to Parliament”.

Freedom, of course, is also fundamental to our society and it is a word whose meaning is very well established in law and international law. It is actually to be preferred to the present wording of “individual liberty”, because it goes much wider. That is spelt out in proposed new subsection (5), which says that

“‘freedom’ includes … freedom of thought, conscience and religion … freedom of expression, and … freedom of assembly and association.”

At the moment, fundamental British values are hardly being taught in schools at all. I was speaking to somebody at lunch today who is trying their best to get something taught and was telling me that it meets a great deal of opposition from teachers and pupils because of the phrase “British values”. That was part of the original unease when this was introduced in 2015. It is a great pity to be distracted on that kind of debate, and there is an easy solution to it in this amendment. The values are to be called “values of British citizenship”, and are legally clear. It claims not that the values are unique to society or that they are better or worse than others but that if you are a British citizen by adoption or birth, these are the values of our society. I do not see how anybody could possibly object to that. It would help to avoid a debate that at the moment is distracting and stops this matter being properly taught in schools.

Although the law states at the moment that these values have to be taught in schools, it does not say who is responsible for teaching them. That is why proposed new subsection (3) says that these values

“must be taught as part of citizenship, at the first to fourth key stages.”

Teaching them does not have to be confined to that—it may be that a head will want to talk about British values in assembly—but at least there would be a clear place in the curriculum where the values have to be taught. This would strengthen citizenship education in schools, which at the moment is very patchy. In some schools it is hardly done at all, while in others it is elided into PSHE. There would therefore be something much more substantial to grasp and to teach children.

There is one further addition that is not there at the moment, “respect for the environment.” From talking to people, there is no doubt that including this in the list has very widespread support, particularly among young people. Seeing that in the legislation would help to arouse their interest in the list as a whole. It is not just a personal value but a political one, which is why proposed new subsection (6) says that

“‘respect for the environment’ means taking into account the systemic effect of human actions on the health and sustainability of the environment both within the United Kingdom and over the planet as a whole, for present and future generations.”

That is a widely agreed definition of what is meant by respect for the environment.

I am a passionate believer in the teaching of British political values in our schools. At the moment it is not being done properly, if at all. This proposal is a real way in which to strengthen the teaching of those values, and I am glad that it has such substantial support, including from the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, from the Labour Benches, the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, from the Conservative Benches, and the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, from the Liberal Democrats. I very much hope that this will continue to gain support from all around the House.

Schools Bill [HL]

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Excerpts
2nd reading & Lords Hansard - Part one
Monday 23rd May 2022

(2 years, 1 month ago)

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Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB)
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My Lords, I begin by paying tribute to teachers. I believe teaching is one of the most challenging jobs anyone could do and today in particular they face multiple challenges, not least the mental fragility of so many pupils, as outlined so powerfully in today’s news. The Bill raises a range of concerns, and I will be listening carefully to those who address them as well, of course, as to the Government. In the limited time available I will confine myself to one issue, which is to sketch out the background to an amendment that I will be introducing in Committee on fundamental British values.

I believe that it is more important now than ever before that pupils understand the fundamental political values upon which our life together is based. They are under threat all over the world, not just from totalitarian states like China and Russia but in countries that still claim to be liberal democracies but where, in reality, there is a significant loss of those fundamental freedoms and rights that are integral to a true democracy.

The teaching of fundamental British values has its origin in the 2011 Prevent strategy. This was taken up in 2014, when schools were directed to promote the fundamental British values of

“democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.”

When these values were first announced, they met with two kinds of opposition. First, there was a worry that, because they came in as part of the Prevent strategy, their formulation had in fact been skewed in one direction—tolerance of all faiths—to the neglect of other fundamental values. The second criticism was that they claim to be British values when, it was argued, such values belong to other societies as well.

Concern about this wording and recommendations for a slightly different formulation were put forward in 2015 in Living with Difference, the report of the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life—of which I was a member—set up by the Woolf Institute in Cambridge and chaired by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. It has also been taken up by two House of Lords special committees of which I have been a member, in particular in the 2018 report The Ties that Bind: Citizenship and Civic Engagement in the 21st Century, from a committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts. So this amendment has not come out of the blue but has been marinating for 12 years.

The first question that arises is whether the phrase “fundamental British values” is still the right one. Should it not be “the values of British citizenship”? That title does not claim that these values are exclusive to our society, but it rightly and legally claims that they are the values of anyone who is a British citizen, whether by birth or by adoption.

On the values themselves, democracy, the rule of law and individual liberty—or, perhaps better, freedom—must surely remain in place. But, although the rest of the list—

“mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs”—

is indeed essential, what about equal respect and concern for every person as such, able or differently abled and of whatever race or background? Would it not be better to talk about individual worth and the equal respect and concern due to everyone, whatever their beliefs? The word “tolerance” is somewhat uneasy in this context; there are some beliefs that we should not tolerate. But we should respect people and their right to hold beliefs, even if we do not respect the beliefs themselves.

I will talk in more detail about the exact wording when I move my amendment. I just emphasise that its purpose is to strengthen the statement on values by making it less lopsided and more philosophically coherent. However, in the amendment, I will include one addition to the values already there. It is clear that the one value that clearly resonates with young people more than any other at the moment is the environment. So should we not, in addition to including respect for people, take this opportunity to add respect for the environment? This would mean taking into account the systematic effect of human actions on the health and sustainability of the environment, both within the United Kingdom and on the planet as a whole, for present and future generations. I believe that such an addition would be widely welcomed as strengthening the teaching of values in our schools.

I believe that it is absolutely fundamental that pupils in our schools should be fully conversant with the political values upon which our society is founded.

Professor Kathleen Stock: Resignation

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Excerpts
Tuesday 16th November 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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Universities have long-standing duties in relation to freedom of speech in law. They have to balance those with their duties under the Equality Act and other bits of legislation. They will be expected to take all reasonable, practicable steps to address any constraints on freedom of speech and uphold it in future.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB)
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What happened to Professor Kathleen Stock was deeply dismaying and worrying for our society. Universities should be both a safeguard and a focus of rational debate about contentious issues. I was glad to hear from the Minister that the Office for Students is setting up an inquiry. As this is not just a local difficulty but something fundamental to the future of a civilised society, will she bring its recommendations to Parliament so that we can see that there will be adequate action in strengthening the role of academics in free debate?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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The noble and right reverend Lord makes a good point. I am sure that he will have seen the letter written by over 200 academics that was published in the Sunday Times last month, making the point that, actually, junior academics face the most chilling impacts of what is going on. Of course, he will know that the Office for Students is independent, and how it presents its report is therefore up to it, but I would be happy to answer questions on it, should they arise.