Schools (Teaching Values)

– in the House of Commons am 12:41 pm ar 3 Ebrill 1980.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North 12:41, 3 Ebrill 1980

The announcement of the Queen signifying Her Royal Assent to the Education Act, which we spent time discussing in the early hours of this morning, is significant, as we are again dealing with education.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) and I first met 19 years ago, just after the Easter break, when I came to take my first headship in London. I lived at that time in the Oxford university settlement, a great boxing club in Mape Street, in Bethnal Green. The first person whom I came to know was my hon. Friend, who is again my neighbour in his constituency of Ealing, North, which adjoins Brent, North. My hon. Friend has done a great service to the House and to education and moral values in choosing this subject for debate.

Schools have four main tasks. They must first provide literacy and numeracy, which are like Solomon's wisdom. Once those abilities are achieved, they can be added to.

Secondly, at each stage of history there is a body of knowledge that can be subdivided into subjects and that holds together a common culture, and it is the job of schools to pass it on.

Thirdly, schools should impart the skills to earn a living and enjoy leisure. It is necessary to hold down a job in order to have the money to spend on leisure when the opportunity occurs. I believe that the skills to earn a living should come first, and then the ability to enjoy leisure.

Fourthly, schools should impart values in art, music, religion, philosophy and literature, which are the great achievements of man that have made civilisation so fine. Culture is civilisation's greatest flower.

In all these tasks values should persist. The hidden value in every school is the way that staff deal with pupils and pupils with staff. If the school is civilised, with staff respecting pupils and the head respecting the staff, the pupils will return that respect.

I pay tribute to British schools. Compared with schools in many other countries, they have almost uniquely fulfilled pastoral care. Not only house masters and year masters but all teachers feel that to teach their class best they need to know the individuals, their homes and the problems and advantages of their family background. That pastoral care has raised the status of the teaching profession in Britain and differs from the lecturing attitude in other countres. It should be treasured by our teachers.

Schools should have an ordered, structured framework within the rule of law. They should cultivate a respect for learning and for other people. My hon. Friend referred to respect for oneself and for others. There must also be respect for learning.

Learning is not rediscovered in every generation. Calculus or language cannot be rediscovered. They have grown up over thousands of years, and must be maintained orally and in writing. Without that, learning collapses.

Children must learn that they are heirs of a great cultural tradition, which must be nurtured. Attacking it will not bring about a better civilisation; it will merely sow dragon's teeth, and anarchy and destruction of law and order will follow.

There must be a respect for the past. The teaching of history is vital. I say that not merely because I am a historian. We should know of the rise and fall of other civilisations and be aware how thin is the veneer of civilisation and how necessary it is to preserve it. An awareness of the achievements and failures of man gives a sense of perspective in values and political judgment.

Schools must teach that there is a price to pay for what one achieves. Nothing is free. To achieve a good essay requires work. People are not born with the ability to spell a 13-letter or even a four-letter word. It has to he worked at and learnt through, for instance, Schonell spelling books. Only after one has worked over a period and paid the price does one experience the satisfaction of a fine piece of prose or poetry. It does not happen by accident. Achievement requires dedication, work and sacrifice.

We all remember the situation in certain European and American universities in 1968. Teaching values became difficult then, but the situation is settling down. The values of our society and all that we treasured and considered dear were threatened. It is easier to knock down than to build. In the late 1960s and early 1970s in the Western world self-criticism and almost self-flagellation were prevalent. Anything successful had to be destroyed. I almost thought that the slogan would be: "Give us the tools and we will knock down the job." That time has passed, but we must rebuild belief in the family, responsibility of parenthood, and the pride of the teaching profession as one of the greatest professions in history. Teachers have within their hands the training of the young.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

I associate myself with my hon. Friend's remarks. The teaching profession is and has long been the greatest profession of all. It has a crucial job to do, of which it is well aware. I am proud to be a member of it.

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

I welcome my hon. Friend's intervention. We have hundreds of thousands of dedicated teachers, and we should maintain their esteem. We also have orderly and successful schools.

My hon. Friend referred to religious education, which teaches basic values. I do not say that an irreligious person is an immoral person, but the basis of our moral values is the religious sense that we were taught.

We are still a Christian country. The largest group of believers in this country are Christians. When people say that we should no longer have religious education in schools, I tell them that more people go to church on Sunday—not just on Easter Sunday but on any Sunday—than go to football matches on Saturday.

People might say that because football crowds have diminished we need not teach games in schools. Using the same logic, they say that we should not have religious education in schools. But Christianity is not a dying faith. Churches in my constituency are filled. Every survey shows that the vast majority of parents wish to have religious values taught in schools, even though they may not practise those values themselves. Those parents have respect for the fabric of belief.

It is important to recall the Education Act 1944 in this context. Section 25 (1) provides: Subject to the provisions of this section, the school day in every county school and in every voluntary school shall begin with collective worship on the part of all pupils.". That is a clear statement and that provision should be fulfilled. Religious instruction should not be a sociological mish-mash in schools. There should be an act of collective worship in our schools daily, as specified by the Act.

School authorities have a responsibility to fulfil the Act. I said so in Opposition and I say it now in Government. Governors and head teachers should ensure the fulfilment of that provision. I also feel that the Churches should seek to ensure that the Act is fulfilled. Section 25(2) of the Act provides: Subject to the provisions of this section, religious instruction shall be given in every county school and in every voluntary school. We call it religious education now. Subject names are always changing, but if one waits for 20 years we usually revert to the original names.

The Act provides for the teaching of religious belief. That does not mean that children must be indoctrinated. I call religious teaching induction. There is a difference between induction and indoctrination. Indoctrination means that no alternative is given—there is coercion. Induction means that one brings a pupil alongside the subject. That means that children can say "Yes" or "No" later.

If young people are not give the chance to realise the strength of religious faith and what it can do, they will be immensely deprived in later life. Children have a right to know the basic religious faith of their parents and of society. I believe that the 1944 Act should be enforced wherever possible and that it should be a priority in every school.

We now have minority groups in our schools. I was head of a school with a 25 per cent. ethnic minority and I was head of another school where the ethnic element was more than 50 per cent. Children from such groups have a right to religious instruction in their faith within our system. Most of our schools are basically Christian, but in the inner cities and areas with large minority groups provision should be made in local schools for the children of such groups to receive religious instruction. Their parents have made it known that that is what they wish. It is not a question of a little of everything and of religion in schools being rather like the Museum of Religion in Moscow, where one learns only about the dates of festivals. Our children should know what living faith means as they grow up.

The teaching of religion in schools is basic to the 1944 Act and our people still desire it, and I believe that the vast majority of our schools still try to fulfil their obligations under the Act.

My hon. Friend referred to the shortage of teachers of religious education. In January there were 100 vacancies for full-time teachers of religious education as a main subject. If we are to fulfil the need of which I have spoken, we shall in the 1980s, need recruitment of 500 teachers of RE every year. My hon. Friend is a member of the Anglican faith and I was godfather, with Bishop Trevor Huddleston, to one of his sons. That shows the wisdom and breadth of approach of my hon. Friend.

I share my hon. Friend's concern about the shortage of teachers of RE. I believe that the solution to that problem is partially in the hands of the Churches. The churches have their voluntary colleges built originally with the pennies of the members of those Churches. They were established to train teachers to teach particular faiths. I think that in those colleges emphasis should be placed on ensuring that they fulfil their original roles, because I am sure that their work will help solve the shortage of teachers of religious subjects.

There is strong feeling on the subject of sex education in our schools. My hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) proposed a new clause to our new Education Act. It was not called but was discussed in another place. That new clause dealt with the rights of parents in the matter of sex education.

I recall an article of 14 February by Ronald Butt in The Times. That article generated much correspondence and concern about the teaching of sex education in this country. There is justified concern about sex education being given value-free—where a kind of sex manual is used and where the activity becomes a branch of the Olympics. The concern is felt because sex is taught merely as a physical activity without consideration of ethical and moral values. In that context there appears to be no realisation that sex is part of the totality of man and that self-control should be taught.

All relationships have spiritual and moral implications, and sexual activity can blossom properly only within the constraints exercised by those moral, ethical and value judgments to which I have referred. It is important to remember that.

If my memory serves me well—as it does on most occasions—the article in The Times referred to schools where sex could be taught value-free and where parents objected to that. Sex was seen to be almost like the high jump.

Sex education must take place within a framework of moral and social responsibility. The article referred to a book called "Make it Happy". I have had many letters about that book. I have not seen it, but I intend to read it. People objected to the way sex was dealt with in that book and the way that the book was used in schools.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North asked what could be done and offered some excellent suggestions on how sex education might be undertaken. Obviously, where questions on sexual matters are raised by pupils they must be answered direct by teachers, just as they would be answered by parents when such questions arise naturally. The subject must not be kept in a watertight compartment.

However, where sex education is part of a school syllabus—some people do not like that—it is important that the governing body of the school should be aware of the syllabus. That is important in relation to the new Education Act. That Act has enfranchised parent-governors in all schools and enabled parents to express their opinions within the governing body—in the presence of the head and members of staff—about sex education.

Baroness Young, in another place, recalled that section 8 of the Act affords the right of information to parents. Under the Act the Secretary of State can, by regulation, require local education authorities to provide information to parents on such topics as staff qualifications, examination results and the school syllabus to parents. Similarly, it could be used by the Secretary of State to require LEAs to publish information about the various schools' arrangements for sex education. This is a vehicle that could be used.

We cannot escape the fact that parents have a right to know. The children come from the parents and not from the school, and parents have a right to know the type of sex education that is given when they are choosing a school.

We are now approaching the end of this debate. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for bringing the matter to the attention of the House. Education is not just a question of literacy and numeracy; it is a question of values. Civilisation and wisdom are more than knowledge. This debate has given me the opportunity to pay tribute to the work that is done in many schools throughout the country in the teaching of values as well as knowledge, and we hope that this will spread. As a Government, we support the great work being done in our schools.