On 1st February 2017, the House of Lords debated the Government’s Technical and Further Education Bill at its Second Reading. The Bishop of Norwich, Rt Revd, Graham James welcomed its proposals.
The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, I am glad to add my voice to the chorus of welcome for the Bill—on these Benches we are professionally interested in choruses.
Those who read the City & Guilds report Sense & Instability, which was published just over a couple of years ago, will remember the bleak picture painted there of three decades of skills and employment policy. The authors pointed out—with a degree of sardonic humour, I think—that, in 30 years, there have been 13 major Acts of Parliament dealing with these issues, enough reports to fill a medium-sized bookcase, no fewer than 61 Ministers and 10 occasions when skills and employment have shifted between government departments. “Tinkering”, “amnesia” and “disruption” were among the milder terms employed in that very powerful report. Continue reading
On the 30th January 2017, Baroness Donaghy asked the government “in the light of figures showing that nearly one-third of newly qualified teachers leave the profession within five years of qualifying, what steps they are taking, including continuing professional development entitlement, to retain them.” The Bishop of Ely, the Rt Revd Stephen Conway, asked a follow-up question.
The Lord Bishop of Ely: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the working environment for teachers is so often determined by the quality and effectiveness of school leaders, and therefore it is essential to equip school leaders to ensure the flourishing of their staff as well as their pupils? Will he be pleased to note with me the launch this weekend of the Church’s Foundation for Educational Leadership to work in this field? Continue reading
On 18th January 2016, the House of Lords considered the Government’s Higher Education and Research Bill in Committee. The Bishop of Portsmouth spoke to propose an amendment on behalf of the Bishop of Ely about giving special consideration for those with disabilities within the criteria for approving and reviewing student protection plans. The amendment was withdrawn after the debate, following encouragement from the Minister that the issue deserved greater inspection. Below is his speech and a section of the Minister’s reply.
The Lord the Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, my colleague and right reverend friend the Bishop of Ely is unable to be in his place, but has asked me to bring before your Lordships Amendment 134A. I and he welcome the Minister’s assurances thus far for disabled students. It is very welcome that he intends to publish guidance to ensure that higher education institutions are best able to fulfil their duties to disabled students.
On 13th December, Liberal Democrat peer Lord Sharkey, asked Her Majesty’s Government “what assessment they have made of the United Kingdom’s performance in the latest Programme for International Student Assessment rankings published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development”. The Bishop of Peterborough, the Rt Revd Donald Allister, asked a follow up question:
The Lord Bishop of Peterborough My Lords, is the Minister aware that, in a number of the countries that have much higher academic standards at secondary school level, particularly those in the Far East—I know the story of South Korea quite well—there is also a much higher suicide rate among teenagers? Does he agree that our schools need to help people learn in ways that they enjoy and are healthy holistically, and that schools should encourage a love of learning rather than a fear of failure?
On 6th December 2016, the Government’s Higher Education and Research Bill had its Second Reading in the House of Lords. The Bishop of Winchester and lead Church of England bishop for HE, the Rt Revd Tim Dakin, spoke during the debate on the Bill.
The Lord Bishop of Winchester My Lords, I declare my interests as a visitor to five Oxford colleges and the governor of Winchester University. I thank both the Minister for Universities and Science and the noble Viscount, Lord Younger, for meeting me to discuss some of the core issues concerning the Bill. I say, too, that I look forward to hearing the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Sugg.
The positive aim of this Bill is clear: to enhance our world-class higher education system. In particular, I welcome the potential of proposed changes: putting students at the heart of the system through the Office for Students; emphasising the importance of good teaching; encouraging new providers and innovation; and a more interdisciplinary approach to research. It is also encouraging to hear that the Government are listening to concerns and are willing to amend the regulatory framework to take account of points raised. Continue reading
On the 2nd December 2016 the Bishop of Ely, the Rt Revd Stephen Conway spoke in a debate led by the Archbishop of Canterbury on shared values and their implications for public policy making. The Bishop of Ely spoke about the importance of character education in developing values and the role played by church schools in fostering good links between children of all faiths and none.
The Lord Bishop of Ely: My Lords, I thank my friend the most reverend Primate for securing this timely and essential debate. I applaud the noble Lord, Lord McInnes, on his excellent speech, not least on drawing together our concern for values with opportunity for our children and young people. When we talk about British values, we should be aiming not at the lowest common denominator but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, said, at the highest ideals that we want to promote for and with our children.
Character education is all set to be the foundation for the kind of person we want each child to become: a member of society who not only understands the world, but cares about it, is equipped to continue in the good and recognise and challenge the bad and is courageous enough to bridge divides and extend the hand of friendship. The Church of England vision for education actively seeks to provide an education that fosters this. Character education is about educating children not only to become efficient economic units, but to flourish in all areas of their lives, and enjoy life in all its fullness, as Jesus says in the Gospel of John. Fundamental to this is the nurturing of virtues as the intrinsic building blocks of a rounded human life with concrete outcomes in behaviour and service. St Paul takes the life of virtue beyond what had previously been categorised when he wrote in the Letter to the Galatians about the “fruits of the spirit”: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
On 2 December 2016 the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby, led a debate in the House of Lords “That this House takes note of the shared values underpinning our national life and their role in shaping public policy priorities.” His opening and closing speeches are below. The Bishops of Ely and Gloucester also spoke in the debate.
The Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, I am most grateful to the usual channels for making this debate possible. I should also like to thank noble Lords who have made the time and taken the trouble to attend today in considerable numbers, the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, and those who look after us so well in this House.
In case noble Lords are wondering what the Motion is [laughter]…I decided to change it at the last minute…It reads:
“The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury to move that this House takes note of the shared values underpinning our national life and their role in shaping public policy priorities”.
It will be an especial pleasure to hear maiden speeches from the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, and the noble Lord, Lord McInnes of Kilwinning. The noble Baroness brings her knowledge of communications, issues of disability among children and education. The noble Lord will enable us to have a wider view of issues in Scotland.
The UK, especially perhaps England, is a pragmatic country with a bias towards the empirical over the theoretical. Not for us the cries of “liberty, equality and fraternity”, to be followed by years of bloodshed to ensure true fraternity was established. Rather, ours is an untidiness of cumulative reforms and changes, worked out in practice through the highways and byways of our constitution. We relish the irony of a constitution that works in practice but never could in theory.
Great times of change in mood and culture demand from us a reimagining of what we are about as a nation. As we move into a post-Brexit world, alongside the other events that buffet and deflect us, unless we ground ourselves in a clear course and widely accepted practices, loyalties and values—what I will call values in this speech—we will just go with the wind. Continue reading