On 5th April, a vote took place on a Regret Motion tabled by Labour’s Lord Stevenson of Balmacara to two Regulations changing student loan terms and amounts. The Bishop of Peterborough took part.
On 4th April 2017 the House of Lords considered amendments made by MPs to the Government’s Children and Social Work Bill. Government Minister Lord Nash proposed that the Lords accept an amendment to provide compulsory relationships education at primary schools. The Bishop of Peterborough, the Rt Rev Donald Allister, spoke in favour of the amendment, which was accepted by the House.
The Lord Bishop of Peterborough: My Lords, I am very happy indeed to support government Amendments 12 and 13 on relationships and sex education and on PSHE. Compulsory provision and statutory guidance are necessary in these areas. The Church of England welcomes this and we very much look forward to the consultation.
We particularly welcome the decision to reverse the name and put “relationships” rather than “sex” at the heart of this policy. This is not about just sex or sex education. It puts sex in its proper context of committed and consensual relationships. But it is also about friendships, resilience, good disagreement and living with difference. It is about tackling bullying, self-image, social media, advertising and so much else. It is about supporting children and preparing them for adult life.
On the 20th February 2017, Lord Oates asked the Government “how many secondary schools in England do not currently provide in-school counselling services for their students.” The Bishop of Ely, the Rt Revd Stephen Conway, asked a supplementary question.
Lord Bishop of Ely: My Lords, does the Minister agree that an excellent education in a medical setting for those with severe mental health issues is essential to their recovery? Will he join me in paying tribute to the importance of education in acute mental health settings, such as the Pilgrim Pupil Referral Units in Cambridgeshire, which provide a stable learning environment for children and young people?
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.
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?
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?