On 28th June 2022 the House of Lords debated the Government’s Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill, at its Second Reading.The Bishop of Coventry spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: My Lords, intense competition for students, jostling for promotion among lecturers, vigorous, often intense and sometimes rancorous debate, with dashes of sharp practice and occasional mob violence—not a preview of some future Office for Students report but a snapshot of the early academic career of Augustine of Hippo. One of his first publications was advice to lecturers and, significantly for this debate, he later asserted that “By force we can make no one believe.” I will make some general points about the Bill and then raise three more specific issues.
Timothy Garton Ash speaks of three “vetoes” that silence the ability of people to express themselves: shouting them down, the “heckler’s veto”; declaring what they say to be offensive, the “offensive veto”; and, in extreme cases, threatening to kill people, the “assassin’s veto”.
Sadly, it seems that we have seen each of these techniques in action within higher education, as some of the evidence submitted to the Bill Committee demonstrated.
On 15th June 2022, the House of Lords debated the Schools Bill (HL) in committee. The Bishop of Chichester spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Chichester: 59: Clause 29, page 23, line 23, leave out “of its maintained schools” and insert “maintained schools in its area“
Member’s explanatory statement: This amendment makes the language in this section consistent with language used elsewhere in legislation relating to maintained schools in a church context.
My Lords, I rise to speak on behalf of my colleague, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, who regrets that he cannot be here to move the amendments in this group tabled in his name. I declare his interest as chair of the National Society.
Firstly, I shall say a brief word about Amendment 59, which is a small effort to ensure consistency of language used throughout the legislation relating to maintained schools in a church context. The particular amended line in Clause 23 removes the wording that assumes control of all maintained schools and replaces it with language that is applicable in a church context.
On 13th June the House of Lords continued to debate the Government’s Schools Bill in committee. The Bishop of Bristol spoke in the debate, on behalf of the Bishop of Durham:
The Lord Bishop of Bristol: My Lords, I speak in place of my colleague, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, who unfortunately cannot be present today. I declare his interest as chair of the National Society.
I rise briefly to welcome Amendment 40 in this group, which offers real clarity on the issue. We welcome the recognition it shows that the religious body must be involved in giving an interim trustee notice to the proprietor of an academy school with a religious character. We are grateful for the Minister’s continued work on this and hope this might provide a little encouragement at this point.
The Bishop of Exeter received the following written answer on 6th June 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Exeter asked Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the finding in the report by the University of Exeter Social Mobility in the South West, published on 28 April, that “the South-West has the worst educational outcomes for disadvantaged young people in the country, and low social mobility compared with other areas”; and what steps they are taking to address these problems.
The Bishop of Durham asked a question regarding the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Review on 30th March 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I declare my interest as chair of the National Society, which leads the Church of England’s education work.
I hope the Minister will be pleased to hear that, in response to yesterday’s Green Paper, the Church of England has established a national network for SENCOs at primary and secondary levels, partly to get their opinions on how we should respond but also to offer development in future. However, I want to continue to pursue the early years question. Understandably, this is about education and social care. The first 1,001 days of life are the most crucial. Nothing here refers to the development of family hubs and the work of health visitors in the pre-two context, where some discernment ought to be available. Can the Minister comment on the join-up between the development of family hubs and the really early years?
The Bishop of Worcester asked a question concerning Church of England schools and the government’s Schools White Paper on 29th March 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Worcester: My Lords, I echo the noble Lord, Lord Storey, in his thanks for the White Paper. In doing so, I declare my interest as president of the Woodard Corporation. In expressing gratitude, I appreciate in particular how the White Paper recognises the vital role the Churches have played in the educational landscape of this country for more than 200 years and that it sets out how the role needs to continue to be enabled in the future development of the school system. I will focus on two questions regarding the move towards the fully academised educational landscape set out in the White Paper and invite the Minister to agree that it requires two key things.
On 24th March 2022, the House of Lords debated commons amendments to the Skills and Post 16 Education Bill. The Bishop of Leeds spoke on behalf of the Bishop of Durham regarding provision for universal credit claimants:
The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, this House carried an amendment in the name of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, who cannot be in his place today, concerning universal credit conditionality—this has been referred to several times—but it was not accepted when the Bill was considered in the other place.
If the Government are to achieve their levelling-up ambitions and enable individuals to secure better-paid employment with improved prospects, then it is essential to achieve greater integration of the support provided for skills development and training by the Department for Education and the Department for Work and Pensions.
The Bishop of Coventry asked a question on acceptance of T-Levels by higher education institutions on 24th February 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the acceptance of T Levels by Higher Education institutions for candidates for admission to universities via the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) in the current application cycle.
Baroness Barran (Con): My Lords, we recently published a list of higher education providers that will accept T-levels. Some 118 higher education providers, of which 78 are English universities, have so far agreed to accept applications from T-level students. This overall figure has increased from 75 since December last year, and we expect it to continue to grow.
On 27th January 2022 MPs asked the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, answered questions in the House of Commons chamber:
Churches and Cathedrals: Sustainability
Jerome Mayhew (Broadland) (Con)
What assessment the Church of England has made of the steps needed to put the maintenance of churches and cathedrals on a sustainable basis. (905258)
The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous): The Church estimates that over the next five years at least £1.14 billion of maintenance and repairs are needed for churches and cathedrals. The Church is very grateful that 550 churches and cathedrals have already benefited from the culture recovery fund, but there remains an urgent need for predictable and sustainable sources of funding, which enable us to keep skilled builders and craft people in work.
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