Bishop of St Albans raises concerns about the impact of closing rural schools

Lord Storey asked Her Majesty’s Government what support is given to young people living in rural areas to enable them to travel to school or college.

The Bishop of St Albans asked a supplementary question:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, the Church of England is deeply involved with hundreds of tiny rural schools in sparsely populated areas and is acutely aware of some of the financial difficulties that they face. When such a school has to close, what advice do Her Majesty’s Government give on the educational, financial and environmental issues—to do with sustainability—of transporting these pupils, sometimes very long distances, to the next nearest school?

Baroness Northover: I will write to the right reverend Prelate with details about what happens when these schools are closed. There is a special premium for rural schools of the type that he describes, which have fewer pupils than you might find elsewhere, but I will write with further details.


The Bishop of St Albans asks Government about support for healthy living in schools

Baroness Morgan of Ely asked Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the food and drink industry about reducing levels of sugar in processed products in the United Kingdom.

The Bishop of St Albans asked a supplementary question:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, while I support the need to reduce the level of sugar in processed food wherever possible, I am concerned that this alone will do little to improve the nation’s health or deal with the problem of obesity. What progress are the Department for Education and the Department of Health making on reducing the number of calories in meals served in schools, and what progress is being made on increasing the level of physical activities for the pupils in our schools?

Earl Howe: My Lords, tackling obesity calls for action by the widest possible range of partners, including the food industry but also including schools. That is what we are trying to do through the responsibility deal. Our National Child Measurement Programme, the School Food Plan, the School Games and the money that we are putting into school sports funding—£150 million a year—all contribute to the joint effort across government to influence the way in which calories are consumed by children. I have encouraging news on that front, which is that the level of child obesity is now the lowest that it has been since 1998, so we are moving in the right direction.


Bishop of St Albans calls on Government to include churches in voter registration initiatives

Lord Roberts of Llandudno asked Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to support National Voter Registration Day on Wednesday 5 February, which seeks to encourage new, especially young, people to register to vote.

The Bishop of St Albans asked a supplementary question:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, the Church of England is involved in the education of more than 1 million young people and we want to play our part in supporting this. Will Her Majesty’s Government talk with the department to see if, in future, they will write not only to schools but to the 43 statutory diocesan boards of education, many of which employ full-time schools workers, and to dioceses? My diocese has an average of 30 to 40 full-time paid youth workers and many volunteer ones. We would be delighted to use our communication resources to support this sort of initiative.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the Government recognise that they alone cannot do everything in this regard. We welcome conversations with all other organisations. I wondered whether the right reverend Prelate was going to promise that the Church of England would give sermons on the subject. Once, when I was a parliamentary candidate, I was taken by a young woman called Liz Barker—the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, as she is now—to the Methodist church in which her father had been a minister. The sermon came as close as possible to suggesting that the congregation might like to vote for me.

Bishop of Wakefield urges Government to support pupils in areas of rural deprivation

Lord Horam asked Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to increase the Pupil Premium for the most disadvantaged primary school children.

The Bishop of Wakefield asked a supplementary question:

The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, can the Minister tell us whether the Government are considering ways in which an increase in the pupil premium can be targeted at the forms of deprivation most difficult to address? Rural deprivation, for example, particularly in church schools, is very significant in our part of West Yorkshire, in the Diocese of Wakefield.

Lord Nash: The right reverend Prelate is quite right to point out the problems with rural deprivation; it is similar to coastal deprivation. There are particular schemes that schools follow: mentoring; systemic feedback; much more involvement of parents; early intervention, particularly using the better teachers; and peer tutoring. Much can be learnt from groups like Ark, whose academy in Portsmouth, for instance, which is in a classic coastal town, has improved results in four years from 24% to 68%.


The Bishop of Leicester speaks in favour of updating guidance on sex and relationship education

The Bishop of Leicester spoke in the debate on the Report Stage of the Children & Families Bill. He spoke in favour of Amendment 53, on behalf of the Bishop of Oxford, who co-sponsored the amendment. The amendment called for guidance on sex and relationship education to be updated in light of technological changes. He spoke of the need for holistic education of children, and reflected on the conclusions of the ‘Good Childhood’ commission that children themselves are keen to develop strong and healthy relationships. The amendment was not pressed to a votLeicestere.

The Lord Bishop of Leicester: My Lords, I support Amendment 53 and speak in place of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford, who has lent his name to it but cannot be in his place today. Personally, I find myself on the side of those who want PSHE to be a formal part of the curriculum and Amendment 53 goes some way in that direction.

I have three brief points to make. First, we on these Benches see social, emotional and spiritual intelligence as a vital part of a child’s development. We are not just interested in raising children who can pass exams, but in creating opportunities for young people to take control of their lives and values. Secondly, it is clear that there is a strong and growing coalition of organisations involved in this work, which have some knowledge in this area, and which support this proposal, including the Children’s Society the Mothers Union and many others.

Thirdly, I speak as a former chair of the Children’s Society and as a member of the Good Childhood commission, which reported four years or so ago, and which took evidence from more than 5,000 children. It was not evidence on this specific point, but it was evidence on the general point of what children understand makes for their well-being. Over and over again, children said that one of their top priorities was their friendships. They were trying to find their way through a complex, labyrinthine world in which friendships, intimacy and relationships had to be understood in this technological age, which has been so vividly described by previous speakers, where it was children who were asking for help in this area.

That is the most telling contribution I want to make to this debate. We do not have children in this House; we do not have the voice of children here. If we listen carefully to what they are saying to us through the Good Childhood Report and in other ways, we will find that they want our generation to help them to understand who they are and who they are with others in this completely new world, which has not shaped the relationships or outlooks of any Members of your Lordships’ House. For that reason, I strongly support Amendment 53.

Bishop of Ripon and Leeds uses final speech to speak about economic and climatic challenges in the UK

R_LIn a wide-ranging debate, the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds focused his remarks on the need for a clear and coherent national strategy for responding to natural disasters such as the recent extreme flooding in parts of the country. He also urged the Government to link such a strategy with a long-term and international strategy for tackling climate change. He also commented on the role of the Church of England in education and its commitment to ensuring that there is adequate provision as the population grows. Continue reading “Bishop of Ripon and Leeds uses final speech to speak about economic and climatic challenges in the UK”

Bishop of Ripon and Leeds asks question on recruitment of school governors

On 8th January 2014, Baroness Perry of Southwark asked Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the remarks about “lucky children” made by the Chief Executive of Ofsted during the launch of that organisation’s Annual Report 2012–13.

R_LThe Bishop of Ripon and Leeds asked a supplementary question:

The Lord Bishop of Ripon and Leeds: My Lords, in view of the difficulties often experienced in recruiting governors for schools, especially but not only in disadvantaged areas, what more can the Government do to encourage people to take on that role and to reduce the bureaucratic pressures that governors so often face? Continue reading “Bishop of Ripon and Leeds asks question on recruitment of school governors”