Lords debates education

19 October 2012

Members of the Lords debated excellence in education yesterday (Thursday 18 October) and measures that can be used to develop it

The debate follows a discussion last week on child development and its bearing on national wellbeing in the UK.

Baroness Perry of Southwark (Conservative) tabled the debate, saying: ‘Today, I should like to address the measures which this coalition government have put in place to achieve the elusive goals of (making) every school a good school and an education system that allows Britain to win in the global race of the future.’ She continued: ‘For education, this means trust in the professionals in our schools and colleges, raising aspirations for all and thereby enabling achievement by the provision of structures within which students can aspire to succeed and can compete for success in the fields where their talents lie.’

Baroness Perry went on to state: ‘there has been unanimous agreement that teachers are the one factor on which the quality of education rests. The question that this government have addressed is what we can do to bear on the quality of teachers.’

Baroness Benjamin (Liberal Democrat), Vice President, Barnardo's, put forward the idea that music is central to ‘nurture and inspire future generations to aspire’. She said: ‘One way to assist those with learning and communication difficulties, emotional and behavioural problems, as well as ADHD, is through the use of music. Research has shown that music can produce exceptional results in learning. Children with autism can also significantly benefit from learning through music. Research has shown that if a child is taught a poem without music, they forget it by the following week, but if they learn the poem musically, they remember each word perfectly a week later.’

She went on to question: ‘Whether the government will encourage all schools to make adequate provision for music a priority, especially where children are in need of this type of stimulant for their mind, body and soul, and, most importantly, for their well-being, to help them to go out into the world and make a difference to society-for good.’

Baroness Hughes of Stretford (Labour), Opposition Spokesperson for Education, spoke about the examination system, saying: ‘Exam results are crucial, but indicate only how well or otherwise a cohort of children has done. They do not tell us how far each child has achieved excellence or reached his or her potential, and that is primarily what we should strive for in excellence: the outcome for each child and whether it is the best that could have been achieved.’

She went on to discuss access to education, stating: ‘Changing the architecture of the system will not produce excellence for all children unless there are also measures to remove the barriers to learning for disadvantaged children in school and to enhance the development of children before they get to school. ‘

Lord Hill of Oareford (Conservative), Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools and Government Spokesperson, Department for Education, addressed the many points that were raised in the debate, saying: ‘There has been broad agreement that we want excellent education for all and not just a minority; that when we talk about excellence, we should mean excellence in vocational and technical education and not just academic; and that when we talk about education, we must never just mean exams, but everything that goes on in schools.’

He acknowledged that ‘too many children are far from enjoying an excellent standard of education’, but also pointed out that ‘across the country brilliant things are being achieved by outstanding heads and inspiring teaching’. He concluded by saying that’ excellent schools are showing us the way forward, and I believe that the building blocks for further progress are in place.’

Other speakers included:

Further information

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