Education, Lord Taylor of Warwick

Education and Society

My Lords, I, too, thank the most reverend Primate for this timely debate. It was Aristotle who said:

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”.

Education should be about understanding, not just memory. The whole-person view of education is clear from the Bible. Christ is spoken of as a teacher many times in the Gospels, and one of the most important lessons is in 1 Corinthians 12, verse 12:

“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body”.

This whole-person education approach should be the foundation to political, economic and social decision-making.

Education should also be a lifelong pursuit: it is a journey, not a destination. Some years ago, I was walking down Kennington Road. A middle-aged man was coming in the opposite direction, smiling at me. He started laughing, and pointed to me, saying, “George Clooney, George Clooney”. I have been called many things in my life, but never George Clooney. Seeing how bemused I was, he added, “It’s John Taylor, isn’t it? About 20 years ago, you were my land law lecturer. It is a dry subject, so instead of saying, ‘A sold 50 hectares to B’, you would give all the buyers and sellers Hollywood film star names. So George Clooney would sell his mansion to Bette Midler, who in turn sublet to Kim Basinger. Land law came alive”.

I recalled his face, because he was much older than the other students. He explained how, after several years in a factory, he had made that leap of faith to further his education and study land law, to eventually qualify as a legal executive. If any of your Lordships know George Clooney, please tell him that he had a real impact on the “Land Law Part Two: Conveyancing” course.

It was the Church of England which introduced a school in every parish more than 200 years ago. This was more than 50 years before the provision of state education. Indeed, in the 19th century, the church also provided some great leaders who had a real impact on British life. To do so, they had to educate and transform the way people thought about their fellow man. These Christian leaders understood the whole-person dynamic and included William Wilberforce with anti-slavery, Lord Shaftesbury in the factories, Elizabeth Fry in prisons and William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army.

These leaders championed universal values such as fairness, tolerance, justice, forgiveness and freedom of speech—and family values. Although the Church provided much of early school education, its partnership with business provided not only resources but that early link between education and the workplace. For example, in Birmingham, where I am from, the Quaker Christians started the Cadbury’s company, which provided education, employment and housing. They were concerned about the whole-person employee.

The Quakers started many other companies, including the early banks such as Friends Provident and Rowntree’s, Fry’s and Huntley and Palmers. Jesse Boot was from a Methodist family which in the 1860s ran a small shop in Nottingham, selling herbal remedies at lower prices to the poor. That humble store became the Boots the Chemists empire of today.

Perhaps the greatest example of Christian whole-person application in British history was a Sunday school Wesleyan chapel in Aston, Birmingham. In 1874, it started a little sports club to keep young men out of the pubs on a Saturday. The idea was to keep them healthy in spirit in the chapel and healthy in mind and body on the football field. So it was that perhaps the greatest gift to mankind, my club Aston Villa, was born. I see that your Lordships all agree.

Will the Minister explain how the Government will encourage business to have a more whole-person approach to their activities? I think especially of social media companies such as Google and Facebook, which make vast profits and have such an influence on modern life. This week, Prince William made a speech at the Children’s Global Media Summit in Manchester. He highlighted the problem of cyberbullying and called on social media companies to be part of the solution in combating online harassment. As one of the patrons of the Cybersmile Foundation charity, I welcome this.

As the state has taken over more and more of our education, that original whole-person approach to learning has been sacrificed somewhat on the altar of results and the obsession with academic university degrees. The importance of spiritual and emotional well-being has been overshadowed. The recent Race Disparity Audit commissioned by the Prime Minister confirmed that people are treated differently in Britain depending on their race. All that I will say about that is that I hope that audit leads to action.

The physical body is obviously a vital part of the whole person. Sport should be an important element of every school curriculum, so it is sad to know that 100 schools have sold their playing fields since the London Olympics in 2012—and that trend continues.

The spirit is also part of the whole person. Creativity, imagination and inspiration all nourish the spirit. For a number of years, I was chancellor of Bournemouth University, a centre of excellence for film production and the broadcast media, having its own dedicated media centre. During my time as chancellor, it was an honour for me to speak on behalf of the then Government to the creative industries conference. I emphasised the need for the world of education to work in partnership with business and the creative industries.

We have a digital skills gap in this country, costing the economy £63 billion per year, so I welcome the Government’s recent announcement of new T-levels for 16 to 19 year-olds, which are a technical education alternative to A-levels, focused on practical, technical skills.

However, we have problems with apprenticeships, which have fallen by 59% since the levy. How is the Minister going to address that problem? The apprentice must have confidence that, at the end of their training, the result will be the famous words, “You’re hired”, not “You’re fired”.

It is also important to point out that the purpose of life is a life of purpose. The best education is when we are learning how to live, not just living how to learn. Although it is important to train our brain, we must not neglect the physical, spiritual and emotional aspects of our lives. As the American educator Frederick Douglass said:

“It is easier to build strong children than repair broken men”.