The government has rejected a Conservative peer’s call for Year 6 children to be forcibly enrolled in the Great British Spring Clean to pick up litter.
Lord Robathan said he had made the same suggestion last year that pupils spend two hours litter picking, when his critics had likened this to sending children to sweep chimneys.
The Great British Spring Clean is a campaign run by Keep Britain Tidy that encourages local anti-litter initiatives.
He said: “This is not about child labour, but if 10- to 11-year-olds spend an afternoon picking up litter that [will be] educational. Will the minister press all of them – compulsorily or not – to join in.”
Responding for the government, Viscount Younger of Leckie declined to make this compulsory, saying: “The government has pledged not to change the national curriculum during this parliament to provide stability for schools.”
Labour peer Lord Bassam urged Lord Younger to declare his support for the recent protest strikes against climate change by some pupils as a way to teach young people concern for the environment.
But Lord Younger said: “I was glad to see young people so engaged, but the department cannot condone pupils missing school and I cannot see why they could not hold their protests at weekend.”
Labour's Lord Winston feared that if children handled discarded materials they could be at risk of "injury or infection".
Liberal Democrat Baroness Smith said that if Year 6 pupils had two hours of school time to spare, “they might be asked to sort out Brexit, which they would do better than the government.”