Previous Section Index Home Page


Training (Small Firms)

Mrs. Bridget Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if she will make a statement regarding the provision of training to small firms. [10591]

Mr. Paice: Many small firms will benefit from the £49 million Government support for employers training this year through local training and enterprise councils, and from provision aimed at young people and the work of their local further education colleges. In addition, nearly 13,000 small firms have been helped in the last 18 months through skills for small businesses, skills challenge, and the small firms training loans initiative.

22 Jan 1997 : Column: 631

Following a comprehensive review of the Government's support for businesses, local provision will be available through the local competitiveness budget from April 1997. This will continue to provide wide ranging advice and support to small firms through TECs and business links. Any small firms wanting guidance on skills and training should contact its local TEC or business link.

Mr. Callaghan: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if she will make a statement regarding the adequacy of training available to small firms. [10604]

Mr. Paice: Small firms can access training through local employer-led bodies such as training and enterprise councils and business links. TECs' specific small firms initiatives have helped nearly 13,000 small firms develop their training effort in the last 18 months alone. Recently published statistics show that, nationally, 84 per cent. of smaller firms have provided training for their employees, using a variety of methods to suit their circumstances.

As a direct response to business needs, the Government undertook a comprehensive review last year, aimed at simplifying support to businesses. A key outcome for my Department of this review is the establishment of the local competitiveness budget from April 1997. This will continue to provide wide-ranging advice and support to local firms through TECs and business links.

Education and Business Links

Mr. William O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if she will make a statement on the initiatives her Department is taking to develop links between small businesses and colleges of higher education. [10606]

Mr. Forth: This Department has responsibility for supporting the development of closer links between education and business, including in particular those between higher education and employment.

The enterprise in higher education programme has initiated a range of links between employers and higher education institutions, and the Department also funds various development projects. I am placing a copy of the "Higher Education and Employment Projects Digest" in the Library.

Two new suites of projects have been started in 1996-97 specifically to develop links between higher education institutions and small and medium-sized enterprises.



    The higher education business partnerships projects have similar aims, but the focus is more sharply on forming permanent employer-led partnerships between higher education and the SME sector.


    The teaching company scheme enables firms to take advantage of the wealth of scientific, engineering, technological and business knowledge available in our universities with graduates working in a company for two years on projects central to the company's needs;

22 Jan 1997 : Column: 632


    The postgraduate training partnerships initiative, which is jointly supported by DTI, involves the annual recruitment into each partnership of up to 10 postgraduate students to undertake industrially relevant research;


    The Shell technology enterprise programme is a Shell UK national placement scheme, part-funded by the DTI, which provides undergraduates with relevant industrial experience; and


    The focus technology programme, run in association with business links, aims to help research and technology organisations and higher education institutions to improve the contact they have with small firms and the technological services they provide to them.

Education Welfare Service

Mr. Blunkett: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what consultation she undertook with members of the education welfare service, in drawing up the exclusion measures currently before Parliament. [11567]

Mr. Forth: The Department is in regular contact on a wide range of issues with the Association for education welfare managers and the National Association of Social Workers in Education. Consultations on specific measures in the current Education Bill included the local authority associations, which are representative of those responsible for the education welfare service.

Nursery Vouchers

Mr. Blunkett: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what is the average pupil-teacher ratio in reception classes in the phase 1 areas of the nursery voucher scheme. [11563]

Mr. Robin Squire: Information about pupils and teachers in reception classes it not collected centrally.

Mr. Blunkett: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment (1) if she will list the providers that have withdrawn from the nursery voucher scheme, indicating in each case (a) the reason for their withdrawal and (b) if they are in the public, voluntary or private sector; [11570]

Mr. Robin Squire: The number of providers in the nursery education voucher scheme will fluctuate for a variety of reasons. Of the 1,142 providers who joined phase 1 of the scheme, 40--3 per cent.--have subsequently withdrawn; a list has been placed in the Library. Twenty of these did not redeem any vouchers in either the summer or autumn terms. I understand that nine providers have closed and given as their reason for closure that too few parents chose to redeem their vouchers there. The providers who have withdrawn exchanged 446 voucher parts in respect of 122 children--less than 0.2 per cent. of the total.

22 Jan 1997 : Column: 633

Mr. Blunkett: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment when data on term 2 of the pilot phase of the nursery voucher scheme will be available. [11568]

Mr. Squire: Detailed information on the operation of phase 1 of the nursery education voucher scheme in the first half of the autumn term has been sent to the House of Commons Education and Employment Select Committee and placed in the Library. Information about the issue and redemption of vouchers in the second half of the autumn terms will be available shortly.

Mr. Blunkett: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many hours of provision per (a) week and (b) day voucher-bearing children receive on average in each of phase 1 areas and overall. [11569]

Mr. Squire: Information is not available in this form.

Tables 6.5 and 6.7 of the Department's report on phase 1 of the nursery voucher scheme show the numbers of sessions attended by voucher redeeming children in summer term 1996. An analysis of data for the first half of the autumn term 1996 has been placed in the Library: Table 5 gives similar information for the autumn term 1996, and shows an increase in the average number of sessions attended from 4.71 in the summer term to 4.92 in the autumn term.

Providers in the voucher scheme must provide a session of around 2.5 hours for each voucher part, but are free to offer more if they wish. Provision in nursery schools and classes is predominantly part time (half day) and in reception classes full time (full day).

Mr. Blunkett: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what proportion of providers in (a) the private sector and (b) the voluntary sector, participating in phase 1 of the voucher scheme, carried out the self-assessment schedule. [11572]

Mr. Squire: The purpose of the self-assessment schedule was to help potential providers establish whether they could meet the conditions for joining the nursery education voucher scheme and to help them review their current practices. All phase 1 providers were encouraged to complete a self-assessment schedule.

Mr. Blunkett: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment further to her Department's report on phase 1, November 1996, what further analysis (a) has been carried out and (b) is planned, of those parents of eligible children who (i) failed to claim a voucher, (ii) failed to redeem a voucher and (iii) redeemed only part of a voucher. [11573]

Mr. Squire: A survey of parents in the phase 1 areas to establish participation in pre-school education included questions to explore why not all eligible parents claimed vouchers for summer term 1996; or when they did claim vouchers, why they did not use some or all of them. The survey results are being analysed.

Geographical patterns of redemption and non-redemption of vouchers in the autumn and spring terms 1996-97 will also be examined.


Next Section Index Home Page