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Grammar Schools

23. Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if consultations about grammar school status will include those parts of the schools catchment area outside the education authority area. [24204]

Mr. Byers: Under the School Standards and Framework Bill, the detail of the mechanisms for ballots on the future admission arrangements of grammar schools, including which parents will be eligible to vote in any ballot, are to be set out in regulations which we will be preparing later this year.

Literacy and Numeracy

24. Mrs. Brinton: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what support he will give local authorities to meet literacy targets. [24205]

33. Ms Stuart: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what support he will give to local authorities to meet literacy targets. [24214]

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Mr. Byers: Local Education Authorities have already been advised of the level of expenditure which has been approved in the Standards Fund for 1998-99 to support the implementation of the National Literacy Strategy. The level of support across LEAs totals £59 million for all literacy-connected grants.

In addition we have appointed Regional Directors to work with LEAs, and are funding the development of distance leaning materials to support teachers professional development.

26. Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what steps he plans to take to ensure that newly qualified teachers are properly trained in literacy and numeracy. [24207]

Mr. Byers: From this September all primary trainees, on all courses of Initial Teacher Training (ITT), must follow a core national training curriculum in English and mathematics. The curriculum specifies the essential core of knowledge, understanding and skills which all trainees must be taught in relation to primary English and mathematics.

We have also asked the Teacher Training Agency (TTA) to develop a national training curriculum in ITT for secondary English and mathematics. The TTA will shortly be undertaking a widespread consultation on these documents.

Truancy

27. Mr. Bradshaw: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what measures he is taking to tackle truancy in schools. [24208]

Ms Estelle Morris: I refer my hon. Friend to oral answer I gave earlier to my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Dr. Stoate).

Tertiary Education Funding

28. Rev. Martin Smyth: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what assessment he has made of the impact of proposed changes in funding for tertiary education on students from outside the United Kingdom attending United Kingdom establishments. [24209]

Dr. Howells: Overseas students from outside the European Union generally pay the full cost of their tuition and will be unaffected by the proposed new arrangements for the payment of tuition fees. Students from other EU countries will continue to be treated on the same basis as home students as far as fees are concerned.

Class Sizes (Macclesfield)

29. Mr. Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the average class sizes of (a) primary schools and (b) secondary schools in the Macclesfield constituency. [24210]

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Mr. Byers: In January 1997 the average class size of primary schools in the Macclesfield constituency was 27.9; the corresponding figure for secondary schools was 21.0.

National Year of Reading

31. Ms Moran: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on his objectives for the National Year of Reading; and if he will make a statement. [24212]

Mr. Byers: The National Year of Reading starts in September 1998. The aim of the Year is to transform the nations's attitude to reading. The Secretary of State today launched the logo for the year and guidance on the planning of local activities around the country. Tomorrow I will host a National Year of Reading conference involving local authorities, major publishers and booksellers, librarians, the media, special needs groups and literacy organisations.

Scottish Devolution

32. Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what discussions he has had with the Scottish Office on the impact of the Government's devolution proposals on the higher education sector. [24213]

Dr. Howells: Officials of the Department are in regular touch with their colleagues in the Scottish Office on a wide range of matters, including the implications of the Government's devolution proposals for the higher education sector.

Student Loans

35. Mr. Edward Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what plans he has to allow students involved with non-graduate performing arts courses to have access to student loans. [24217]

Dr. Howells: The Department for Education and Employment is currently working with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to develop funding arrangements for talented dance and drama students from autumn 1999. All options for funding will be considered as part of that process.

Long-term Unemployed

36. Mr. Barry Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what is his estimate of the number of the New Deal places; and what percentage he estimates will be available to the long-term unemployed. [24218]

Mr. Andrew Smith: It is not possible to provide precise estimates of the numbers of young people aged 18 to 24 or the numbers of long-term unemployed people aged 25 and above who will benefit from the New Deal. We will offer help to everyone who becomes eligible for the New Deal. We will announce detailed arrangements for long-term unemployed people aged 25 and over as soon as possible.

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Tuition Fees

30. Mr. Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if students who decided to defer entry to university to 1998, by notifying the institution itself and not UCAS prior to 1 August 1997, will have to pay tuition fees in 1998. [24211]

Dr. Howells: The gap year exemption scheme will apply to all students who made the necessary deferment arrangements on or before 1 August 1997, irrespective of whether they made them through UCAS or direct with the institution.

Class Sizes

Mr. Truswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on progress to date on achieving maximum class sizes of 30 for five to seven-year-olds; and what steps will be taken over the next six months. [25026]

Mr. Byers: The Government are on course to deliver its class size pledge to the electorate by the end of this Parliament. The Education (Schools) Act 1997, which phases out the Assisted Places Scheme, received Royal Assent in July last year. The first £22 million savings from the Scheme will become available from April to reduce class sizes in authorities from September. The School Standards and Framework Bill at present before Parliament, includes a range of provisions to give effect to our policy.

Higher Education (Agency Staff)

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what plans he has to allow the extension of the use of agency staff to higher education institutions; and if he will make a statement. [24190]

Dr. Howells: Higher education institutions are independent bodies and it is for them to appoint staff and determine their pay and conditions of service in the light of their own particular needs and requirements. The Government have no role in such matters.

English Teachers

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what estimate he has made of the number of teachers currently teaching English in secondary schools who do not have a first degree in that subject. [26076]

Mr. Byers: There were about 14,600 full and part-time teachers in secondary schools teaching English to years 7-13 at November 1996 who did not have a first or higher degree (excluding PGCE) which included English.

SOCIAL SECURITY

Rural Poverty

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what indices the Government intend to use to measure poverty in Britain, with particular reference to rural poverty. [21894]

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Mr. Keith Bradley: Our priority is a national programme to tackle benefit dependency and worklessness. We have also set up a Social Exclusion Unit to co-ordinate action across Government to find new and more integrated ways of tackling the worst problems. Various indicators are used in considering issues of low income and social exclusion.


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