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Class Sizes

25. Mr. Baldry: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on average class sizes since May 1997. [114624]

Ms Estelle Morris: January 1999 saw the first fall in overall average class size for 10 years, from 24.9 in January 1998 to 24.8. Between January 1998 and January 1999 the size of the average primary school class in England fell from 27.7 to 27.4.

The Government are well on course to deliver their class size pledge of reducing infant class sizes to 30 or below by September 2001, at the latest. The most recent available figures show that in September 1999, 171,000 (11 per cent.) infants were being taught in classes of over 30, compared with 485,000 (29 per cent.) in January 1998.

32. Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what plans he has to reduce primary school class sizes in North Yorkshire. [114632]

Ms Estelle Morris: Our pledge is to ensure that there are no pupils in infant classes of over 30 pupils with one teacher by September 2001 at the latest. North Yorkshire's Class Size Plan aims to secure full implementation of the pledge early, by September 2000.

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We are supporting this plan with almost £5.8 million over 1999-2001, funding 33 new classrooms and 80 additional teachers. Between September 1998 and 1999 the number of pupils in infant classes over 30 in North Yorkshire fell by 60 per cent., from 3,271 to 1,317.

January 1999 saw a fall of 1,036 pupils in primary classes over 30 in North Yorkshire, and a drop in the average primary class size of 0.2, compared with January 1998.

Science and Engineering Courses

26. Mr. Quinn: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what action he is taking to encourage applications for science and engineering courses in further and higher education institutions. [114625]

Mr. Wicks: Universities and Colleges are autonomous organisations and the DfEE regard curricula and promotion of subjects as primarily matters for individual institutions. Recent research in the HE sector found that the overall supply and demand of graduates is adequate and that any mismatches are due to the capabilities rather than quantity of graduates.

Nursery and Early Years Education

27. Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what progress has been made in providing nursery education for three-year-olds; and if he will make a statement. [114626]

Ms Hodge: The sum of £390 million is being made available, over a three year period, to create 190,000 new free early education places for three year olds. By March 2002, 66 per cent. of all eligible three-year-olds in England will be able to access a free place.

In 1999-2000 up to £40 million, enough to provide places for up to 48,000 children, was available across 64 local authorities with the highest level of social deprivation .

30. Dr. Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what steps have been taken to integrate care and education for the under-fives. [114630]

Ms Hodge: From the start of the National Childcare Strategy we have been keen to bring together early years and child care and we are successfully achieving this objective.

We have established Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships in each of the 150 local education authority areas. The partnerships are required to set out policies for developing the vital links between care and education, especially in the early years and include them in their plans. We are currently assessing this year's Plans and will be working with Partnerships throughout the year to encourage integration.

Under provisions in the Care Standards Bill we are also seeking to integrate the regulation of child care and early education under new National Standards regulated by Ofsted's new Early Years Directorate.

Additionally, the 29 Early Excellence Centres are piloting seamless integration of services in a variety of settings. I have placed in the Library a copy of our report

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on First Findings from EECs showing, among other things, that for every £1 spent on family support, £8 is saved on alternative services.

The New Opportunities Fund is also providing up to £15 million to fund integrated out of school childcare and learning activities. This is for children across the range from three to 16 with no specific amount for under-fives.

We are setting up 250 Sure Start programmes in areas of disadvantage to promote the physical, intellectual, social and emotional development of young children under four. Each programme will work in partnership with local parents to improve access to health services. family support, advice on nurturing, child care and early learning.

Temporary Classrooms (Colchester)

28. Mr. Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will provide additional funding to Essex county council to enable all temporary classrooms in the Colchester constituency to be replaced with permanent accommodation. [114628]

Jacqui Smith: Applications for funding to replace temporary classrooms with permanent accommodation are considered against our published criteria. Currently, Essex county council has applied for the replacement of temporary accommodation at Colchester High School for Girls under the fourth phase of the New Deal for Schools. We hope to announce the outcome of this next month.

Parental Choice (Greater London)

29. Mr. Wilkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what estimate he has made of the percentage of parents in Greater London who secured the secondary school of their first choice for their children in each of the last three years. [114629]

Ms Estelle Morris: This information is not collected centrally. Parents have a right to express a preference for the school they would like their child to attend, but it has never been guaranteed that they will gain a place in their preferred school. Where a school has more applications than places available, it is inevitable that some parents will be disappointed.

School Administration

31. Mr. Truswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what plans he has to review the policy, administrative and managerial requirements placed on schools. [114631]

Jacqui Smith: My Department keeps policy, administrative and managerial requirements on schools under continuous review. Since the Working Group on Reducing the Bureaucratic Burdens on Teachers reported in January 1998, we have reviewed the National Curriculum to introduce more flexibility, introduced the "light touch" Ofsted inspection regime for effective schools, and reduced the proportion of Standards Fund grants distributed by bidding. Further work under way includes the review of the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice and a major exercise to rationalise data collection. We have also recently increased the support available to help head teachers introduce the new performance management arrangements and carry out the assessments for performance-related pay, and made the timetable for this more flexible.

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We will continue to seek every opportunity to streamline requirements on schools and ensure a clear focus on what is essential for raising standards. Future activity will be informed by the outcome of the Better Regulation Taskforce Review of Regulatory Impact on Head Teachers.

Learning and Skills Council, Derbyshire

33. Mr. Barnes: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what representations he has received following his proposal to place the local Derbyshire Learning and Skills centre in Derby; and if he will make a statement. [114633]

Mr. Wicks: To date, three representations have been received. One was in support of the decision to locate the local arm of the Learning and Skills Council in Derby and two were petitioning for the local arm of the Learning and Skills Council to be located in Chesterfield.

In reaching a decision on the location of the offices of the local Council for Derbyshire, I have taken account of the need to get best value for public money, by using premises currently occupied by the Southern Derbyshire Chamber of Commerce, Training and Enterprise, and of the need for a location that will facilitate effective operation of the Learning and Skills Council.

Youth Support Services

34. Mr. Nigel Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what measures he is taking to improve the quality of youth support services. [114634]

Mr. Wicks: We set out our strategy for supporting young people in our document "Connexions: The best start in life for every young person" on 3 February. At the heart of our strategy is a new Connexions service which will provide a radical new approach to guiding and supporting all young people through their teenage years. We also intend involving young people and a wide range of partners in developing and implementing the service which will be phased in over two to three years. The new service will build on the best practice of multi-agency working and will have a quality framework which will have two main elements: target setting and benchmarking; and audit and inspection.

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