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4 May 2000 : Column: 185W
(Cm 4164). We have discussed our proposals extensively with all teacher unions and other key stakeholders. Following publication of the draft School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document 2000 on 2 May, we are continuing discussions with statutory consultees.
Ms Jowell: The New Deal for those aged 25 and over has already helped over 38,000 people into jobs. This year we are investing almost £100 million in strengthening the advisory process, making it more intensive and work-focused, and in extending the existing pilots. From April 2001, this New Deal will be extended to all those who have been unemployed for 18 months or more. It will provide intensive support to find work, including high quality training and work experience, building on the successful approach of New Deal for young people.
19. Mr. Connarty: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what plans he has to ensure that all social groups have equal opportunities for access to information and communications technology. 
Mr. Wills: We are taking forward a range of measures to ensure that everyone can benefit from the advantages of new technologies. The ICT Learning Centres initiative will give many people living in disadvantaged communities in England the opportunity to access the Internet and ICT facilities. We have recently announced a pilot project to wire-up deprived communities to bring housing estates, tower blocks and rural areas on line. We are also introducing a scheme--"Computers within Reach"--to pilot arrangements for those who cannot afford new computers to acquire reconditioned computers. The recently published report of Policy Action Team 15 looked specifically at issues relating to the role of ICT in community renewal, including the availability of ICT to black and minority ethnic groups. We will continue to work with partners and the private sector to address the issue of closing the digital divide.
20. Dr. Palmer: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what support has been given to teachers to ensure that they are able to utilise information and communications technology to raise standards. 
Mr. Wills: The New Opportunities Fund is making available £230 million to support the training of serving teachers and school library staff in the maintained sector in the effective use of information and communication technology (ICT). The training is available to all teachers in maintained schools and is specifically targeted at using ICT in the classroom to support the National Curriculum. In addition, in the period up to 2002, the Department will have supported local education authorities expenditure of more than £700 million on ICT hardware, software and training for their schools.
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Mr. Wills: From 15 May, we will be making available 50,000 extra training opportunities in England for people claiming benefits to acquire basic computer skills with recognised first-rung qualifications. The courses will increase their chances of getting a job as well as enable those who wish to develop their ICT skills further. In addition, the Government are making £15 million available for a pilot scheme--"Computers Within Reach"--to enable those who cannot afford new computers to acquire reconditioned computers for use in the home for the purpose of improving their employment prospects, for lifelong learning, or for their children's homework. We recently announced a £10 million project to wire up disadvantaged communities, enabling people living in them to use the new information and communications technologies to access jobs, learning opportunities, Government and other services. We are also establishing around 700 ICT Learning Centres in the most deprived communities. These centres will offer access to those initial ICT skills that are increasingly essential to people's job and career prospects.
21. Dr. Tony Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment when he expects to proceed with regulations requiring school governing bodies to establish a complaints system. 
Ms Estelle Morris: My right hon. Friend has no immediate plans to do so, especially as the majority of schools have their own complaints procedures. We have to balance the advantages of setting out national minimum requirements against the disadvantages of introducing another bureaucratic burden. School staff should respond seriously to parental concerns and complaints, to avoid the need for them to go to governing bodies. And governing bodies, in their own interests, should have effective mechanisms in place for handling any parental complaints that do reach them, so that difficulties are resolved swiftly and fairly.
Mr. Wicks: Pay and conditions for FE and HE staff are an important issue, although the detailed arrangements are for employers to determine. We have increased the funding for higher education by over £1 billion over the four years to 2001-02. And we have made the biggest ever investment in FE, increasing funds from £3.1 billion in 1998-99 to £3.9 billion in 2001-02. We are encouraging employers and unions to work together on sensible ways forward under the improved circumstances we have created.
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on the implications of the recent report of the better regulation task force for the work of secondary school (a) teachers and (b) headmasters. 
Ms Estelle Morris: I welcome the report from the Better Regulation Task Force Review of Red Tape Affecting Head Teachers. It is a helpful contribution to the Government's campaign to raise standards in both secondary and primary schools.
My Department is committed to do all that it can to help head teachers and classroom teachers focus on their priority task of raising standards of attainment for pupils. We have already taken steps to reduce needless bureaucracy, but we recognise there is more to be done. We will build on the work we have done and have given the £80 million in 2000-01 for small schools' administrative support.
24. Mr. Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what assessment he has made of the number of headteachers leaving the profession in Gloucestershire; and if he will make a statement. 
Ms Estelle Morris: The leaving rate of headteachers in Gloucestershire during 1997-98 (the latest year for which figures are available) was 9.4 per cent., similar to the national rate of 9.6 per cent. Since that time the leaving rate of headteachers taking early retirement has declined, although the full figures for headteacher leavers are not yet available.
Mr. Wicks: The Quality Assurance Agency carries out subject reviews of provision in departments of higher education institutions. These include an assessment of the quality of teaching and the learning experience of the student. In addition, to reinforce the quality of teaching, the Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education has been set up. Its purpose is to:
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