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Mr. Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what plans he has for the future funding of North-west Bargaining for Skills by the Learning and Skills Council; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Wicks: For the current year, Training and Enterprise Councils in the North-west have been able to meet only half the cost of the Bargaining for Skills projects, due to other pressing financial commitments. My Department will ensure that the balance is found to sustain the programme for the rest of this year.
Trade Unions have a unique and pivotal role to play in encouraging and facilitating learning opportunities at work. Nowhere has this been more effectively demonstrated than through the success of the Union Learning Fund and Bargaining for Skills Projects. Workforce development will be at the heart of the remit of the Learning and Skills Council, and we are currently discussing with the TUC the role that unions can play in supporting this.
Ms Hodge: No such consultations are taking place. Job titles for all paid support staff are decided locally, taking account of any national agreements reached between employers' organisations and unions.
Mr. Willis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what the annual suicide rate has been of (a) teachers and (b) head teachers in (i) all schools, (ii) primary schools and (iii) secondary schools in each year since 1989; how many suicides there were in each case; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many agencies of his Department use touch tone telephone steering systems when dealing with telephone inquiries from the general public. 
Mr. Wills: ES is the only agency of the Department for Education and Employment that uses touch tone telephone steering systems when dealing with telephone inquiries from the general public. The ONE call centre (benefit inquiry line) currently being piloted makes use of such a system.
Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many of his Department's telephone lines used by the general public are responded to by touch tone telephone steering systems. 
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Mr. Wills: Within the Department for Education and Employment there are two departmental telephone lines used by the general public which are responded to by a touch tone telephone steering system. The Overseas Labour Service and the Qualifications for Work systems both make use of such systems.
Jacqui Smith [holding answer 11 July 2000]: Children of asylum seekers are entitled to the same educational opportunities as all other children. The Department has funded a number of publications by the Refugee Council aimed at helping children of asylum seekers access education. Officials here recently met representatives of the Refugee Council and the Local Government Association to discuss whether or not further guidance on the education of children of asylum seekers would be helpful to Local Education Authorities.
The Secretary of State has recently announced that £1.5 million is to be made available in this financial year to improve access to education for children of asylum seekers who are dispersed to cluster areas under the support arrangements in the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. Up to £500 is available for each child. The money will go to schools to help with extra language lessons, and to help children settle in quickly.
Mr. Allan: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, pursuant to his answer of 21 June 2000, Official Report, column 205W, what the deadline is for the submission of asset management plans by local education authorities. 
Jacqui Smith [holding answer 12 July 2000]: Our target is that, by December 2001, 90 per cent. of authorities' AMPs should be satisfactory in relation to DfEE performance standards. Our interim target, however, is that by December 2000, 90 per cent. of authorities' AMPs should be operational at least in respect of condition, suitability and sufficiency assessments.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many pupils sat (a) GCSE and (b) A level exams early in the academic cycle; what was the youngest age at which the exams were sat; and how many students, as a percentage of all GCSE and A level students, sat exams early in (1) 1995-96, (2) 1996-97, (3) 1997-98, (4) 1998-99 and (5) 1999-2000. 
|(a) GCSE entrants|
|Number of candidates who sat at least one exam before age 15||30,630||40,817||40,890||44,744|
|Percentage of all candidates||3.7||5.0||5.2||5.7|
|Youngest age at which sat exam||9||12||10||8|
|(b) GCE A level entrants|
|Number of candidates who sat at least one exam before age 17||7,559||7,944||7,568||8,470|
|Percentage of all candidates||2.9||2.9||2.8||3.2|
|Youngest age at which sat exam||11||9||12||11|
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Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what the average length of time is between (a) the completion of the outline business case and the signing of the final contract and (b) the publication in the Official Journal of the European Community and the signing of the final contract, where applicable, of private finance initiative contracts for schools. 
Jacqui Smith: To date, 16 schools private finance initiative contracts have reached final contract signature in England, taking on average 22 months from placing initial notices in the Official Journal of the European Community. Because many of these projects were advertised before the current arrangements for reviewing outline business cases were introduced in late 1997, it is not possible to provide a meaningful average length of time between outline business cases being approved and final contract signature. However, since the current arrangements were introduced, a typical schools project takes around three months for the outline business case to be assessed and approved.
Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what monitoring is undertaken of private finance initiative contracts for schools, further education colleges and higher education; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Wicks: Responsibility for monitoring PFI projects lies with the relevant procuring body. For schools, monitoring is the responsibility of Local Education Authorities or other procuring bodies. The Department informs the Department for the Environment, Transport, and the Regions about services and payments arising from new projects, so that the overall level of revenue commitments can be monitored.
13 Jul 2000 : Column: 660W
Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what clawback mechanisms exist under private finance initiatives within his Department in respect of contingencies other then refinancing; and if he will place copies of each private finance initiative contract in the Library. 
Mr. Wicks: The Employment Service has entered into three Private Finance Initiative contracts since 1997. It has established private finance deals for the delivery of procedural guidance via networked personal computers, for the delivery of all IT and related services, and for pay and personnel records.
Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what use of equity finance has been made in his Department's private finance initiative projects; and if he will make a statement. 
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