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Mr. Fearn: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what standard assessments are used in schools to assist children with learning disabilities to progress with their education. 
Jacqui Smith: The introduction of Baseline Assessment from 1998 in all primary schools helps teachers plan to meet the learning needs of all pupils, including those with learning difficulties. The National Curriculum also provides a framework within which teachers have the flexibility to deliver programmes of study appropriate to the needs and abilities of the children they are teaching, and the assessment arrangements associated with it provide schools with a reliable and consistent analysis of pupil performance, enabling teachers to assess pupils' progress and develop their teaching strategies accordingly. More generally, the "Code of Practice on the Identification and Assessment of Special Education Needs" contains practical guidance for schools, local education authorities and others on how to identify, make provision for, and to monitor the progress of children with special educational needs, including those with learning disabilities. A variety of assessment procedures and ways of tracking pupils' progress are used, depending on the type and extent of a child's special educational needs.
Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the contribution made by Merseyside Training and Enterprise Council to the Mersey Partnership in each of the last five years. 
Mr. Wicks: Merseyside TEC has been an active supporter of the Mersey Partnership since its inception both in cash terms and in Board representation. The TEC has made a financial contribution of £176,000 in each of the last five years.
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The TEC Chief Executive has been a Board Member since the Mersey Partnership was established in 1993 and the TEC is also represented at senior manager level on the Mersey Partnership steering group, a membership forum that meets regularly to review progress.
Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what assessment he has made of the likely contribution of the Merseyside Learning and Skills Council to the Mersey Partnership. 
Mr. Wicks: Learning and skills are an integral part of wider economic development and regeneration activities. We will therefore expect the Merseyside Learning and Skills Council (LSC) to work closely with the Mersey Partnership. It will be for the LSC to decide how its resources might support the work of the Partnership.
Mr. Trickett: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what guidelines are provided to educational institutions by his Department in relation to British Sign Language; and if he will make a statement. 
Jacqui Smith: It is for Local Education Authorities and schools to determine how to provide best for deaf children in the light of local circumstances. The Code of Practice on the Identification and Assessment of Special Educational Needs includes guidance on the steps to be taken to identify and meet the needs of children with sensory impairments, including hearing difficulties.
The Department does not provide guidelines specifically on the use of British Sign Language. The Teacher Training Agency has set standards towards which teachers involved in the teaching of deaf children are encouraged to aim. These include standards on the use of British Sign Language as a means of teaching deaf children. In addition, teachers of whole classes of deaf children are required to gain a mandatory qualification, approved by the Secretary of State. Providers of courses leading to such a mandatory qualification are now required to bid against a national specification in order to run courses beginning in September 2001. The national specification requires that all participants completing the mandatory qualification for teaching deaf children should have a minimum competence in signing, equivalent to the Stage 1 qualification from the Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People.
We have also supported the National Deaf Children's Society's quality standards in the education of deaf children, which do not favour any single approach to deaf education, but which do provide practical guidance to LEAs and schools on ways of educating deaf children, including the use of British Sign Language.
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Mr. Wills: As part of our commitment to the achievement of equal opportunity targets, and for monitoring purposes only, appointees to DfEE Non- Departmental Public Bodies voluntarily disclose whether they have a disability. However, information as to the nature of the disability is not requested so data on deaf appointees are unavailable. Of the 410 DfEE NDPB appointments and re-appointments since 1 May 1997, 30 applicants indicated they have a disability.
Mr. Stunell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many of the written parliamentary questions tabled to his Department between 19 October 1999 and 20 April have not received substantive answers, citing as the reason that the information is (a) not held centrally, (b) not held in the form requested or (c) not available. 
Mr. Fearn: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what representations he has received about the allocation process of funding by the Further Education Funding Council to the further education colleges in Southport, as part of the national settlement. 
Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what plans he has to amend Section 68 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 in order for the Higher Education Funding Council for England to provide financial help for universities submitting plans for year-on-year improvements in the widening of access. 
Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how much additional funding will be made available to higher education institutes through HEFCE to facilitate access between 2000-01 and 2003-04. 
Mr. Wicks: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment announced, on July 18, £20 million of additional funding to widen access to higher education in 2001-02. Further announcements will be made in due course.
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Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what plans he has to consult representatives of higher education institutions on the criteria for access plans to be acceptable for additional funding. 
Mr. Wicks: This is a matter for the Higher Education Funding Council for England which already negotiates annual operating statements that include a statement about widening access with all HE institutions. Further details will be available in due course.
(3) how, in the absence of a statutory payment framework, he will secure performance-related payment to further education lecturers; 
(4) which organisation will consider the pay and remuneration of further education lecturers including any matters related to their performance. 
Mr. Wicks: A first meeting of representative bodies of employers, unions and officials in this Department has been arranged for Friday 28 July to discuss and take forward this initiative. The Government do not have a fixed model that it is intending to impose: we are intent on building on, and working within, existing national arrangements.
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