Education (The Wrekin)
Mr. Peter Bradley:
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment (1) in how many schools in The Wrekin infant class sizes have been reduced to 30 or less; 
(2) how many five, six and seven year-olds in The Wrekin have benefited from a reduction in class sizes to 30 or less. 
Ms Estelle Morris:
The latest available data show that infant classes had been reduced to 30 or below in 24 of the 27 relevant schools in the constituency. Since 1997, 840 five, six and seven-year-olds have benefited from the Government's infant class size initiative. In January 2000, as few as 3.4 per cent. of the relevant age group remained in an infant class of 31 or over. The Government is well on target to deliver its infant class size pledge. Some £620 million is available to support the pledge, and allocations so far to Telford and Wrekin LEA amount to some £1.8 million. This has helped to reduce the size of the average infant class in The Wrekin to 24.7. The figure in January 1997 was 27.2
Mr. Peter Bradley:
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many pre-school places have been provided in The Wrekin since May 1997 and are planned in subsequent years for (a) four-year-olds and (b) three-year-olds. 
Since this Government came to office, 120,000 new, free, early education places have been created for three and four-year-olds nationally. This Government have provided funding to create an additional 602 free early education places for three and four-year- olds in the Telford and Wrekin local education authority area, from 2,501 places in 1997 to 3,103 in 2000.
Now, all four-year-olds and over two thirds of the three-year-olds in the Telford and Wrekin local education authority area have access to a free, part-time, early education place. Future allocations will be decided later this year.
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Mr. Peter Bradley:
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what funding, over and above Rate Support Grant, has been provided to education services in The Wrekin since May 1997. 
Ms Estelle Morris:
Funding for education services in Telford and Wrekin over and above Revenue Support Grant since May 1997 is shown in the following table. The revenue funding for 2000-01 does not include Nursery Grant, for which data are not yet available. Telford and Wrekin was part of Shropshire county council up to 31 March 1998. Since 1997-98 spending per pupil in England has increased by £300 in real terms.
Telford and Wrekin education funding over and above Revenue Support Grant
Mr. Peter Bradley:
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many additional teachers and classroom assistants have been employed in primary and secondary schools in The Wrekin since May 1997. 
Ms Estelle Morris:
The full-time equivalent of additional qualified teachers and educational support staff employed in primary and secondary schools in The Wrekin parliamentary constituency area between the third Thursday in January 1997 and 2000 (provisional) are shown.
|Educational support staff(1)||
(1) Includes nursery assistants, special needs support staff, librarians and technicians
There has been a growth of 6,900 full-time equivalent regular teachers in the maintained school sector in England between January 1998 and January 2000.
The Government will also increase by 20,000 the numbers of full-time equivalent support staff working in primary and secondary schools in England by 2002.
Mr. Hilary Benn:
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what discussions his Department has had with the Open College Network about the future role and funding of locally-devised credit-based qualifications; and if he will make a statement. 
The National Open College Network responded to our recent consultation on the funding of post-16 provision. We are now considering their, and others', comments on how best the Learning and Skills
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Council can recognise the achievement of learners through its funding system. We will be publishing the outcome of the consultation in the autumn.
Mr. Hilary Benn:
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what plans he has to provide future funding for the Youthtrain project. 
The Youthtrain project has been supported by the European Social Fund EMPLOYMENT programme. The programme was to test ideas, pilot innovative approaches, and then seek support through other means if the idea worked. The EMPLOYMENT programme closed at the end of June 2000 and projects such as Youthtrain which produce good results should now seek alternative funding, such as through the mainstream ESF Objective 3 programme which was launched in June.
Nursery Education (Greater London)
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many children living in the Greater London area were receiving nursery education on 1 April. 
The information is not available in the form requested. The Department does not aggregate data on early years education places by the children's area of residence.
The latest provisional estimates show that there were 148,400 children aged three or four who had early years education places with providers in the Greater London Government Office area in January 2000. This figure comprises data from the Annual Schools Census on pupils in maintained schools in Greater London and figures submitted by local education authorities for Nursery Education Grant purposes relating to private, voluntary and independent sector providers in the spring term.
Currently, all eligible four-year-old children in England are now in some form of early education, including 16 per cent. in private and voluntary places. Funding is provided through the early years partnerships for LEA, voluntary and private provision.
Since September 1999, we have also invested substantially in the creation of new, free early education places for three-year-olds. During 1999-2000, funding was focused on 65 authorities, chosen based on social need, where over 46,000 three-year-olds were able to access free early education for the first time.
Over 80 per cent. of new free places were concentrated in the private, voluntary and independent sectors and we expect this trend to continue over the next year. Our aim is that, by March 2002, some 66 per cent. of three-year-olds nationally should have access to a free early education place, enabling some 190,000 three-year-olds the opportunity to access a free place for the first time.
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many press releases have
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been issued so far this year; and what the total cost of the production and issuing of press releases was in (a) 1997, (b) 1998, (c) 1999 and (d) 2000 to date. 
I will write to the hon. Member and place a copy of my letter in the Library.
Departmental Funding Policies
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment in what ways his Department and executive agencies deliver services to meet the needs of the public as consumers, with particular reference to families. 
[holding answer 5 June 2000]: The Department for Education and Employment has taken many steps to improve the way they deliver services to meet the needs of families, an example of this is that 49 of the 127 Employment Service Districts currently hold Charter Marks, a recognition of high quality public service. More specifically:
The Employment Service is creating greater access to employment opportunities by offering services outside of "normal office hours", some of which are available 24 hours a day. Examples include:
Employment Service Direct--a national job inquiry line which is available to all jobseekers as a local rate telephone number, on week days and Saturday mornings;
New Deal Information line--a national information line for New Deal inquiries from members of the public, employers and providers which gives a literature-only service 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and personal advice during normal working hours;
Internet--the Employment Service website (www.employmentservice.gov.uk) which carries a sample of ES job vacancies as well as information on other services provided by Jobcentres;
Peterlee Call Centre--a pilot Call Centre for the Northern Region which gives advice on aspects of Jobcentre services to employers and jobseekers and is available from 8am to 8pm on weekdays and 10am to 4pm on Saturdays.
The Government are also committed to improving radically the ways in which employers can notify their vacancies to the Employment Service and to making it easier for jobseekers to apply for jobs using the full-range of new technologies. During 2000, we will:
create a jobs and learning bank, which will put jobs, jobseekers' CVs and information about careers and learning opportunities on the internet;
expand nationwide the network of touch-screen jobpoints in Jobcentres and other locations so that jobseekers can search not only all job vacancies notified to the ES but also those carried by private agencies and newspapers; and
develop links with the BBC and other potential partners to harness the potential of interactive television to link employers and jobseekers.
Other policies which provide services which are of direct benefit to families include:
the National Childcare Strategy, which was delivered over 175,000 new child care places and has made available some £470 million from 1998 to 2003. It supports those who wish to take up opportunities of employment or training by providing
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good quality child care and helps people to access the best options for child care in their area through a national information line and website, Childcarelink;
the work-life balance campaign, launched by the Prime Minister on 9 March, which aims to encourage employers, including those in the public sector, to recognise the benefits to their organisation of flexible working arrangements. The DfEE's work-life balance Challenge Fund will show employers how they can improve their business or service delivery at the same time as improving their employees' work-life balance.
My Department's strategy for encouraging parental involvement in their children's education includes the Parents' Website, launched in December last year, which gives information about all aspects of a child's education. In September we will be announcing the following further initiatives to help parents get involved in their children's learning:
the Parents and Schools Magazine, for a continuing dialogue between teachers and parents, which will cover articles or topics of particular interest, like bullying and school uniform;
QCA Topic Guides, on individual topics in the National Curriculum;
the Parents' Guides to the National Curriculum, which will set out clearly for parents what children learn at each Key Stage.
'Parents Week' to raise parents' awareness of the educational benefits of the internet is also being planned for the autumn;
the Family Literacy and Family Numeracy initiatives, in which children and their parents learn together, both supports parents in helping with their children's education and provides an opportunity to improve parents' own learning and skills.
My Department also provides a variety of other programmes designed to meet the needs of the families as consumers. They are:
Sure Start, for which DfEE and the Department of Health have joint responsibility, is led by local partnerships with strong parental and community involvement to ensure that the needs of consumers are met;
Early Excellence Centres which work with families to meet often complex needs through an integrated, high quality one-stop service for children and parents. There are now 29 pilot programmes offering a range of different models across England in inner city, urban and rural areas;
the Connexions Service, which will be phased in from April 2001, will provide a radical new approach to guiding and supporting young people through their teenage years and in their transition to adulthood and working life. The Connexions Service will work with parents and carers to complement and support existing family arrangements, not replace them;
as part of the Modernising Government agenda, my Department and its executive agency the Employment Service, have appointed a Consumer Champion at senior management level to champion the consumer cause in the development of policy and delivery of services.