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Academic Standards

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what recent assessment his Department has made of the relationship between academic standards in examinations and (a) class sizes and (b) money spent per pupil. [134943]

Ms Estelle Morris: The available evidence, including from Ofsted, indicates that class size is most important at Key Stage 1. That is why we have pledged to reduce the size of infant classes. The pledge will ensure that all children benefit from infant classes of 30 or below, and will help to give young pupils the important start they need. The Department's Value for Money Unit is examining the relationship between school resourcing and academic standards in education.

School Uniforms

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what recent assessment he has made of the advantages and disadvantages of schoolchildren wearing school uniforms. [135034]

Jacqui Smith: The Government believe that school uniforms can make a valuable contribution to the identity and discipline of schools. It is, however, for school governors to decide whether there should be a uniform, and we believe that this should remain the case.

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Learning Difficulties

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment (1) how many children in each LEA are in (a) moderate learning difficulty schools, (b) severe learning difficulty schools and (c) educational and behavioural difficulties schools, broken down into (i) primary and (ii) secondary sectors; [135135]

Ms Estelle Morris: The information is not available in the form requested.

Some information on special needs was recently published in the statistical volume "Statistics of Education--Schools in England 2000" in September. A copy of this publication is available from the Library and can also be accessed on the Department's statistical website www.dfee.gov.uk/statistics. More comprehensive information about special educational needs in schools in England will be published in a statistical bulletin "Special Educational Needs in England 2000" on 22 November.

"Voices"

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how much his Department spent on advertising space in the recent Government publication, "Voices". [135585]

Mr. Wills: The Department took advertising space at a cost of £4,662 in "Voices" magazine.

Work-Life Balance Challenge Fund

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the objectives of the Work-Life Balance Challenge Fund. [135218]

Ms Hodge: The main objectives of the Challenge Fund are to help employers from the public, private and voluntary sectors introduce and develop effective flexible working policies and practices which both benefit the business and help their employees achieve a better balance between work and the rest of their lives; and to identify and disseminate best practice widely to other employers.

Young People (Disadvantage)

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what arrangements the Government are making for the parliamentary accountability of the Children's Fund and of the Government's strategy to co-ordinate services for tackling disadvantage among children and young people. [135861]

Mr. Blunkett: My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced on 28 July that he was establishing a new Cabinet Ministerial Group on Children and Young People's Services which would be chaired by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer with myself as Vice Chair, and which would be supported by a new cross-cutting Children and Young People's Unit to be located in the Department for Education and Employment.

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He also appointed the Minister of State, Home Office, my right hon Friend the Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng) as Minister for Young People with day to day responsibility for the Unit and the co-ordination of the Government's strategy in England on vulnerable children and young people.

The Children's Fund will form a major new part of the Government's strategy to tackle child poverty and prevent social exclusion. The Fund will support services to work with children and their families and prevent children and young people falling into drug abuse, truancy, unemployment and crime. It will be worth a total of £450 million over three years.

The new interdepartmental Children and Young People's Unit, based in my Department, will run the Children's Fund in England at official level. The Unit's remit will be set by the new Cabinet Ministerial Group on Children and Young People's Services. The Unit will have its own Request for Resources within my Department's Estimate. The Head of the Children and Young People's Unit, once appointed, will be an additional Accounting Officer within my Department. As is usual, the appointment as additional Accounting Officer will be made by the Treasury and a copy of the letter of appointment, setting out the respective roles and responsibilities of the additional Accounting Officer and the Permanent Secretary of the Department for Education and Employment as Principal Accounting Officer, will be sent to the Comptroller and Auditor General and to the Clerk of the Committee of Public Accounts.

I shall be formally accountable to Parliament for the Children's Fund and the work of the Unit. However, my right hon. Friend, as Minister for Young People, will normally answer Parliamentary Questions on the Children's Fund and the Unit in this House, and in the case of Oral Questions will do so during Department for Education and Employment Question Time. The Government expect that the relevant Select Committees will normally wish to invite him to appear when they examine the Children's Fund and the Government's strategy on services to tackle disadvantage among children and young people. My noble Friend Baroness Blackstone will answer for the Government in another place.

My right hon. Friend, as Minister for Young People, is writing today to the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and the Chairmen of the Select Committees on Education and Employment, on Health and on Home Affairs, and the Government will liaise as necessary with the House authorities to ensure that these arrangements work well and secure effective accountability for this innovative policy.

PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL

Appointments Commission

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the President of the Council if the Appointments Commission will report annually to Parliament on the discharge of its functions. [133715]

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Mrs. Beckett: Like all Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs), the Appointments Commission will publish an Annual Report. There is no requirement for this to be laid before Parliament, but the report will of course be placed in the Libraries of the House.

ENVIRONMENT, TRANSPORT AND THE REGIONS

Driving Tests

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many driving tests were conducted per month since April 1999; how many tests can be carried out in a month; how many cancellations there were in each month since April 1999 and how many such cancellations were reallocated; and what was the average waiting time for driving tests in each month since April 2000 in the Norris Green and Southport Driving Test Centres. [134176]

Mr. Hill: The number of tests conducted at the driving test centres each month for the period May 1999 to September 2000 were as follows:

MonthNorris GreenSouthport
May 1999567402
June 1999652408
July 1999672442
August 1999692351
September 1999706304
October 1999790359
November 1999796406
December 1999635408
January 2000880437
February 2000723375
March 2000921388
April 2000709363
May 2000795314
June 2000878384
July 2000742327
August 2000885363
September 2000683444

Note:

Figures for April 1999 are not available


The number of tests that can be conducted in an average month, based on the number of staff currently in post at the test centres, is:



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