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Mr. Winnick: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when the hon. Member for Walsall, North will receive a reply to his letter of 5 September regarding a constituent (reference POH(2)5608/53). [135459]

Ms Stuart [holding answer 30 October 2000]: A reply to my hon. Friend's letter was sent on 7 November.


Schools (Sutton)

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many bids have been received from schools in the London Borough of Sutton since 1 May 1997 for centrally allocated spending, broken down by (a) capital funding, (b) Standards Fund funding and (c) other funding; how many of such bids have been (i) successful and (ii) unsuccessful; and if he will make a statement. [134887]

Ms Estelle Morris [holding answer 6 November 2000]: Centrally allocated funds, including the Standards Fund and funding for capital work, are usually distributed on a formula basis or as a result of bids from local education authorities, not via bids from individual maintained schools. Non-maintained special schools can bid directly for capital grant, but there are no such schools in Sutton. Until March 1999 grant maintained schools bid to the Funding Agency for Schools (FAS) for capital grants on a rolling programme. Between May 1997 and March 1999, 46 bids from grant maintained schools located in Sutton were successful. The FAS maintained no record of the number of unsuccessful bids.

Since 1997-98 total Standards Fund allocations in Sutton have increased from £1,428,000 to £4,406,000 while capital fund allocations have increased from £5,755,000 to £9,767,000.

University Chemistry Departments

Dr. Iddon: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will list the university departments of chemistry that have (a) closed and (b) amalgamated with other departments in the period 1980 to 2000. [136164]

Mr. Wicks: This information is not collected centrally. Decisions about closures or amalgamations of departments are for individual higher education institutions.

Individual Learning Accounts

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the measures he proposes to take to speed up the processing of individual learning accounts. [136181]

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Mr. Wicks [holding answer 2 November 2000]: Individuals receive application packs within seven working days from their first inquiry. They will also receive their Individual Learning Account within seven days of their completed application form being received at the Individual Learning Centre. 200,000 Individual Learning Accounts have been opened by the Individual Learning Account Centre since June. 80 per cent. of these people were sent applications and their accounts within two days.

As the Individual Learning Account Centre became fully operational at the same time as peak enrolment we have introduced a one-off measure to help people whose account did not arrive before they started their course. These special arrangements have been put in place with learning providers to enable those individuals to benefit from a discount. These arrangements apply to people who started their learning by 6 October.

Schools (Internet)

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many (a) primary and (b) secondary schools in England and Wales are connected to the Internet. [136214]

Mr. Wills [holding answer 6 November 2000]: 88 per cent. of schools are currently connected to the Internet. The numbers of schools connected are: 15,610 Primary Schools (86 per cent.); 3,470 Secondary Schools (98 per cent.); and 1,100 Special Schools (92 per cent.). In March 1998, 83 per cent. of secondary schools, 17 per cent. of primary schools and 31 per cent. of special schools were connected to the Internet.

For matters relating to schools in Wales I refer the hon. Member to the Welsh Assembly.

Political Debate (Schools)

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what obligations in respect of impartiality schools are required to observe when allowing politicians to discuss politically controversial subjects with pupils. [136237]

Jacqui Smith: We regard it as valuable that Members of Parliament and local councillors take an interest in education and look for opportunities to visit schools and meet pupils. From 2002 Citizenship will become a statutory subject in secondary schools, and this will require all pupils to be taught about parliamentary government and the democratic process. Open and informed debate about current issues is, of course, vital for a healthy democracy.

There are, however, legal safeguards in place to protect against attempts at political indoctrination. Section 407 of the Education Act 1996 requires teachers to take all reasonably practical steps to ensure that, where political or controversial issues are brought to pupils' attention, they are offered a balanced presentation of opposing views.

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New Deal (Hendon)

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment (1) how many young unemployed in Hendon have suffered a reduction in benefit for non-compliance with the New Deal; [136953]

Ms Jowell: Since April this year 10 young unemployed people have received a benefit sanction in Hendon as a result of non-compliance with New Deal. That is the only period for which figures are immediately available.

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The great majority of young people taking part in the New Deal do so to improve their employability and find a job without the necessity to impose any benefit sanctions.

University Course Lengths

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what proportion of university courses have changed from three years to four years in each of the past five years. [136262]

Mr. Wicks: The information is not held centrally. The available data on course lengths are shown in the following table.

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Percentage distribution of undergraduates in UK HE institutions by length of course(11)

Less than or equal to 1 yearMore than 1 year and less than or equal to 2 yearsMore than 2 years and less than or equal to 3 yearsMore than 3 years and less than or equal to 4 yearsMore than 4 years and less than or equal to 5 yearsMore than 5 yearsTotalTotal (thousand)

(11) Excluding students with unknown course length

(12) Short, continuing education courses became part of mainstream provision from 1995-96, hence the increasing proportion of courses of less than one year

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Zacchaeus Centre, Birmingham

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what assessment he has made of the work of the Zacchaeus Centre in Birmingham. [136402]

Jacqui Smith: The Zacchaeus Centre has been assessed by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Schools as a unique and successful provision for Key Stage 3 pupils at risk of exclusion from the 10 Roman Catholic secondary schools in Birmingham. The Centre does not cater for permanently excluded pupils. Rates of re-integration are high. That is why we included the Centre as an example of good practice in Circular 10/99 "Social Inclusions: Pupil Support". Unlike the previous Government, we have been supporting the Centre through the Standards Fund: £53,600 in 1998-99 and £94,000 in 1999-2000. The Centre is receiving a similar amount this year and will do so in 2001-02.

Our support for the Zacchaeus Centre complements the increased provision we are making for both in and out of school support. We are making resources available to establish over 1,000 on-site Learning Support Units by 2002. These take disruptive pupils out of the classroom quickly and ensure that they start to behave better. Where an exclusion is necessary, provision for excluded pupils is being greatly increased. There are 1,000 more places and 250 more teachers in Pupil Referral Units than in

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1997. Their quality is improving and by 2002 all local education authorities will be required to provide a full timetable for excluded pupils.

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