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Age Discrimination

Ms Perham: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what discussions he has held with the insurance industry about measures to prevent age discrimination in employment. [137623]

Ms Hodge: The Government have to date had no direct discussion with the insurance industry about measures to prevent age discrimination. However, our Code of Practice on Age Diversity in Employment has been widely disseminated and promoted across all sectors including the financial services sector.

We are supporting the Code with a series of research projects, which are looking in more depth at specific areas of age discrimination. A recently commissioned project will look at ageist barriers to employment, including insurance measures. This research will provide firm

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information on which to base our future discussions with the insurance sector. Findings from this research will be published during 2001.

Ballots (Grammar Schools)

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment (1) what has been the cost to public funds of grammar school petition and ballot procedures which have been implemented to date; [138443]

Ms Estelle Morris [holding answer 15 November 2000]: On the matter of Departmental staffing costs in relation to the grammar school ballots policy, I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 1 November 2000, Official Report, column 504W.

The Department has paid Electoral Reform Services £292,391.09 for services undertaken in relation to grammar school petitions and ballots from March 1999 to date. This breaks down as follows:

Financial yearTotal payments to ERS (£)
1998-9914,599.94
1999-2000217,705.86
April-October 2000(14)60,085.29

(14) Of this, £1,780.07 was for printing, postage and administration costs relating to the Ripon ballot.


Footballers (Work Permits)

Mr. Pearson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many work permits have been granted to date to professional footballers (a) from non-EEA countries for the 1999-2000 season, (b) that had played for their country in at least 75 per cent. of the competitive, 'A' team matches for which they were available for selection during the two years preceding the date of the work permit application and (c) from countries whose FIFA ranking was at or above 70th place in the official rankings list when averaged over the two years preceding the date of the work permit application. [138626]

Ms Hodge: For the 1999-2000 football season:


(a) the Department granted 80 work permits to professional footballers from non-EEA countries for the 1999-2000 season;
(b) 71 met the criteria of having played in at least 75 per cent. of their country's competitive 'A' team matches for the two years preceding the date of work permit application;
(c) 73 met the criteria of the player's country having a FIFA ranking of at or above 70th place in the official rankings list when averaged over the two years preceding the date of the application.

Overall of the 80 permits issued, 65 met both of the published criteria--(b) and (c) in the question asked. The additional 15 permits were issued on the positive recommendations made to the Department by the independent football review panels.

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Higher Education

Mr. Allan: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what representations he has received from organisations in (a) England and Wales and (b) Scotland concerning proposals by the Quality Assurance Agency for higher education on the nomenclature of higher education qualifications; and if he will make a statement. [138352]

Mr. Wicks [holding answer 16 November 2000]: The need for greater clarity and consistency in the use of higher education qualification titles is recognised by both higher education institutions and employers. The Quality Assurance Agency has published its proposals for a qualifications framework for higher education together with a position paper on the nomenclature of qualifications. A further revised consultation paper was issued on 14 November. My officials have received a small number of comments on the framework and these have been addressed in the revised consultation paper. A separate framework for Scotland is being introduced and questions on this should be addressed to the Scottish Parliament.

Computers Within Reach Scheme

Mr. Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what the cost has been of phase 1 of the Computers within Reach scheme. [138860]

Mr. Wills: Phase 1 of the Computers within Reach scheme has just been announced. The first phase of the scheme is intended to provide 35,000 recycled computers and printers, and will attract funding of £5,250,000 to the contractors operating the pilots.

In addition, the individuals who receive each PC (except a small minority in a linked scheme, Wired Up Communities) will be asked for a £60 contribution towards the cost. For those individuals who have special needs that require further adaption of the computer or software we have a further budget available. The Department has also bulk purchased software from a software company to run on the recycled computers. There will be further costs in relation to the operation and evaluation of the scheme. These costs have not been fully finalised at present.

National Grid for Learning

Mr. Clapham: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what plans he has for the future development of the National Grid for Learning. [139409]

Mr. Wills: I can today announce that we have commissioned a study to look at the future development and financing of the National Grid for Learning (NGfL). It will include an analysis of the full range of options for future progress and will produce recommendations about the best way forward.

New technology in schools is changing all the time. When we started the national drive to get all our schools connected to the internet three years ago, very little had been done to prepare our schools, teachers or pupils for new technology.

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In the last three years we have achieved a tremendous amount. Today, 98 per cent. of secondary schools and 86 per cent. of primary schools are online. That is a total of 20,200 schools connected to the internet compared with around 6,500 in 1998. The Prime Minister recently announced a further £1 billion investment to step up the drive to use new technology to raise standards in schools.

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However, we must renew and re-invigorate the National Grid so that it moves with the times. It is critical that it provides accessible, high-quality, interactive content and that schools have the fast internet access that will enable them to make the best use of it. The study we have commissioned will look at the best options for securing these outcomes and the best ways of financing them, including making the best use of the private sector.