Previous Section Index Home Page

Standards Fund

21. Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what recent representations he has received about the operation of the standards fund. [99364]

Ms Estelle Morris: My right hon. Friend has received a number of representations about the funding of schools and local education authorities, including the standards fund.


22. Mr. Illsley: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what steps he is taking to prevent children at school accessing inappropriate material via the internet. [99365]

Mr. Wills: We are determined that pupils should be protected from unsuitable material while accessing the wealth of educationally valuable material on the internet. DfEE and the British Educational Communications and

2 Dec 1999 : Column: 307W

Technology agency (BECTa) have produced a detailed information pack for teachers and parents about pupils' safe use of the internet. The Superhighway Safety pack, which is available free and is also on the National Grid for Learning, provides guidance on the wide range of measures which schools can adopt. These range from using walled gardens and filtering software, to monitoring and tracking pupil access and providing "user contracts" for pupils, spelling out how they should behave.

The Grid itself is a safe area of the internet, with all sites linked to it conforming to ground rules and a code of conduct. Content must not contain unsuitable material, or links to unsuitable material. Linked sites are required to co-operate fully with GridWatch, which provides a reporting mechanism in the event of unsuitable material appearing on the Grid, as well as immediate remedial action.

Asylum Seekers (Children's Education)

24. Sir Teddy Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what steps he is taking to assist local councils in making provision for the education of children of asylum seekers who do not speak English. [99367]

Jacqui Smith: Children of asylum seekers are entitled to education in the same way as all other children and local education authorities receive funding for their education in the same way as for other pupils on school rolls. Children of asylum seekers who do not speak English receive extra help at school to develop their language skills through the Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Grant, which is over £430 million for the next three years.

Performance-related Pay (Teachers)

25. Mr. David Heath: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the funding arrangements he intends to put in place to finance performance-related pay for teachers. [99368]

Ms Estelle Morris: We will establish a Special Grant to target resources for the performance threshold separate from schools' delegated budgets. Schools will be able to draw additional funds from this grant via their local education authority for each teacher promoted to the upper pay spine. There will be no quota on threshold successes.

We are considering the most appropriate mechanism for funding other pay costs deriving from the Green Paper proposals.

Disruptive Pupils

26. Dr. Naysmith: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what action he is taking to assist schools in dealing with disruptive pupils. [99369]

Jacqui Smith: We are making some £500 million available over three years for projects to tackle truancy, exclusion and disruption. This is backed up with new guidance "Social Inclusion: Pupil Support" on attendance, behaviour, the use of exclusion and re-integration. In

2 Dec 1999 : Column: 308W

addition, the Excellence in Cities initiative includes the provision of Learning Mentors and Learning Support Units to help schools better manage disruptive pupils.

I recently hosted a seminar to consider the principal issues about the education of children with emotional and behavioural difficulties. We shall consider carefully the many constructive suggestions that were made.

Textile Industry

28. Mr. Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will assess the impact of recent purchasing decisions by Marks and Spencer on employment in the textile industry; and what measures he plans to take in response. [99371]

Ms Jowell: The commercial decisions of private companies are a matter for them, and the DfEE do not assess the employment implications of individual cases. In a dynamic modern economy, jobs are being created and lost all the time. However, the total number of people in employment in the UK is growing--up by over 700,000 in the last two and a half years.

The Employment Service is there to help all individuals who lose their job to find another one, and most do so quickly. In addition to advice with jobsearch, re-training help is available for those who find it difficult to get work in their previous occupation, while people affected by a redundancy that has a significant impact on a local labour market can get access to ES programmes straight away. The Government have also established Rapid Response Units to ensure that, when a major redundancy occurs, the help individuals need to get back to work is quickly in place.

With specific reference to textiles and clothing, my colleagues at the Department of Trade and Industry have taken a keen interest in the work of the Textiles and Clothing Strategy Group, which has been looking at ways in which the UK's textiles and clothing industry can become more internationally competitive.

Special Educational Needs

29. Mr. Quinn: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the Government's plans to ensure equal opportunity and access for children who have special educational needs. [99372]

Jacqui Smith: The Government's strategy for raising standards for pupils with special educational needs is set out in the document "Meeting Special Educational Needs: A programme of action" published in November 1998. One strand of this programme was to expand the Schools Access Initiative to fund capital allocations to make mainstream schools more accessible to pupils with disabilities. We have allocated £20 million in the 1999-2000 financial year and expect to allocate a further £80 million over the next two years.

Mr. Corbett: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how he proposes to consult with children with disabilities on the provisions of the proposed Special Educational Needs Bill. [100905]

2 Dec 1999 : Column: 309W

Jacqui Smith: The Special Educational Needs Bill will incorporate undertakings made in "Meeting Special Educational Needs: A Programme of Action", which were drawn up following extensive consultation--including with disabled children and their representatives--on the Green Paper "Excellence for All Children: Meeting Special Educational Needs".

In consulting on the Bill, we will welcome comments from all interested parties including children with disabilities.

Specialist Schools

30. Mr. Blizzard: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what assessment he has made of the success of specialist schools. [99373]

Ms Estelle Morris: Specialist schools submit annual reports about progress against their targets and we monitor their examination performance compared with the performance of all other schools. Their examination success is illustrated by their average 2.5 percentage point improvement in GCSE 5 or more A* to C results between 1998 and 1999 compared with an average of 1.5 percentage points for all other schools. Research projects about the effectiveness of the specialist schools programme carried out by the London School of Economics and Leeds University will be reporting soon and will be published in the new year.

Rural Schools

31. Mr. Peter Bradley: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many rural schools were closed (a) between 1979 and 1997 and (b) since May 1997; and if he will make a statement on the future of rural schools. [99374]

Jacqui Smith: We estimate that around 450 rural primary schools closed between 1983 and 1998. Since the increased protection for rural schools that we announced in February 1998, only six such schools have been approved for closure. We are determined to preserve access to local schools for rural communities, and our guidance to local education authorities and school organisation committees makes clear that the presumption should continue to be against the closure of rural schools.

Local Education Authorities

32. Mr. Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what assessment he has made of the adequacy of the criteria in the funding formula for local education authorities. [99375]

Ms Estelle Morris: My right hon. Friend is well aware that there are problems with the current funding formula for local authorities. We looked at this issue in our first year in office. But there was no consensus among the various different groups of local authorities about the way forward. My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister therefore announced in December 1998 that we would conduct a fundamental review in partnership with local government: we expect to make proposals emerging from the review by the summer of 2000.

2 Dec 1999 : Column: 310W

Next Section Index Home Page