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Mr. Willis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many (a) maths and (b) science trainee teachers have been placed in the employment-based route to teaching schemes in each of the three terms of the 1998-99 school year; and what was the average cost per place in each of those terms. [100908]

Ms Estelle Morris [holding answer 2 December 1999]: In the school year 1998-99, the number of training plans approved for the Graduate and Registered Teacher Programmes from people who had secured a placement to teach mathematics or science was as follows:

Autumn 1998159
Spring 1999911
Summer 1999811

The average termly training grant for maths and science programmes approved during 1998-99 was:

TermCost (£)
Autumn 19981,075.41
Spring 19991,051.75
Summer 19991,206.53

6 Dec 1999 : Column: 420W

Middle Schools

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the future of middle, deemed secondary, schools. [101177]

Ms Estelle Morris: Systems of organisation involving middle deemed secondary schools are traditional in some local education authority areas. We recognise that a variety of patterns of organisation are possible, and we support those that are in the best interests of education in the area. Any proposals to change the age range of a school by a full year or more will need to go through the formal statutory proposal process. If there are any objections, the proposals will be decided by a local school organisation committee or, if the committee cannot agree, by an independent adjudicator.

Unauthorised Absence

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what is the average level of unauthorised absence (a) in schools in local education authorities with three-tier school systems and (b) nationally. [101176]

Ms Estelle Morris: Promoting regular school attendance is a key component in the Government's strategy to raise educational standards. Our recently published strategy document "Tackling Truancy Together" sets out our proposals to reduce days lost to education as a result of truancy. A copy has been placed in the Library.

In 1998-99, 0.6 per cent. of half days were missed as a result of unauthorised absence in maintained primary and secondary schools in those local education authorities in England which operated a three-tier system. This compares with an overall national figure of 0.7 per cent. of half days missed.

Head Teachers (Early Retirement)

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment (1) how many headteachers are eligible to apply to be considered for early retirement under his proposals; and how many retirement packages can be provided from within the funding allocated for the scheme; [101395]

Ms Estelle Morris: £10 million of Standards Fund money has been made available for 2000-01 to support the early retirement of headteachers. A limit of £50,000 has been placed on the support available in any individual case. This will allow for at least 200 retirements to be supported by the scheme. Local Education Authority employers will determine which of their headteachers appear to meet the scheme's criteria and prioritise those for whom they are applying for support. This Department and OFSTED will consider the evidence provided by LEAs in support of each application and announce during January which applications have been approved.

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Teachers' Pay

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what is the planned expenditure on performance-related pay for teachers over the next two years, broken down by category of expenditure, including (a) training, (b) cost of external assessors and advisers and (c) pay awards for teachers passing through the threshold. [101397]

Ms Estelle Morris: The Government have set aside up to £1 billion over the next two years to fund Green Paper proposals, the vast majority of which is for pay. We have announced a Standards Fund grant of £20 million in 2000-01 for introductory training for performance management and provisionally a further £8 million in 2001-02. We are considering what further training and support might be provided centrally for schools. The costs associated with this training and the external assessors and advisers will be subject to the outcome of negotiations. The Government has proposed to the STRB that teachers should receive up to £2,000 for passing the threshold. There will be no quota on threshold successes and it is not possible therefore to give a total cost in advance; this will depend upon the number of teachers who pass the threshold.

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many applications have been received in response to his Department's advertisement for external assessors to operate under the teachers' performance-related pay scheme. [101394]

Ms Estelle Morris: We have received over 3,000 expressions of interest from people wishing to be an external assessor under our proposed threshold arrangements for teachers.

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment when Hay/McBer will complete its work on the threshold criteria under the teachers' performance-related pay proposals; and when he will publish the criteria. [101391]

Ms Estelle Morris: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has commissioned Hay/McBer to undertake research into the characteristics of effective teaching. In relation to the threshold, they will identify models of good practice which the Department will take into consideration in finalising its proposals for the threshold standards. He intends to invite views on the draft threshold standards early next year.



Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) if he will make a statement on the backlog of unopened post at the DVLA; and what operational problems exist at the DVLA; [99106]

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Mr. Hill [holding answer 22 November 1999]: Approximately 80,000 items of mail are received at DVLA daily. For security and operational reasons, DVLA post is never opened until the point of processing and therefore there is currently a four to five day queue of unopened mail, which is about normal for the time of year. The level of work awaiting processing is carefully monitored each day.

On the driving licence side, which accounts for 20,000 to 30,000 applications per day, the DVLA undertakes to issue driving licences, including return to the applicant, within three weeks--15 working days--from the date of receipt at the Agency. This three-week standard has been met or bettered consistently throughout the year.

In cases where a driver declares a medical condition--amounting to some 1,100 applications a day--because of the increased complexities the service standard is five weeks for a car licence and seven weeks for a bus or lorry licence. Some current cases in these categories are taking longer. Action is being taken to bring this service up to standard and the position is steadily improving.

There are no exceptional operational difficulties at the Agency. Over the pas 18 months, major changes to both driver and vehicle computer systems have been successfully introduced.

Ruddy Duck

Mr. Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what the direct cost is to his Department of each ruddy duck shot this season as part of the Central Science Laboratory's culling programme. [99592]

Mr. Mullin: The cost of the control trial is approximately £800,000 over four financial years. The aims of the control trail are to test the feasibility of eradicating the UK's population of ruddy duck within ten years, determining the financial cost of such a programme and indicating the number of birds needed to be culled each year to achieve this.

Additionally, the control trial aims to identify the factors which will impact on any national programme, such as whether compulsory access to land would be necessary, the distribution and numbers of ducks at various sites, methods of control dependent upon differing habitats and the number of visits needed to individual sites. Due to the many varied aspects and requirements of this control trial, a cost of controlling each individual duck was not requested from the contractors.

Mr. Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many ruddy duck have been shot by the Central Science Laboratory this season. [99598]

Mr. Mullin: The control trial is being undertaken in three areas of the country: Western Midlands, Anglesey where the control is all year round, and Fife, where the control is post-season only. The control trial does not focus on the numbers of birds culled, it looks at the wider picture of how the control is progressing given the various conditions, such as habitat, numbers of birds at each site, migratory movements, access to land, and number of site visits. However, between March and end of September 1999, with control only taking place in two of the regions,

6 Dec 1999 : Column: 423W

over 12 per cent. of the total national ruddy duck population was culled. At the conclusion of the first year, the contractors will produce a detailed report one aspect of which will be the number of birds culled.

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