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Nursery Places

Mr. Allan: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he expects (a) the Government's target of free nursery places for 66 per cent. of three-year-olds to be met in every local education authority by 2002 and (b) levels of free provision to be higher than 66 per cent. in some areas by that date; and if he will make a statement. [101521]

Ms Hodge: The Government have set a target of providing a free education place for 66 per cent. of all three-year-olds nationally by 2002. We will achieve this as a result of investing £390 million over the three years 1999-2000 to 2001-02, in all local education authority areas. The funding will, however, priorities the areas with the greatest social needs

Many authorities have already invested their own resources to provide early education places for three-year-olds. The funding we are making available builds upon that and will extend provision across all authorities.

Classroom Assistants

Charlotte Atkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what advice he has issued to (a) primary schools and (b) local education authorities on

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(i) the employment of classroom assistants, (ii) extending their role within the classroom and (iii) providing incentives for classroom assistants to develop their knowledge and expertise in the fields of numeracy, literacy and record-keeping. [101705]

Ms Estelle Morris: A Supplement to the Standards Fund 2000-01 was issued on 27 October 1999. It advised Chief Education Officers of new arrangements to increase numbers of teaching assistants and to improve their training and career development. £130 million is being made available in 2000-01, enabling schools to recruit and train up to 15,000 additional full-time equivalent teaching assistants. LEAs must consult schools over relative local needs in deciding where assistants should be deployed.

The Department is developing a national framework of training and qualifications in partnership with the Local Government National Training Organisation and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. It is also producing guidance on the effective deployment of teaching assistants by heads and teachers. Both of these documents will be published next year following consultation with schools, local authorities and national bodies.

Local Education Authority Statistics

Mr. Willis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will list by local education authority the number and percentage of pupils eligible for free school meals in (a) 1996, (b) 1997, (c) 1998 and (d) 1999. [101520]

Ms Estelle Morris: The information available has been placed in the Library.



Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what plans she has to transfer responsibility for the appointment of magistrates from the Duchy of Lancaster to the Lord Chancellor. [101484]

Marjorie Mowlam: Decisions on proposals to transfer responsibilities between Departments are for the Prime Minister.

Civil Service (Ethnic Minorities)

Ms Oona King: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what progress the Government have made in increasing the representation of ethnic minorities in the Civil Service. [101449]

Mr. Stringer: The "Modernising government" White Paper sets a target of doubling the proportion of people drawn from ethnic minority backgrounds in the Senior Civil Service to 3.2 per cent. in 2004-05. We will report on the progress we have made against these targets next year.

The proportion of ethnic minority staff in the Civil Service, as a whole, has increased from 4.2 per cent. in 1989 to 5.7 per cent. in 1998. This compares with 5.4 per cent. in the economically active population.