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Vocational GCSE Courses

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what estimates her Department has made of the number of teachers required for the new vocational GCSE courses. [1962]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: This autumn's annual review of the teacher training targets will take account of any likely additional demand for teachers as a result of the new vocational GCSE courses.

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what qualifications will be required for teachers of each of the new vocational GCSE courses. [1963]

Mr. Timms: Teachers delivering vocational GCSEs in maintained secondary schools will be required to have Qualified Teacher Status. While there will be no further statutory requirements concerning qualifications, headteachers will be expected to match teachers' backgrounds and experiences as closely as possible to the subjects on offer. A comprehensive training and support programme will be available to ensure teachers are well prepared for, and supported during, the delivery of courses.

Secondary School Admissions

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will make a statement on admissions procedures to secondary schools. [1665]

Mr. Timms: We introduced a new admissions framework for all schools in the School Standards and Framework Act 1998. Its aim was to promote parental choice and make the admissions system fairer and easier for parents. A new statutory requirement was imposed on admission authorities requiring them to consult each other annually, before determining their admission arrangements. Where local agreement cannot be reached, admission authorities can object to an independent Schools Adjudicator or, where appropriate, to the Secretary of State.

School admission arrangements are decided locally and admission authorities are free to choose what arrangements to use, although they must be clear, fair and objective and operated in a reasonable manner in line with guidance contained in the Code of Practice on School Admissions.

Parents have the right to appeal to an independent appeal panel if refused a place at their preferred school.

Pupil Referral Units

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills under what criteria local authorities may set up pupil referral units. [1667]

Mr. Timms: Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) can be established by local education authorities under section 19(2) of the Education Act 1996 to educate young people who are unable to attend school because of illness, exclusion or

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otherwise. Education authorities must tell the Secretary of State whenever they set up or close a PRU, although there are no formal opening or closing procedures. However, before opening or closing a PRU there should be reasonable consultation locally, including with other PRUs in an area. The Education (School Premises) Regulations 1996 apply to PRUs with certain modifications. PRUs do not have to provide: a head teacher's room; playing fields; or staff accommodation for teachers to use for both work and social purposes. Education authorities may provide such accommodation, particularly for PRUs that offer full-time education on the premises. Education authorities must also ensure that PRU accommodation meets health, safety and fire regulations, and that it is suitable for education.

Primary Schools

Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment she has made of the (a) optimum number and (b) minimum number of pupils at which a primary school can provide a balanced education; and if she will make a statement. [2123]

Mr. Timms: There are good schools of all sizes. Delivery of a balanced curriculum depends on the organisation of the school and the skills and professionalism of the staff. We are supporting high standards in schools by effective inspection and targeted increased resources.

Where schools have declining rolls and a large number of empty places, their future should be reviewed, particularly in cases where suitable alternative provision is easily accessible.

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what action she plans to take to reduce primary school class sizes for those aged eight years and over. [2144]

Mr. Timms: Following increases in the amount of education funding we have made available to schools and local education authorities since 1997, the average class size for primary pupils aged eight and over has fallen for the second consecutive year; it is now 26.7. We intend to continue to improve funding to schools and by 2003–04 the average funding per pupil will have risen by £750 in real terms since 1997–98; schools may use this to reduce class sizes for junior pupils if they see that as a priority. In addition, we have announced that £73 million is being made available this year specifically to ensure that infants transferring to junior class continue to benefit from small classes.

Teachers' Employment Rights

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will make a statement on the employment rights of teachers facing (a) redundancy and (b) redeployment. [2200]

Mr. Timms: Although rare, teachers can face redundancy and redeployment when the need for their work at a particular school ceases or diminishes. Nevertheless, they enjoy the same general employment rights under the law as employees in other occupations.

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Net Metering

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will undertake a review of current arrangements affecting net metering for renewable energy. [1679]

Mr. Wilson: The issue of how best to value the export of energy to local electricity networks, including the specific issue of net metering, was examined by the Embedded Generation Working Group, who issued their final report recently. The Working Group concluded that further work on this issue was required and made a number of recommendations on how this might be progressed. We shall be making an announcement shortly on how the recommendations of the Embedded Generation Working Group will be taken forward.

In May, the then Energy Minister wrote to electricity suppliers and distribution network operators asking them to consider improving net metering terms for small scale domestic renewable energy generators, including electricity from photovoltaics. A number of responses have been received and the Department will be considering what further action can be taken in the light of the conclusions that emerge.

Information and Consultation Directive

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what impact her Department expects the Information and Consultation Directive to have on competitiveness; and if she will make a statement. [2161]

Ms Hewitt: The directive allows for flexible information and consultation procedures which can be adapted to meet the needs of individual employers. As such it will help foster partnership at work, thereby improving competitiveness.

UK Productivity

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of her Department's measures over the last Parliament in respect of the targets for raising UK productivity. [295]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 25 June 2001]: During the last Parliament the Government set out their comprehensive strategy for meeting the productivity challenge in "Productivity in the UK: The Evidence and the Government's Approach", which was published alongside the November 2000 pre-Budget Report. The Government have also published major White Papers on enterprise, skills development and on science and innovation policy.

The Government's policy is based on the twin principles of delivering macroeconomic stability, to allow firms and individuals to invest for the future, and implementing microeconomic reforms to remove the barriers which prevent markets from functioning efficiently.

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During the last Parliament the Government introduced a number of measures aimed at raising UK productivity consistent with the twin policy approach; for example we:

The Government are clear that having set a sound framework for investment and growth, further radical reform is needed to tackle the challenge of enterprise and productivity. To this end, the Government recently published "Productivity in the UK: Enterprise and the Productivity Challenge" which sets out measures to remove obstacles to innovation and competition and to create an enterprise culture, open to all. We are introducing measures to reform the competition regime, to encourage small businesses to start, innovate and grow, and to raise the quantity and quality of investment in the public and private sectors.

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