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29. Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will review the arrangements in England and Wales for payment of tuition fees and student loans in further and higher education. 
Margaret Hodge: The student support arrangements for higher education in England and Wales are kept constantly under review. As announced in the recent "Opportunity for All" White Paper, we are currently reviewing the financial support available for learners in further education and we will make an announcement on this soon.
31. Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will set a timetable to bring funding per pupil in Worcestershire closer to the English average; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Timms: The Government are currently undertaking a review of local government funding. As part of that wider review we are working with local government and schools partners on the proposals for a new LEA and school funding system. We want that system to ensure funding better matches the separate responsibilities of local authorities and schools and reflects fairly, on the basis of up to date evidence, the needs of authorities in different parts of the country. The Government have not yet decided on the timing or the final shape of any changes to local government grant distribution system.
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32. Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what recent assessments she has made of the ability of the local education authority funding formula to reflect need and costs. 
Mr. Timms: The Government are currently undertaking a review of local government funding. As part of that wider review we are working with local government and schools partners on the proposals for a new LEA and school funding system. We aim to create a simpler, more transparent and fairer formula for distributing education funding to authorities that better reflects the separate responsibilities of LEAs and schools and the needs of their pupils.
Andrew Bennett: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what advice she gives to parents of children who have applied to go to a particular school, failed to gain a place, failed at an appeal and are due to attend a school they did not choose. 
Mr. Timms: Recent research into secondary school admissions shows that 96 per cent. of parents are offered a place at a school for which they have expressed a preference and that 85 per cent. are offered a place at their favourite school. But we cannot guarantee that every parent will secure a place for their child in their favourite school. Where they do not, they have a right of appeal. During 19992000, the latest year for which figures are available, 34 per cent. of all appeals were decided in parents' favour. Parents can ask for their child to stay on a waiting list for their favourite school, although the school is not obliged to keep one.
Mr. Timms: We remain committed to the 2002 targets we set in 1997 of 80 per cent. of 11-year-olds achieving the expected standard in literacy and 75 per cent. in numeracy at Key Stage 2. The literacy and numeracy strategies are clearly raising standards in primary schools. Since 1998 there has been a 10 per cent. point improvement in the English results from 65 per cent. to 75 per cent., and in mathematics a 13 per cent. point improvement from 59 per cent. to 72 per cent.
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found that around 20 per cent. of adults in Great Britain performed at the lowest of five levels of literacy skill. Lord Moser drew upon this in his report, "A Fresh Start", to estimate that up to seven million adults have difficulties with literacy and perhaps more with numeracy.
The Government launched their strategy for improving adult literacy and numeracy skills on 1 March this year. As part of our strategy we intend to collect better information on the scale of basic skills need, including through pathfinder projects already established in the nine English regions and through a national survey.
36. Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what representations she has received on the effect the introduction of tuition fees has had on applications for, and recruitment to, higher education courses from areas with high levels of social deprivation. 
Margaret Hodge: My right hon. Friend receives many representations about a wide range of higher education issues, including the effects of the introduction of student contributions to tuition fees. There is no evidence to date that their introduction has had any demonstrable effect on applications by, and recruitment of, students from the three lowest socio-economic groups.
Mr. Timms: We do not collect data on anticipated vacancies in schools. Information on the number of teacher vacancies is collected once a year in January as part of the annual census of teachers and vacancies. In January 2001, Leicestershire LEA recorded 30 teacher vacancies.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many (a) full-time and (b) part-time teaching vacancies there are in (i) secondary, (ii) primary and (iii) special schools in Surrey; and if she will make a statement. 
|Number of vacancies|
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Mr. Timms: The number of teachers in maintained schools in England has risen by more than 11,000 since 1997. We have pledged a further increase of at least 10,000 by 2006. Various incentives are in place, and applications for postgraduate teacher training are rising. We have also proposed a welcome back bonus for returners to teaching this year and writing off, over time, the student loans of new teachers of shortage subjects in maintained schools.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills for what reason Somerset has a lower proportion of three-year-olds in free early years places than the average figure for England; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Timms [holding answer 4 July 2001]: Our commitment is to provide every three-year-old, whose parents want one, with a free nursery education place by September 2004. Local education authorities have chosen to make different levels of provision in the past. They have also been influenced by the fact that allocations of places, funded directly by the Government through the nursery education grant, were made on the basis of social disadvantage.
The Government are making available over £2 million to provide Somerset with 1,704 early education places for its three-year-olds. We are the first Government to make such funding specifically available.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will publish a table showing the percentage of three-year-olds with free nursery places in each education authority in England in each of the years 199899 to 200304 (planned); and if she will make a statement on her plans for increasing provision of free places for three-year-olds. 
Mr. Timms [holding answer 4 July 2001]: We are committed to providing all three-year-olds, whose parents want one, with a free nursery education place by September 2004. Estimates of the percentage of three-year-olds already provided with a place in each area are not available to the Department, although local authorities may choose to make their own estimates based on local data.
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