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Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans her Department has to reduce the number of primary and secondary school teacher vacancies. 
Mr. Timms: We have put in place a range of measures to boost the recruitment and retention of teachers including: £6,000 training bursaries for graduates starting postgraduate teacher training and £4,000 "Golden Hellos" for those who train in and go on to teach shortage subjects; above-inflation pay increases for the third year running; measures to encourage returners back into teaching such as "refresher" courses with training grants of up to £150 a week and child care for those taking part; and £33 million extra funding distributed direct to those schools in the areas with the highest vacancies to put in place local initiatives. These are starting to pay off with 12,500 more teachers than in 1998 and an increase in the number entering teachers training for the second year running. We are also working on a scheme that will pay off, over a set period of time, the student loans of new teachers who enter and remain in state education and we are determined to tackle issues about teacher workload. It is all part of our strategy of recruitment, retention and reward that will deliver 10,000 extra teachers and 20,000 more support staff over the Parliament.
Mr. Chidgey: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will list the different accounting headings under which further education colleges in England must apply for standard fund grants, (a) immediately before and (b) after the establishment of the learning and skills council. 
John Healey [holding answer 4 December 2001]: In 200001 the standards fund had six categories: College Improvement; Improving Teaching and Learning; Training and Development for Principals and Senior Management Teams; the Good Governance Programme; Dissemination of Good Practice; and the Achievement Fund.
This year, which is the first year of the learning and skills council, there are five categories for the standards fund for 200102: Provider Improvement; Professional Development; The Good Governance Programme; Centres of Vocational Excellence; and Dissemination of Good Practice.
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From April 2002 there will be a single, unified Learning and Skills Standards Fund with no individual ring-fenced funding streams within it.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the administration costs of the Funding Agency for Schools were in 200001; and what she expects them to be in 200102. 
Mr. Timms: The Funding Agency for Schools was dissolved on 1 November 1999.
Sir Sydney Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will make a statement on progress in improving language teaching in primary schools. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: In the White Paper "Schools Achieving Success", we have stated our commitment to actively promote modern language teaching in primary schools so that more older primary children learn a second language. We are already doing a great deal to support language teaching in primary schools, although we do not have a statutory curriculum for languages at primary age. The National Curriculum contains guidance for teaching 7 to 11-year-olds, and we have published a scheme of work for primary French, and further materials for primary German and Spanish. We are supporting the Early Language Learning initiative, through which we are piloting approaches to extend language teaching in primary schools, and developing a curriculum guide to good practice and classroom materials. A national advisory centre on early language learning has been set up with an accompanying website.
We will be building on existing links between primary schools and specialist language colleges. The increasing number of specialist colleges and the developing focus on their roles as "hubs" of excellence will enhance opportunities for primary schools to access language expertise.
Sir Sydney Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what studies her Department has made of the impact on language learning in the UK of the emergence of English as a world language. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: Despite the importance of English as a world language, we recognise the valuable contribution that foreign language learning makes to our social and economic success. The Department has not studied the impact on language learning in the UK of the emergence of English as a world language, but we are doing a great deal to support and enhance foreign language teaching and learning. All pupils in England have a statutory entitlement to learn at least one foreign language from the age of 11. The growing number of specialist language colleges, with their role as "hubs" of excellence, means that more schools are able to benefit from access to languages expertise.
Commercially and vocationally, languages have a great deal to offer. We have committed over £900,000 over three years to support regional language networks. These networks will address language skills needs, demands and provision within regions and sectors. They will raise
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awareness of the importance of language skills for companies and will provide a point of contact and a support structure for regional initiatives to promote language learning.
Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many and what proportion of letters received by his Department between 20 June and 20 July were replied to (a) in under 15, (b) in under 20, (c) in under 30, (d) in under 40 and (e) in over 40 working days. 
Maria Eagle [holding answer 3 December 2001]: Information on the volume of correspondence received by Departments, and their performance in handling them, is published annually by the Cabinet Office. The most recent report, covering 2000, was announced by the then Minister for the Cabinet Office on 6 April 2001, Official Report, column 325W.
Information on letters received between 20 June and 20 July 2001 is not available in the format required. However, Ministers sent a total of 516 replies in this period. 483 (93 per cent.) were sent within 20 days, 18 (4 per cent.) between 21 and 40 days, and 15 (3 per cent.) in over 40 days.
Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many letters his Department received from right hon. and hon. Members between 20 June and 20 July. 
Maria Eagle [holding answer 3 December 2001]: Information on the volume of correspondence from Members of Parliament received by Departments, and their performance in handling them, is published annually by the Cabinet Office. The most recent report, covering 2000, was announced by the then Minister for the Cabinet Office on 6 April 2001, Official Report, column 325W.
Between 20 June and 20 July 2001, this Department received 1,176 letters for ministerial reply, most of which were from right hon. and hon. Members.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the second state pension, how to qualify for it and the future of SERPS. 
Mr. McCartney [holding answer 3 December 2001]: From 6 April 2002, the State Second Pension reforms SERPS to boost the state additional pension of low earners, and allow qualifying carers and long-term disabled people to build up an additional pension. People accruing SERPS will automatically start to accrue State Second Pension. Already accrued SERPS rights will be fully protected.
The reforms introduce a Low Earnings Threshold (£10,400 in today's terms). Employees earning up to the threshold will have their additional pension calculated as
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if they earned at that level. In addition, the amount of additional pension they receive will be twice the amount that they would have got from SERPS.
Qualifying carers who look after a young child, or a sick or disabled person at home, and disabled people who have lost their link with the labour market will also be treated for additional pension purposes as if they had earnings at the threshold.
Employees earning up to about £23,600 (in today's terms) will also benefit from the reforms, with the amount of extra help tapering off as earnings rise.
Those earning above about £23,600 (in today's terms) will receive the same from the State Second Pension as they would have done from SERPS.
Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the changes to cost and coverage of the proposed pension credit if the maximum savings credit were revised to (a) £14.80 single/ £18.60 couple, (b) £15.80 single/£19.60 couple and (c) continuing for each £1 up to a maximum of £18.80 for single people and £23.60 for couples. 
Mr. McCartney: Pension credit will ensure that no pensioner need live on an income below a guaranteed minimum level and will provide a reward through the savings credit for those who have made their own provision for their retirement. The formula for the savings credit is set out in "The Pension Credit: the Government's proposals" published on 28 November, copies of which are in the Library. The cost and coverage of the savings credit depends on a number of factors including the range of income rewarded and the percentage of this specified as the savings credit.
Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the size of a pension fund which would generate an annuity capable of establishing eligibility to an element of pension credit on its introduction in 2003 on a (a) single life flat and (b) single life indexed basis for (i) men and (ii) women, assuming no change in current rates. 
Mr. McCartney: The introduction of pension credit will mean that no pensioner need live on less than £100 a week, or £154 for couples. For the first time we will reward, not penalise, savings to ensure those who have worked hard to save modest amounts will gain from having done so. Even small private pension funds will attract the savings credit.
The information in the table shows the estimated funds required to generate an annuity sufficient to raise people above the point they are eligible for the savings reward element of pension credit.
All figures rounded to nearest £1,000.
Figures calculated using annuity rates provided by Annuity Direct.
Assumes retirement at age 65.
Assumes entitlement to Basic State Pension only.
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