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Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will permit clusters of schools to apply jointly for specialist school status. 
Mr. Timms: The published assessment criteria for each specialism permit joint specialist school applications involving two schools. The criteria also allow for collaborative approaches involving associated applications. Arrangements for associated applications involve a group of schools making solo applications or a combination of solo and joint applications, across a range of specialisms as part of a strategic approach to specialist school provision across an area. Each application succeeds or fails on its own merits.
Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what information she has collated on the targets agreed by specialist schools consequent on that status and their success in achieving them. 
Mr. Timms: Information on the specialist school targets agreed by individual arts, language, technology and sports colleges is not collated but is contained in the development plans and progress reports of each of the 685 specialist schools. These plans and progress reports are retained on individual school files and used in the assessment process for redesignation. Typically, the four-year development plans of an applicant school set between 100 and 400 targets, which focus on a range of school and community strands.
Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what information she collates on the success of specialist schools in achieving targets agreed consequent on their status. 
Mr. Timms: Specialist schools are required to provide annual reports of the progress they have made in implementing their development plans. Information on the achievement of the targets set in the plans is taken into account alongside a new development plan when they seek redesignation as specialist schools.
Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will seek a report from HM Chief Inspector of Schools on the level of success of specialist schools in achieving targets consequent on that status. 
Mr. Timms: As part of Ofsted's survey of specialist schools, published in October, HMI assessed the progress of schools visited in relation to their targets in order to
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examine the impact of the programme on attainment and the quality of provision in designated schools; to evaluate how specialist schools were managing their role and to illustrate good practice. The first main finding in the report confirms that four out of five specialist schools covered by the survey
Mr. Timms: A list of the names of sponsors of each specialist school can be provided only at disproportionate cost. The aggregate contribution of external sponsorship to specialist schools to date is at least £58 million. The additional resources provided for the specialist schools
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programme by this Department from the academic year 199495 to the academic year 200001 inclusive is £245 million.
Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will make a statement on the performance of schools within education action zones. 
Mr. Timms: The performance of schools in education action zones continues to improve. They are making useful contributions to raising standards and are closing the gap with national achievements. The most significant impact is being made by primary schools where achievement continues to rise faster than the national rate.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the proportion of pupils achieving (a) one or more A to C and (b) five or more A to C GCSE grades was (i) nationally and (ii) from schools based in the Buckingham constituency in each year since 1997. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: The proportion of 15-year-old pupils achieving (a) one or more A* to C and (b) five or more A* to C GCSE grades in England and the Buckingham constituency since 1997 are as follows:
|One or more grades A*-C||70.5||71.4||72.6||73.6||74.0|
|Five or more grades A*-C||45.1||46.3||47.9||49.2||50.0|
|One or more grades A*-C||77.1||82.0||81.8||80.2||82.2|
|Five or more grades A*-C||54.1||54.4||57.7||56.0||60.6|
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many unauthorised absences there were from schools (a) nationally and (b) in the Buckingham constituency in each year since 1997. 
Mr. Timms: The numbers and percentages of half days missed due to unauthorised absences in maintained primary and secondary schools in England and the Buckingham constituency since 1997 are:
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the average number of pupils per computer was in (a) primary and (b) secondary schools in the Buckingham constituency in each year since 1997. 
Mr. Timms: The information requested is not available centrally.
Information for England for 19982001 was published in Statistical Bulletin 09/01 "Survey of Information and Communications Technology in Schools 2001", which is available on my Department's website www.dfes.gov.uk/ statistics and from the Library. Information for England is derived from a sample of schools, which is too small to produce reliable information for sub-national areas.
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Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what estimate she has made of the (a) number and (b) percentage of female (i) primary and (ii) secondary school teachers who are Muslims. 
Mr. Timms: The information is not collected centrally.
Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what measures she plans to take to reduce the time teachers spend on administration. 
Mr. Timms: My Department keeps administrative requirements on all schools under continuous review. We have taken a number of actions to reduce the burdens on schools, including simplifying the Standards Fund, providing extra funding for small schools to meet proportionately higher administrative costs and to encourage the development of collaborative approaches to reducing burdens, such as shared ICT technicians, and actively screening all mailings to schools. In addition, in the school year 200001, we achieved a significant reduction in the number of pages sent to schools by the Department.
We recognise that there is more to be done to make teaching a more manageable profession. The PricewaterhouseCoopers study of teacher work load, published on 5 December 2001, has put forward further practical ways of addressing work load issues, which the Department and other stakeholders are considering.
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