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14. Mr. Pike: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment her Department has made of recent trends in higher education take-up, particularly in areas of low take-up. 
Margaret Hodge: The Higher Education Funding Council for England has consulted on its plans to ensure sufficient supply and demand for higher education over the rest of the decade, based on a through analysis of trends over the past 20 years. The latest data from the University and Colleges Admissions Service indicate an increase in applications in 2002 compared with last year, a welcome step towards our 50 per cent. target by 2010.
Margaret Hodge [holding answer 17 April 2002]: We are determined to widen access as we expand numbers. The latest UCAS figures show a 9.5 per cent. increase in the number of mature students from the UK who entered higher education in September 2001 and UCAS has reported a 4.6 per cent. increase in the number of mature applicants from the UK for September 2002.
We have put a number of initiatives in place, including foundation degrees which are new vocational qualifications to address the skills gap, as well as New Technology Institutes which are being set up in each English region. They are partnerships between higher education (HE), further education (FE) and business to provide specialist information and communication technology (ICT) and other high technology learning programmes. We are also developing new ways to access higher education through the "e-Universities" project, which will provide the flexibility many mature students need.
In addition we have provided substantial extra resources for mature students including a child care grant, travel, books and equipment grant and access bursaries for student parents. A single parent with two young children can now get over £16,000 with full student loan and other grants. Our measures have contributed towards the welcome increase in mature student numbers.
Institutions receive a funding premium for all students aged 25 and over in recognition of the additional cost of supporting such students. We are also encouraging the important role that FE has to play in delivering HE, where FE colleges are already significant providers. They offer degree and other provision to wider groups, many of whom are mature students who may not be able to attend a university but can attend the local college.
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15. Mr. Syms: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will make a statement on the recent research she has commissioned into the reasons for teachers leaving the profession. 
Mr. Timms: My right hon. Friend has commissioned Professor Alan Smithers and Dr. Pamela Robinson, from the University of Liverpool Centre for Education and Employment Research to undertake research into the factors affecting teachers' decisions to leave the profession. The research commenced in December 2001 and we expect the report to be published in March 2003.
18. Dr. Ladyman: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps she is taking to ensure all schools in selective education authority areas achieve their GCSE performance targets. 
Mr. Timms: We have put in place a support programme targeted at all mainstream secondary schools where fewer than 25 per cent. of pupils gain at least 5 A-C grades at GCSE including: financial support through the school improvement grant; Excellence in Cities or Education Action Zones; Ofsted monitoring visits; advice and guidance on good practice; a pilot project for trainee head teachers and an Action Research Project involving eight schools facing extremely challenging circumstances.
Mr. Timms: We are currently working up proposals for a reformed system of school and LEA funding for introduction in 200304. We aim to create a simpler, more transparent and fairer formula that reflects fairly, on the basis of up to date evidence, the needs of authorities in different parts of the country. We expect to consult on proposals for the new system in the summer.
20. Mr. McWalter: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps she is taking to ensure that the results of the research assessment exercise do not lead to a lowering of the resources devoted to scientific research. 
Margaret Hodge: The funding distributed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England using the outcome of the research assessment exercise in science, engineering and medical subjects increased from
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Mr. Ivan Lewis: By the end of this school year some 3,800 Learning Mentors will be working in over 1,000 primary pilot schools and 1,000 secondary schools as part of the Excellence in Cities initiative. An extra £19 million is being made available to existing Excellence in Cities areas to extend their Learning Mentor provision from September; and a further 12 Excellence Clusters will operate from September, serving smaller pockets of deprivation and bringing Learning Mentors to more schools. My Department also funds the National Mentoring Network to promote and develop high quality volunteer mentoring for young people, including support for peer mentoring in 150 secondary schools from October 2002. Together with the Home Office Active Community Unit, we are funding seven Mentor Pointsone stop shops for those wishing to become or access a volunteer mentorthree of which focus on provision in schools.
23. Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will make a statement on the support she offers for recruitment of teachers in London, with special reference to allowing for the cost of living. 
Mr. Timms: London allowances for teachers increased by 30 per cent. last year, and by a further 3.5 per cent. this April. The allowance for a teacher in inner London is now £3,105. London teachers will also benefit from shortening of the main pay scale from 9 points to 6, which will mean more rapid progression to the threshold. Assimilation to this new scale will mean significant benefits for many teachers from 1 September this year. For example, an inner London teacher now on £25,911 will receive £28,818 on the new scalea basic pay increase of over 11 per cent., in addition to the 3.5 per cent. received on 1 April this year.
For post-threshold classroom teachers in inner London, salaries are now at £30,966 before any additions for management responsibilities or recruitment and retention allowances. Schools may pay recruitment and retention allowances of up to £5,262 per annum, both for threshold and main scale teachers.
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It is open to local authorities to help teachers with housing, relocation or travel costs. We are helping with more than £42 million available direct to London schools in 200102 and 200203 through our Recruitment and Retention Fund. We also expect that more than 1,500 teachers in the London area will have benefited from our new Starter Homes Initiative by 2004. We have also recently funded the establishment of a teacher recruitment and retention Unit within the Government Office for London, which will focus initially on affordable housing for teachers.
26. Dr. Naysmith: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what recent discussions she has had on the reduction of teachers' work loads with teaching unions; and if she will make a statement. 
32. Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills when she next expects to meet representatives of teachers' organisations to discuss plans to reduce burdens on teachers; and if she will make a statement. 
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