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Postgraduate Teaching Courses (North-east)

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many (a) courses and (b) places are available in the north-east of England providing postgraduate teaching qualifications. [62021]

Mr. Miliband: In 2002–03 there are 1,194 places available on 38 postgraduate courses of initial teacher training in the north-east Government office region.

Educational Attainment

Mr. Willis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many and what percentage of children who lived (a) in a residential care home and (b) with foster parents (i) left their higher education course and (ii) completed higher education; and what grades were achieved, in the last five years for which figures are available. [62172]

Margaret Hodge: The requested information is not held centrally.

Teachers (Ethnic Origin)

Mr. Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many teachers are (a) black and (b) Asian. [62176]

Mr. Miliband: This information is not collected centrally.

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School Visits

Mr. Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many schools she has visited since 7 June 2001. [62177]

Estelle Morris: Since 7 June 2001 the Secretary of State has visited 29 schools.


Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps she takes to (a) monitor the performance of local authorities and schools in SATs and public examinations and (b) audit the quality of information provided by local authorities to her Department. [62249]

Mr. Miliband: All LEAs and schools are required to set annual targets for the performance of their pupils in the Key Stage 2 and 3 National Curriculum tests and GCSE examinations. Schools' Key Stage 2 and GCSE results are published in performance tables and the Key Stage 3 results will also be published for the first time later this year.

LEAs are required to set out their targets in their Education Development Plans (EDPs) and submit them to the Secretary of State for approval. The Department and Ofsted worked together to assess the quality of the second generation of EDPs submitted by local education authorities in January 2002. The Department's Standards and Effectiveness Unit continues to provide challenge and support for LEAs' implementation of their EDPs. Ofsted inspections also report on the quality and effectiveness of implementation of EDPs.

Teacher Training

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what provision is available for teachers to use a proportion of their statutory Inset days to increase their awareness and understanding of industry and commerce. [62459]

Mr. Miliband: The timing, organisation and content of in-service training days (Inset) are entirely for individual Local Education Authorities (LEAs), governing bodies and head teachers to determine. If agreed by those above, there is no reason why a school cannot use Inset days to increase awareness and understanding of industry and commerce.


Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what empirical evidence she has collected on the relative success of teaching of reading by (a) whole language and real books method, (b) the national literacy strategy and (c) synthetic phonics. [62613]

Mr. Miliband: A wide range of research evidence about the teaching of reading was considered in the development of the National Literacy Strategy (NLS) as documented in the "Review of Research and other Related Evidence", published by the Department in 1998. National test results have shown that the NLS has improved the standards achieved in reading. In 2001, 84 per cent. of pupils achieved the expected level for their age (level 2) in the Key Stage 1 reading tests—a rise of 4 percentage

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points since 1998; 82 per cent. of pupils achieved the expected level (level 4) in the Key Stage 2 reading tests—a rise of 11 percentage points since 1998. Phonics is a key part of the NLS, which advocates the use of both synthetic and analytic phonics.

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the average reading age is of pupils in each age cohort. [62615]

Mr. Miliband: The Department does not collect centrally national data regarding the average reading age of pupils in each age cohort. The table therefore shows the percentage of pupils achieving the expected level for their age in the 2001 national Key Stage tests:

Percentage of pupils achieving expected level in 2001 tests in all schools in England

Key StagePercentage
KS1 Reading—Level 2 or above84
KS2 Reading—Level 4 or above82
KS3 English—Level 5 or above65


Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what her policy is towards parents supporting school age children by providing appropriate help at home; [62774]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: The Government have no policy to penalise children for being helped by their parents with their school work. Indeed, we strongly endorse parents playing an active part in supporting their children's learning at home. We believe that children's education really benefits when parents create a learning-friendly environment at home and have a positive attitude to school and to learning. We have helped them in this by providing a range of information, resources, and guidance on how to get involved in their children's education. These include the "Parents' Centre" website, which contains information for parents about education, as well as how they can get involved, and links to useful resources for learning at home; the "Learning Journey" booklets, a series of guides to the curriculum informing parents of what their children will learn and how they can help; and "Parents + Schools" magazine, a termly publication informing parents of developments in the field of education, and containing hints, tips, and suggestions for becoming involved.

The Department published national homework guidelines for schools in 1998 that, among other things, emphasise that schools should ensure they work closely with parents and ensure that they are given guidance about how best to help their children.


Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many 11-year-olds are functionally illiterate. [62614]

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Mr. Miliband: There is no measure of functional illiteracy. In 2001, however, 75 per cent. of 11-year-olds achieved at least the expected level for their age (level 4) in the Key Stage 2 English tests, and a further 17 per cent. achieved level 3.


Fire Service

Bob Spink: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what action he is taking to (a) recruit, (b) retain and (c) train firefighters; and if he will make a statement. [61854]

Mr. Raynsford: The Fire Services (Appointments and Promotion) Regulations 1978 (statutory instrument 436), as amended, set criteria for appointment to the rank of firefighter. Matters of recruit selection and staff retention are, however, the responsibility of each individual fire authority. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister does, however, prepare recruitment literature for the fire service.

Responsibility for the efficient training of members of each fire service also rests with the local fire authority, under section 1(1)(b) of the Fire Services Act 1947. However, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister works closely with the fire service on training and development. The Fire Service College is an executive agency of the office. We are seeking, with the fire service, to implement an over-arching development strategy encompassing all fire service staff at every career stage. Our goal is to promote the development of a fire service which better reflects the communities it serves and which, through effective and relevant training and development, maintains its high standards of professionalism.

Housing Demand

Andrew George: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what (a) advice he has received from (i) local authorities, (ii) the Housing Corporation, (iii) other statutory agencies and (iv) Government Departments about and (b) estimate he has made of the level of unmet housing need in each of the districts of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly in each of the last five years for which records are available. [62593]

Mr. McNulty: The Government do not make estimates of housing need. Because of the wide variation in need between different parts of the country, the Government believe that local authorities are best placed to carry out local housing needs assessments, which should be reflected in local authorities housing strategies, investment plans, and in the implementation of planning powers for affordable housing.

Ensuring an adequate supply of housing, and a suitable balance between general market and affordable housing, is a key priority for the Government. We regularly receive letters from local authorities and other bodies concerning the need for housing, and take an interest in all such communication. The Government have increased investment in affordable housing through the Housing Corporation to £1.2 billion in 2003–04, nearly double 2000–01 levels.

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Andrew George: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what recent assessment he has made of the demand for (a) social rented, (b) private rented, (c) part purchase/ part rent, (d) other forms of managed partly-owned accommodation and (e) private market housing from (i) newly formed family units and (ii) first time occupiers and purchasers. [62617]

Mr. McNulty: This Government do not produce national assessments of housing demand or targets for house building. Annual rates of housing provision to be kept under regular review are established through regional planning guidance and the spatial strategy it sets out. The strategy is prepared having regard to a number of matters including regional economic needs, the household projections produced by the ODPM, the capacity of urban areas to accommodate more housing, the physical and social infrastructure needed to support additional housing and the environmental implications of doing so.

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