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23 Oct 2002 : Column 373W—continued

School Transport

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what are the (a) current and (b) potential future funding opportunities for local authorities to offer home to school transport for those currently not entitled to free transport under the Education Act 1996. [75599]

Stephen Twigg: Compulsory school age pupils are entitled to free transport if their nearest suitable school is beyond statutory walking distance from their home. In other circumstances, LEAs have the discretion to provide help with travel in accordance with their own locally determined policies and priorities. Although we keep the arrangements under regular review we will not consider changing the current system for compulsory school age children unless we have clear evidence that an alternative system is fairer.

For post-16 students, there is a duty on LEAs to determine what is necessary to meet their particular local circumstances. In addition, as a result of a recommendation from the study commissioned by DfES into transport support and services for post 16 students in further education, #9 million has been made available in 2002–03 to 60 LEAs under the Transport Pathfinder Initiative. The initiative will run from April 2002 to July 2003. Their purpose is to test and develop different approaches to transport support and services and will be evaluated in order to inform future transport policy.

Worship (Schools)

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what her policy is on collective acts of worship in (a) primary and (b) secondary schools; and if she will make a statement. [75477]

Mr. Miliband: The current policy regarding collective worship is set out in the Department for Education and Skills circular 1/94. All registered pupils attending a

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maintained school, primary or secondary, should take part in a daily act of collective worship. This act of collective worship should be wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character.

Exam Marks

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what action is being taken to improve the efficiency of the way exam marks are related to pupils. [75097]

Stephen Twigg: The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is responsible for ensuring the efficient delivery of exam results in England. We have recently strengthened their powers in the Education Act 2002. An Examinations Taskforce, which will include the awarding bodies, QCA and representatives of teachers, schools and colleges, is being established to oversee the delivery of examinations in 2003.

Teaching Vacancies (Essex)

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will give special assistance to schools in Essex which are encountering difficulty in filling teaching staff vacancies. [75471]

Mr. Miliband: Essex has benefited from the full range of Government measures introduced since 1997 to improve teacher recruitment—Training Salaries, Golden Hellos, extra pay flexibilities, an enhanced Graduate Teacher Programme, and funding for Recruitment Strategy Managers within local education authorities. In 2001–02 Essex schools received #1,867,000 from the Recruitment and Retention Fund, and in 2002–03 this was increased to #2,120,000. Essex schools will also benefit, from April 2003, from the increased spending on education announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review.

New School Building, Milton Keynes

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills when funds will be made available for new school building in Milton Keynes. [75909]

Mr. Miliband: Applications from all Local Education Authorities (LEAs) for three-year funding commencing in 2003–04 for New Pupil Places (Basic Need) were invited in September. These applications are currently being assessed. This support is for additional school places in areas of population growth where there is no more capacity in all schools in the surrounding area. The funding is not necessarily for new schools, and can be used to increase the number of places at existing schools. We will be announcing Basic Need allocations for 2003–04 in December.

The building of new schools and additional accommodation at existing schools can also be funded from other capital programmes provided by the Department, including the Private Finance Initiative and Targeted Capital Fund (for which applications should be received by 3 January 2003), and from formulaic funding allocated to all LEAs and schools.

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Foreign Teachers

Mr. Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) how many foreign teachers in full-time education in the state sector are from (a) European Union countries and (b) non-European Union countries; [75934]

Mr. Miliband: The information is not collected centrally.

Teacher Qualifications

Mr. Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) with which countries the UK shares reciprocity in the field of teacher qualifications; [75936]

Mr. Miliband: European Community law provides for the mutual recognition of school teaching qualifications gained within the territory of the European Economic Area. Under the Education (Teachers' Qualifications and Health Standards) (England) Regulations 1999, as amended, teachers with qualifications from other countries may work as instructors in maintained schools in England for up to four years without gaining Qualified Teacher Status.

Additional Educational Needs

Mr. Gordon Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what links her Department has identified between additional educational needs and social and economic factors and indicators, other than parental take-up of income support and working families tax credit. [75978]

Mr. Miliband: To investigate the links between additional educational needs (AEN) and deprivation indicators, the department commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers to research the incidence of pupils with AEN and the costs of meeting their needs. They found that the number of pupils eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) was the strongest factor explaining variation in reported social need. They also found that the number of pupils with English as an additional language was strongly linked to non-social measures of AEN. They also looked at several ward based measures such as Long term unemployment, the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) and the Access domain from the IMD, but found that these indicators were not as good at explaining variations in reported need as the standard FSM data.

The department also considered a number of other measures of deprivation: from the 1991 census, such as rented accommodation or low social class; and from the Labour Force Survey, such as the proportion of working age adults with no qualifications. Many of these measures showed some statistical relationship with low attainment suggesting they could be used as a proxy for AEN. However, they are also all highly related to parental take up of income support, which is

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the most consistently strong factor explaining variation in low attainment between different authorities, schools and pupils.

Teachers' Pension Fund

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what discussions she has had with the Treasury on the future of the Teachers' Pension Fund. [75980]

Mr. Miliband [holding answer 21 October 2002]: The Teachers' Pension Scheme (TPS) is an unfunded scheme. Periodic valuations of the scheme are carried out by the Government Actuary to establish the liabilities and notional assets of the scheme. The valuation determines the contribution rate paid by the employers of TPS members.

With the agreement of Treasury, I am currently consulting teacher and employer representatives and other interested parties on changes to the valuation methodology. Under the existing provisions of the Teachers' Pensions Regulations, the notional fund is deemed to have delivered the average rate of return achieved by the largest invested pension funds. However, likely interest returns to the stock market performance of notional assets is unlikely to produce a stable assessment of the cost of providing public service pensions, particularly over the short to medium term, or to reflect the risks and costs to government of financing the pensions in payment. The Government wishes to reflect these costs more appropriately, remove the financial uncertainty about the performance of notional assets, and provide greater stability in employer contribution rates. I am, therefore, consulting on the proposal that, instead of tracking the returns of invested pension funds, the method of crediting investing returns to the notional fund should be based on a rate of returns which the Government Actuary advises as being appropriate for the valuation of a public service pension scheme. The consultation period ends on 8 November.

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