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9 Dec 2002 : Column 99Wcontinued
Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what measures will be taken to increase the number of 7-year-old children reaching set literacy standards. 
Mr. Miliband: The National Literacy Strategy (NLS) is raising literacy standards in primary schools. In this year's national tests, 84 per cent. of 7-year-olds achieved the level expected for their agelevel 2 or abovein reading compared to 80 per cent. in 1998; and 69 per cent. achieved at the upper end of level 2level 2B or abovecompared to 62 per cent. in 1998.
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We remain committed to making further improvements in standards. We have introduced a new intervention programme, Early Literacy Support, to help those children in Year 1 who are already struggling with literacy or at risk of developing literacy difficulties later on. We will also continue to review and refine the literacy strategy in response to the latest research and evidence from our most successful schools.
Ian Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what financial support is available for mature students in higher education in England. 
Margaret Hodge: We have greatly increased the financial support available to mature students. Nearly a quarter of a billion pounds is now spent on support for students with particular financial needs, including mature students, compared to #124 million five years ago. In the academic year 200203, in addition to means tested student loans (up to #4,815 in London, #3,905 elsewhere), and tuition fee grants (up to #1,100), full-time mature students can apply for dependants grants (up to #2,225 for an adult or otherwise for an eldest child, more for additional children), an additional dependants grant (#255), child care grant (up to #8,480 for two or more children), school meals grant (up to #275 per child) and travel, books and equipment grant (#510). They can also apply for discretionary support through their HE institution, in the form of #500 access bursaries, hardship funds and hardship loans. A single parent with two children in receipt of the full student loan and maximum child care grant could receive about #15,800 each year, plus discretionary support.
Part-time HE students studying on at least 50 per cent. (or more) of a full-time equivalent course are eligible for means tested fee waivers, student loans of #500 and discretionary help from the hardship funds. There are also generous non means-tested allowances for both full-time and part-time disabled students.
These arrangements are generous but overly complicated. From 200304 they will be simplified. A new grant (the Parents Learning Allowance worth up to #1,300) will replace the access bursary, the additional dependants grant and the travel, books and equipment grant and child dependants grant and school meals grant will be replaced by child tax credits and passported free school meals from the Inland Revenue. From 200405, hardship funds and loans will be replaced by grants from a new Access to Learning Fund. These streamlined arrangements will in some cases provide students with more help than they currently receive.
Paul Holmes: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many people (a) enrolled for and (b) completed national vocational qualifications in (i) plumbing, (ii) bricklaying, (iii) bridge to construction (or intermediate construction award), (iv) painting and decorating and (v) wood occupations, in each year since the establishment of the courses. 
Margaret Hodge [holding answer 5 December 2002]: The information requested has been placed in the Libraries.
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Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills on what basis Government funding is allocated for small specialist performing arts institutions in (a) music, (b) acting, (c) dance, (d) performance technology and (e) sound technology; and if he will make a statement. 
Margaret Hodge [holding answer 21 November 2002]: The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) is responsible for determining the allocation of grants to higher education institutions. In general, the HEFCE fund similar courses at similar rates irrespective of which higher education institution is providing the course. However, in the case of specialist institutions, additional funding is provided to reflect the nature of the institution and the characteristics of the courses provided. Guidance on the general funding methodology for specialist institutions was published in HEFCE circular 98/10 following advice from the Specialist Institutions Advisory Panel. Criteria for the funding of specialist performing arts institutions were published in HEFCE circular 99/41 and were based on detailed analysis of the costs and characteristics of the provision. The council does not distinguish between the different art forms in its funding methodology, and the amount of additional funding for these institutions varies according to how closely they meet the criteria set out in the guidance. HEFCE have also made public criteria for the funding of very high cost institutions specialising in music, dance and drama. The supplementary funding for specialist institutions is kept under review to ensure that the levels remain appropriate.
Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many four year olds there were in reception classes in each of the last 10 years for which figures are available. 
Mr. Stephen Twigg [holding answer 5 December 2002]: The information is not available in the form requested.
The percentage of four year olds in classes not designated as nursery classes in maintained primary schools in England between 1993 and 2002 is shown in the table.
|Number of 4-year-olds educated in infant classes in maintained primary schools||Percentage of 4-year-olds educated in infant classes|
(21) Number of 4-year-olds in classes not designated as nursery classes expressed as a percentage of the 4-year-old population.
(22) Includes reception and other class provision for 4-year-olds but excludes designated nursery classes.
(23) Not available.
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Since 1998, there has been a Statutory Duty on all LEAs to secure sufficient provision for all four year olds, whose parents want one, in their area. It is for each local education authority in consultation with their early years and child care partnership to plan and organise such provision: places are made available in the maintained, private, voluntary and independent sectors.
Latest figures on under 5s' provision in England were published in Statistical First Release XProvision for children under five years of age in England January 2002 (provisional estimates)", a copy of which is available from the Library or the Department's website www.dfes.qov.uk/statistics.
Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what research has been done on the impact of closing schools on (a) the educational attainment of former pupils in their new schools, (b) local communities and (c) areas of social deprivation. 
Mr. Miliband [holding answer 5 December 2002]: Decisions on whether to close schools are taken by the local School Organisation Committee or, if the committee cannot agree unanimously, by the independent Schools Adjudicator. Guidance issued by the Secretary of State requires both bodies to consider a range of factors in making their decision. For school closures, the factors include the effect on standards of educational provision, the need to preserve access to a local school for rural communities and access to community facilities, particularly in areas of social deprivation. The Department has not commissioned any research into the impact of school closures. However, where a failing school is closed, it is usual for the former pupils to show greatly increased attainment or better rates of progress at their new schools.
Dr. Iddon: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will list the allocations to each local authority from the #60 million School Laboratories for the 21st Century Scheme. 
Mr. Miliband: The table lists the allocations for school laboratories.
|Barking and Dagenham||127||127|
|Bath and North East Somerset||137||137|
|Blackburn with Darwen||121||121|
|Brighton and Hove||134||134|
|Bristol, city of||177||177|
|East Riding of Yorkshire||209||209|
|Hammersmith and Fulham||98||98|
|Isle of Wight||113||113|
|Isles of Scilly||51||51|
|Kensington and Chelsea||76||76|
|Kingston upon Hull, city of||165||165|
|Kingston upon Thames||111||111|
|Newcastle upon Tyne||170||170|
|North East Lincolnshire||133||133|
|Redcar and Cleveland||126||126|
|Richmond upon Thames||106||106|
|Telford and the Wrekin||124||124|
|Windsor and Maidenhead||117||117|
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