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7 Jan 2003 : Column 123W—continued

Learning and Skills Council

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will make a statement on the common funding approach to be adopted by the Learning and Skills Council for 2003–04 and subsequent years. [87032]

Margaret Hodge: The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) is establishing a common funding approach for 2003–04 for further education, work-based learning, and school sixth forms. This replaces the previous separate funding arrangements for these three sectors. Adult and community learning will be brought progressively into the common funding approach as far as appropriate.

The main principle of the common funding approach is that funding must follow the learner. It is built on the best elements of the former Further Education Funding Council's national system of formula based funding. The key elements of this system include funding elements for the basic costs for delivering all programmes, the extra costs for specialist programmes, learner achievement, extra support for disadvantaged learners, and higher costs for delivering provision in London and related areas.

The LSC National Council has set up a Funding Group to consider future development of the common funding approach, including simplification of funding arrangements in response to the recommendations of the Bureaucracy Task Force. The LSC will take account of the XSuccess for All" strategy document and the forthcoming Government statements on 14–19 learning and on the Review of Funding of Adult Learning. We will ensure that the outcome and implications are clear for school sixth forms, colleges and other providers of further education and training.

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Public Schools

Mr. Pike: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans he has to review the charitable status given to public schools; and if he will make a statement. [88272]

Beverley Hughes: I have been asked to reply.

The Cabinet Office report, XPrivate Action, Public Benefit", was published on 25 September 2002. Its 61 recommendations set out a package of measures which aim to modernise charity law and enable a wide range of organisations to be more effective and innovative.

The report recommends that in future all charities should have to demonstrate public benefit. Part of the report considers what happens now with those charities that charge fees which serve to exclude large sections of the population in terms of their having to make provision for wider access for those who would be excluded because of the fees. The report cites the example of independent schools.

At present there is no systematic programme in place to check the public character of charities. The report recommends that an on-going review programme run by the Charity Commission should check the public character of such organisations. It is proposed that the commission would identify charities likely to charge high fees (such as independent schools) and undertake a rolling programme to check that provision was made for wider access. This programme will be designed to minimise red tape and will not focus on any particular sector. Short returns will be issued which ask charities what they do in terms of widening access, such as making provision for sharing facilities. It is envisaged that for the majority of cases no further inquiry will be necessary beyond the initial return.

It is proposed that the Charity Commission, in consultation with charities likely to be affected and their umbrella bodies, would issue guidelines as to the level of access appropriate in particular circumstances.

Of course at the moment these are only proposals. The report was out for consultation until 31 December 2002, and we shall consider the responses to this, and all the other matters addressed in the report, very carefully.

School Admissions

Mr. Damian Green: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will list the responses received to the consultation on Revised School Admissions and Admission Appeals Codes of Practice and Accompanying Regulations. [89369]

Mr. Miliband: We received 187 written responses to the consultation, detailed in the following list. We also received verbal responses from four meetings with LEA officers, headteachers and others—some 400 people attended.

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School Budgets (Unspent Balances)

Mr. Damian Green: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what unspent school balances were clawed back using the funding formula set out by Mr.S.Bishop in his letter to chief education officers of local education authorities in England dated 23 October. [89336]

Mr. Miliband: The Department wrote to Local Education Authorities on 10 December 2002 confirming that local education authorities would be able to use the system of controls on school balances proposed in the 23 October letter. However, they can do so only from April 2004.

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