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16 Jan 2003 : Column 721W—continued


Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what mechanisms have been set up to ensure that schools set up by private companies and faith organisations (a) do not select their pupils, (b) follow the national curriculum, (c) teach science, including Darwin's theory of evolution and (d) protect the human rights of female students. [90905]

Mr. Miliband: The information is as follows:

(a) Selection

All new maintained schools are prohibited from selecting pupils by high academic ability by the School Standards and Framework Act (SSFA) 1998. The SSFA permits fair banding whereby schools select a proportion of pupils from each part of the full range of abilities. Academies and City Technology Colleges (CTCs) are prohibited from selecting by high academic ability by virtue of their funding agreements.

Schools with a specialism in a prescribed subject are allowed to select up to 10 per cent. of pupils by aptitude in that subject.

Schools with a religious character are allowed in their admission criteria to give preference to adherents of their faith or denomination.

(b) National curriculum

All maintained schools, including those set up by faith organisations, are required to teach the National Curriculum. Academies are required through their

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funding agreements broadly to follow the National Curriculum and the national system of assessing it. CTCs are required to provide a broad and balanced curriculum with an emphasis on science and technology, and to teach the core and other foundation subjects of the National Curriculum. They are not required to follow the National Curriculum programmes of study, although most do so.

(c) Science curriculum

The National Curriculum requires all pupils to study the Science Curriculum at key stages 1, 2, 3 and 4 (ages 5–16). At key stage 4 pupils study the fossil record as evidence for evolution and how variation and selection may lead to evolution or extinction. Schools do teach how scientific controversies can arise from the interpretation of empirical evidence and this is likely to include Darwin's theory of evolution. Pupils are encouraged to explore different views, theories and beliefs. The origins of the universe are also addressed in the teaching of religious education at key stage 3 (ages 11–14).

(d) Human rights

The human rights of female students are protected by legislation. All maintained schools, including those set up by faith organisations, must comply with the Race Relations and Sex Discrimination Acts, and with the Human Rights Act. The Human Rights Act provides a right to education without discrimination on any grounds, including sex and religion. Its application extends to female pupils in Academies and CTCs.

Teachers' Pay

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps he is taking to harmonise (a) pay rates and (b) pay scales between teachers in schools and further education, and if he will make a statement. [90696]

Mr. Miliband: Further education colleges are independent corporations responsible for determining the pay and conditions of their staff. Therefore, it is not for the Government to harmonise FE and school teacher pay scales.


Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many school days were lost due to truancy in Lancashire in each year since 1997. [90741]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The number of school days lost due to truancy in Lancashire since 1997 are as follows:

Academic year (September-May)Number of day pupils of compulsory school ageNumber of school days lost due to truancy

(5) The figures for 1996–97 are pre local government reorganisation and are not directly comparable with the other years.

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Union Learning Representatives

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many Union Learning Representatives there are within his Department; and if he will make a statement. [88831]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: There is currently one Union Learning Representative in the Department. My officials are working with the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), the main civil service union, on how best to promote the development of Union Learning Representatives within the Department.

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the Government's budget is for the promotion of Union Learning representatives in the (a) public and (b) private sectors; and if he will make a statement. [88832]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The Government does not have a specific budget for the promotion of Union Learning Representatives in either the public or the private sector. We recognise, however, that trade unions and their learning representatives have a key role to play in promoting the development of learning and skills in the workplace. To help them do this, my Department has provided financial support through the Union Learning Fund since 1988. This year (2002–03) #9 million is available and a further #33.6 million has been allocated for the next three years up to 2005–06.

When it was launched, the Union Learning Fund was a new and innovative experiment, but it has now become an established part of the lifelong learning agenda. It is helping trade unions use their influence with employers, employees and others to encourage greater take up of learning at work and boost their capacity as learning organisations. It has so far benefited over 28,000 people in the workplace through a wide variety of projects ranging from tackling basic skills needs to advanced professional development. It has also led to the development of a new breed of activist, the Union Learning Representative, and has helped to establish and train a growing network which now stands at more than 4,000 learning representatives nationwide.

Union Learning Representatives are ideally placed to help and encourage workers to improve their skills, particularly amongst the very lowest skilled workers and those with literacy and numeracy problems. That is why we have included a clause in the new Employment Bill that will give statutory backing to Union Learning Representatives. It will reinforce the invaluable role that Union Learning Representatives are currently playing in the workplace to promote workforce development and open up new training opportunities for their colleagues.

Any trade union based in England can submit an application to the Union Learning Fund. A prospectus inviting bids for Union Learning Fund projects for the coming year was sent to trade unions at the end of November. This information is also available electronically via the DfES or TUC Learning Services websites. The closing date for applications is 24 January.

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills whether Union Learning representatives will be made available in job centres; and if he will make a statement. [88833]

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Mr. Ivan Lewis: There are around 70 ULRs working in the Department for Work and Pensions. It is not known how many of these are working in Jobcentre Plus.

Vocational Placements

Mr. Willis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many (a) Beacon Schools, (b) Specialist Schools, (c) Centres of Vocational Excellence and (d) Education Business Links are involved in the part-time vocational placements announced in the Green Paper X14–19: Extending Opportunities, Raising Standards". [90928]

Mr. Miliband: The Department is in the process of collecting this type of data about the XIncreased Flexibility for 14–16 Year Olds" programme —analysis of the baseline will be available in the spring.


Boundary Commission for Scotland

Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how long after receiving the final report from the Boundary Commission for Scotland she intends to lay (a) the report and (b) the orders required to implement it before the House. [90404]

Mrs. Liddell: The Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986 requires me to lay the Boundary Commission for Scotland's report before Parliament, together with the draft of an Order in Council for giving effect, with or without modifications, to the report's recommendations, as soon as may be after receiving it from the Commission.

Departmental Staff

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many full-time equivalent staff are employed in the Department; and what the equivalent figures were for 1997. [90668]

Mrs. Liddell: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given today by my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Cabinet Office.

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