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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 6 February 2003


Demountable Classrooms (Colchester)

14. Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will visit the St. Andrew's Infant and Junior Schools in Colchester to inspect the demountable classrooms. [95758]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: While I am always very pleased to visit schools, I understand that Local Authority officials have met this week with the St. Andrew's Infant and Junior Schools to discuss accommodation issues and future developments. It might be best if we wait to see the outcome of that meeting before a visit is planned.

University Terms

15. Andrew Mackinlay : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what (a) guidance he gives to universities and (b) evidence he collates on the length of university terms. [95760]

Mr. Charles Clarke: The standard academic year is 30 weeks and student support arrangements are based around this. The Student Loans Company collects information from institutions on term dates for the purposes of administering the student support system. However I do not give guidance nor does my Department collect any additional information on the length of university terms.

Top-up Fees

16. Dr. Evan Harris : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, what recent representations he has received from Oxford University about the impact of top-up fees on the socio-economic backgrounds of applicants. [95761]

Mr. Charles Clarke: I have received a number of enquiries from a variety of sources since the launch of the White Paper and expect to receive more during the period for comment.

University Admissions

17. Vernon Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, what recent assessment he has made of the impact of the quality of teaching at secondary level on the rate of admission of pupils from poor backgrounds to university; and if he will make a statement. [95762]

Mr. Miliband: We know that the main reason for the social class division in higher education participation is differential attainment in schools and colleges. We are reforming education in secondary schools and our 14–19 strategy will promote higher aspirations and levels of attainment by age 19.

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Access Regulator

18. Tony Baldry To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, when he will appoint the Access Regulator for universities. [95763]

Mr. Charles Clarke: The Access Regulator will be in place in good time to carry out the functions ascribed to him or her in the White Paper "The Future of Higher Education".


Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what measures he will take to ensure that headteachers of schools are (a) provided with details of how much they are set to receive, and when, following spending reviews and (b) better able to plan on a long-term basis and provided with details about future funding. [94910]

Mr. Miliband: The Government announced the provisional level of local education authorities' education formula spending shares on 5 December. Final figures are due to be confirmed on 3 February. It is for each authority to determine the level of resource that their schools receive via the local formula funding methodology, although the Secretary of State has power to determine a minimum size of an authority's total schools budget. On 10 December, a letter from the Department confirmed the Government's policy of encouraging authorities to move towards giving schools indicative three year budgets. We told LEAs that we would publish as much information as possible about future funding on a three year basis, so that authorities could commit themselves to issuing three year indicative budgets to their schools in return for more detailed controls on local school balances. A technical note was included in the letter to allow authorities to begin the process of drawing up three year budgets.

Higher Eduction (Family Incomes)

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what percentage of students in full-time higher education are from families whose family income is (a) £10,000 or less, (b) £10,001 to £15,000, (c) £15,001 to £20,000 and (d) over £20,001 using the same definition of income as he proposes to use in assessing eligibility for a maintenance grant. [94722]

Mr. Charles Clarke: In my Statement to the House on Higher Education on 22 January I said that 30 per cent. of students would benefit in full from the new Higher Education Grant of £1,000, available for those whose income was below £10,000. I have since received more up-to-date data which indicate that within the 30 per cent. of students to be supported, we may be able to afford to raise the threshold for the full grant higher than the proposed £10,000. The revised data are currently being checked and validated and I will make a further statement to the House when this has been completed. I shall also write to my hon Friend at that point with a more detailed answer to her question.

Home Economics Lessons

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans he has to reintroduce the teaching of home economics into schools. [95197]

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Mr. Miliband: All primary pupils have to study design and technology, including work with food and textiles within the national curriculum. Typically primary pupils learn food preparation and cooking skills, including food hygiene, and are encouraged to develop positive attitudes to healthy eating and food choice. The Government strongly encourage secondary schools to offer pupils the opportunity to study food technology, and around 90 per cent. do so. Food, nutrition and healthy eating are also taught within science and personal, social and health education (PSHE) at both primary and secondary level. Many secondary pupils also have the opportunity to study textiles through both design and technology and art and design. Home economics is still available as a GCSE title and includes food and nutrition, textiles and child development. Both food technology and textiles technology GCSE courses have proved extremely popular and more young people now take these courses, than previously entered for home economics before the introduction of the national curriculum.

Learning Support Assistants

Fiona Mactaggart: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the cost is of training learning support assistants to become primary teachers in this financial year; and if he will invest in such training in areas of substantial teacher shortage on the fringes of London. [95759]

Mr. Miliband: In 2002–03 funding for higher education based postgraduate primary teacher training is £5,400 per trainee. Postgraduate trainee teachers may also be eligible for a £6,000 bursary. Training providers receive £4,400 for each year of training for undergraduate primary trainee teachers.

For the Graduate Teacher Programme route into teaching, grants of up to £17,500 are available towards trainees' salary, training and assessment costs. So far this academic year, 770 former teaching assistants have begun training through this route.

My Department's recent consultation paper "Developing the roles of school support staff" proposes ways of improving career progression routes for teaching assistants and other support staff, including routes to qualified teacher status (QTS). Funding will be provided to support training for those who wish to take on higher-level roles and the training they receive will provide a first step towards QTS for those who wish to progress further.

Sector Skills Development Agency

Mr. Damian Green: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment he has made of the likelihood of the Sector Skills Development Agency meeting its target of licensing eight sector skills councils by 31 March; and if he will make a statement. [95540]

Mr. Ivan Lewis [holding answer 4 February 2003]: No target for the licensing of Sector Skills Councils has ever been set. My Department has told the Sector Skills Development Agency from the outset that they should work to a standard, not a deadline. It is more important that they take the time to ensure that applicants develop their proposals properly, with full involvement of sector

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employers, and so have the ability to deliver our ambitions for the new network. Good progress is being made in developing the network. Five trailblazer Sector Skills Councils were announced in December 2001 and nine further sectors are in the final phase of developing Sector Skills Council proposals for consideration by the Sector Skills Development Agency. We expect the first SSCs to be licensed early in 2003.

Telephone Helplines

Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many telephone helplines are sponsored by his Department; and which of these helplines are charged at (a) national rate, (b) premium rate and (c) local rate. [95722]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: The Department for Education and Skills currently sponsor 16 national telephone helplines. 12 of these lines are available on 0800 numbers and therefore are available free to the public.

A further three helplines, Laptops for Teachers—a helpline aimed to help increase teacher's personal access to ICT, Curriculum On Line—a helpline which is designed to give teachers easy on line access to digital learning products to support their teaching across the curriculum and the Department's Public Enquiry Point (PEU)—the official contact point for members of the general public seeking information on all areas of the Department for Education and Skills activities are all available on national rate (0870) numbers.

Prolog is the Department's telephone helpline for individuals to order publications or respond to consultations or specific advertising campaigns and is available at local rate charge (0845).

In addition the Department regularly works with outside partners during the year to set up, or provide temporary support for, helplines for specific campaigns. These helplines are all available free to callers (0800). Those planned for this year are:

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