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6 Mar 2003 : Column 1152W—continued

Classroom Assistants

Mr. Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) if he will make a statement on the proposed funding for schools to employ classroom assistants; when this money will be paid; and how much each (a) primary and (b) secondary school in (i) Lincolnshire, (ii) Nottinghamshire, (iii) Leicestershire and (iv) Boston and Skegness constituency will receive; [95703]

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Mr. Miliband: The Government are committed to remodelling the school workforce in support of high quality teaching and learning. As part of this process, we are providing sufficient funding to enable schools to recruit at least 50,000 new full-time equivalent support staff over the course of this Parliament. The overall increase in revenue funding for schools, after specific identified pressures have been taken into account, will be £1.1 billion in 2003–04, £2 billion in 2004–05 and £3 billion in 2005–06—schools will be able to use some of this additional funding for workforce reform, including recruiting additional teaching assistants and other support staff members, if they choose to. These increases in funding are in addition to existing school budgets which many schools are already using to remodel the school workforce and recruit new support staff. Decisions about how many support staff to recruit, and the roles they fulfil, will continue to be taken by individual schools.

For 2003–04 we are making available to authorities a total of £268 million (at 50 per cent. grant rate) to specifically cover the costs of recruiting school support staff (including teaching assistants) and extra administrative help, particularly for small schools. Of this £4,254,627 will go to Lincolnshire, £4,343,284 to Nottinghamshire and £3,155,825 to Leicestershire. The grant must be fully devolved to schools but it will be for LEAs to decide how to devolve this funding to schools. We therefore have no information available on Boston and Skegness constituency or on individual schools.

I am unaware of the rural area student placement apprenticeship scheme to which the hon. Member refers.

Higher Education Funding

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what arrangements are in place for departmental and Funding Council monitoring of the access arrangements to higher education institutions. [100156]

Margaret Hodge: Access to higher education institutions is monitored through the Performance Indicators published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

IT Provision

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the Government's policy is on the provision of disabled people's IT needs; and if he will make a statement. [98697]

Mr. Charles Clarke [holding answer 25 February 2003]: All education and training provided through my Department, including IT training, is available to disabled people.

Since the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 came into force in September 2002 it has been unlawful to discriminate against disabled students by treating them less favourably than others. In addition, responsible bodies have a duty to provide reasonable adjustments to provision where disabled students might otherwise be substantially disadvantaged. From September 2003 that duty will include adjustments involving the provision of auxiliary aids and services.

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My Department is working with the Disability Rights Commission, the Learning and Skills Council, the Higher Education Funding Council and other partners in the post-16 sector, to help providers implement the new duties with additional funding, guidance and training. £172 million has been allocated over the years 2002–04 to support this work.

Provision of Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

E learning and ICT can help disabled learners, and we recognise that the provision of assistive technologies can make a significant impact on their lives. My Department is working with the Department for Work and Pensions to improve coherence of access to and delivery of ICT equipment, services and information for disabled people. This is particularly relevant as they move from education to employment. It would also enable disabled people to use ICT provided for learning to also be used for employment or leisure.

Many of the 6,000 plus UK online centres are equipped to meet the immediate, basic, access requirements of a large majority of learners. Some centres are specifically targeted at groups of people with disabilities to encourage not only learning but also inclusion into society. Work is currently under way to provide centres with adaptive technologies and training to enable them to provide a better service for disabled users. We will be evaluating their usage next year.

Ufi/learndirect are implementing a specialist disability specific service for learning centres and individual learners, available through the learndirect help-line. The service is provided by AbilityNet, a national charity and the UK's leading provider of expertise on computing and disability, offering advice, information and guidance on hardware and software applications to improve accessibility and usability.


Animals (Armed Forces)

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many animals, broken down by species, are employed by the armed forces; and in what capacity they are used. [100369]

Dr. Moonie: The Armed Forces employ 1,175 dogs and 452 horses. Dogs are categorised as Protection dogs, used to guard military installations etc and Specialist dogs, used to detect specific items, eg arms, explosives, drugs. Horses are all used in ceremonial roles.

Armed Forces Recruitment

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to change the restrictions on prospective soldiers who have served time in prison from joining the armed forces. [101164]

Dr. Moonie: All three Services apply the provisions of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act in considering applications from ex-prisoners. At the present time there are no plans to change any restrictions on joining the armed forces.

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Aviation Security

John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what consideration he has given to the impact on the armed forces of the potential use of hand-held surface to air missiles on aviation security. [100718]

Mr. Ingram: The lead responsibility for counter-terrorism in the United Kingdom rests with the Home Office and the police. They work closely with the Department for Transport and the transport industries to counter threats against civil aviation and other transport mfrastmcture. As well as being responsible for the security of our own estate and assets, the Ministry of Defence provides support to the civil authorities ni responding to the terrorist threat, through the use of the Armed Forces and the provision of scientific and technical expertise. In particular, we have, on a number of occasions, provided support to the police in enhancing civil aviation security, most recently during the security alert at Heathrow last month. Similar support will be made available in future should the need arise.

Diego Garcia

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what the current deployment is of British forces in Diego Garcia; and under whose command they operate; [100274]

Mr. Ingram: The standard scheme of compliment of the Naval Party on Diego Garcia is 41 personnel, consisting of three officers, including Britmilrep, and 38 other ranks.

The current deployed strength which carries out civil administration of the territory on behalf of the Commissioner for the British Indian Ocean Territory is 39 personnel. These personnel are currently under the operational command (OPCOM) of Commander-in-Chief Fleet, but on 1 April 2003 they will come under the command of the Chief of Joint Operations as part of a rationalisation of operational command responsibilities.

The personnel broken down by rank is as follows:

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Extended Range Ordnance/Modular Charge System

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether a new in-service date has been decided for the extended range ordnance/modular charge system; and if he will make a statement. [99803]

Mr. Ingram: [holding answer 3 March 2003]: The In Service Date for the Extended Range Ordnance/Modular Charge System is under review as a result of technical difficulties that have been experienced with the programme.

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