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10 Jun 2003 : Column 776W—continued


Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how much school arson cost in (a) 2000 and (b) 2001; and if he will make a statement. [117904]

Mr. Miliband: The Department does not collect these figures. However, we take very seriously the threat that arson poses to some schools.

If a fire should happen in a school, the Department's primary concern is for the safety of pupils, teachers and other users. Regulation 17 of the Education (School Premises) Regulations 1999 requires that every part of a school building, and of the land provided for a school, shall be such that the safe escape of the occupants in case of fire is reasonably assured. Schools are also covered by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and by subsequent related regulations. These include aspects of fire safety.

To help schools manage fire safety, The Department published "Managing School Facilities Guide 6, Fire Safety", in 2000. This offers guidance on how to minimise the risks of both accidental and malicious fires occurring, and advises on how to identify hazards and carry out risk assessments. It also gives advice on training and on fire detection and alarm systems.

Children's Diets

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what recent research he has commissioned into the take-up of free school meals; and if he will make a statement. [117389]

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Mr. Stephen Twigg: This Department funded a study that examined how the nature of the school, its meal provision and its management and administration, influenced the take up of free meals. The research was commissioned by the Child Poverty Action Group and resulted in the publication of a report entitled 'Improving the Take up of Free School Meals' in May 2001.

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps he is taking to encourage headteachers and governors to monitor the contribution of vending machines and school tuck shops to children's diets; and if he will make a statement. [117390]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: The Department supports the healthy eating strand of the National Healthy Schools Standard which states that coherent and consistent messages about healthy eating, food hygiene and safety and practical food preparation are promoted to pupils. The 'Food in Schools' programme, a joint Department for Education and Skills and Department of Health initiative, aims to develop sustainable programmes to encourage healthy eating. The initiative will take the form of a range of projects, two of which will aim to challenge schools and the vending industry to make healthy options available in school vending machines and provide schools with guidance on how to develop healthy tuck shops.

Document Costs

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills pursuant to his answer of 22 May 2003, Offical Report, column 1002W, on document costs, what the budget was allocated to each policy team, for expenditure on documents, brochures, leaflets and consultation papers in 2002–03; and what budget he has allocated to individual policy teams for expenditure on documents, brochures, leaflets and consultation papers in 2003–04. [118604]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: Programme budgets within the Department are not allocated specifically to categories of expenditure such as the production of documents, brochures, leaflets and consultation papers, the information requested is therefore not available in the form requested.

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills pursuant to his written answer of 22 May 2003, Official Report, column 1002W, on document costs, what estimate he has made of the cost to his Department of public relations and media consultants in the publication of documents, brochures, leaflets and consultation papers in each of the last five years for which information is available. [118607]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: The Department has not published any documents, brochures, leaflets and consultation papers through public relations or media consultants in the last five years.

Education Funding

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps are being taken by his Department to increase budgetary provision for (a) the current academic year, (b) 2003–04 and (c) 2004–05. [117637]

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Mr. Miliband: The overall increase in funding for schools and local education authorities between last year and 2003–04 is some £2.7 billion. Within this total, we have made available extra grant to ensure that the effective increase is no less than 3.2 per cent. per pupil for all authorities. Our plans allow for a further increase of £1.4 billion between this year and 2004–05. Details of the allocations to individual local education authorities will be announced later this year under the normal arrangements.

Education Initiatives

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans he has to incorporate school character assessment into performance-related league tables, as outlined in the recent Excellence and Enjoyment document. [117176]

Mr. Miliband: The document 'Excellence and Enjoyment—a Strategy for Primary Schools', launched on 20 May, acknowledged the need to keep the accountability framework, including the performance tables, under review by looking for ways of improving and refining the information provided to parents and others. That included the possibility of offering more information about the rounded achievements of schools, perhaps by reporting a headline judgement from a school's most recent Ofsted report. We will put forward a more detailed proposition after consideration of responses to this proposal.

Foreign Languages

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what percentage of pupils have an entitlement to modern foreign language learning at Key Stage 2; and if he will assess the likely impact that the demotion of foreign language study at Key Stage 4 will have on the wider success of language learning initiatives at key stage two; [117171]

Mr. Miliband: Our National Languages Strategy, "Languages for All: Languages for Life—A Strategy for England", published last December, made clear that by the end of the decade we want every pupil, throughout Key Stage 2, to have the opportunity to study a foreign language and develop their interest in the culture of other nations.

Our strategy document "14 to 19: Opportunity and Excellence", also confirms our commitment to supporting language learning. It confirms our belief that requiring schools to teach languages to every young person beyond the age of 14 is not the best way to achieve that objective. We expect that the more widespread learning of languages during Key Stage 2 will enhance interest, motivation and proficiency and that this will, in time, increase the numbers wishing to continue language learning after the age of 14.

Our new strategy for primary schools, "Excellence and Enjoyment", outlines a range of approaches that will support teachers in developing their learning and

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teaching skills across the primary curriculum. The strategy dovetails with work to support particular subjects such as our National Languages Strategy.

Further Education

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what progress has been made with discussions with Customs and Excise to reconsider the value added tax rules relating to sixth form colleges; whether such colleges will receive compensation for the value added tax payments they are required to make; and if he will make a statement. [117421]

Margaret Hodge [holding answer 9 June 2003]: The Department for Education and Skills has regular on-going discussions with Customs and Excise to consider the impact of VAT and there are no plans to change the VAT rules as they apply to sixth form colleges' purchase of general goods and services. Colleges gained a range of important financial advantages from incorporation, including control over their own assets such as land and buildings, and the freedom to employ their own staff and determine their terms and conditions. Costs such as VAT need to be met from college funds and we have announced the largest ever investment in further education over the next three years. Funding will rise by £1.2 billion, an increase of 19 per cent. in real terms, between 2002–03 and 2005–06. We are awaiting advice from Customs and Excise on the levying of VAT on further education capital projects.

Independent Schools

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) if he will make a statement on the draft regulations for registration and monitoring of independent schools; [117746]

Mr. Miliband: Legislation relating to independent schools has remained largely unchanged since 1944. The Education Act 2002 introduced strengthened regulation and monitoring arrangements to reflect the needs and expectations of parents and pupils in the 21st century.

Many of the standards set out in the new regulations already apply to independent schools, but we have strengthened our powers in some areas to ensure that independent schools educate children in a safe and secure environment and offer a curriculum that enables pupils to fulfil their potential.

Schools will have to meet inspection charges and compliance costs. Most independent schools will not incur significant compliance costs, but we cannot

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quantify costs that will fall on schools that have to make improvements. Inspection charges are related to the number of pupils at each school, with a cap of £10,000 for larger schools. In determining the level of charges we gave careful consideration to the pressures on schools operating on limited budgets. We propose that charges will not meet the full cost of inspection and will be based on a sliding scale, depending on the number of pupils at the school, with small schools paying least. For example, a school with 100 pupils would pay £4,500 every six years, or £7.50 per pupil a year.

We issued a consultation document on 27 February 2003 to all independent schools, the independent school associations, including the Headmasters Conference and the Independent Schools Council, the teacher unions and other interested parties. The consultation period ended on 30 May 2003 and departmental officials are in the process of analysing the responses.

OFSTED has played a major part in the process of drawing up these regulations. They have been consulted regularly and we have taken full account of their advice and recommendations.

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how much was spent on the Partnership with Independent Schools scheme in the last year for which figures are available. [118038]

Mr. Miliband: In 2002–03, a total £900,000 of departmental funding was spent on the independent/state school partnerships grant scheme. Independent evaluation of the scheme has found that it is achieving its aims and objectives and provides good value for money. As a result, the scheme has been allocated a significant increase of funding over the next three years: £1.25 million in 2003–04, rising to £2 million in 2005–06.

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