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Teaching Assistants

Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what assessment he has made of the effects of the increase in teaching assistants covering non-contact time with classes; [147544]

Mr. Miliband: It is up to head teachers to determine how they deploy teachers and teaching assistants in their schools taking account of current regulations and guidance. Information about how teaching assistants' time is spent is not held centrally.

Standards of attainment are rising and the quality of teaching is the best ever. And teaching assistants are playing their part in raising standards. A recent project has demonstrated the positive impact of teaching assistants on standards. In 18 of the largest LEAs, additional provision and training for teaching assistants was provided last year for around 30 per cent. of their Year 6 classes. Results from the 2003 Key Stage 2 tests shows that performance in participating schools appears to have improved by 3 per cent. points more than the national average for English and 2 per cent. points for maths.

Tuition Fees

John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what legislation was implemented between 1997 and 2001 preventing the introduction of university top-up fees. [147842]

Alan Johnson: The Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998 section 26 imposes conditions upon tuition fees for full-time undergraduates. Section 26(5) provides that the amount of tuition fee that can be charged should not exceed the maximum amount of tuition fee grant. The Student Support regulations, which are laid annually, set out the maximum amount of tuition fee grant. In 2003/04, the maximum amount of tuition fee grant is £1,125.

University Bursaries

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what the income levels will be at which students will qualify for the receipt of university bursaries; [148209]

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Alan Johnson: The family income thresholds are uprated annually to take account of inflation. The uprating is based on the Treasury's forecast in October each year of the forecast rise in the Retail Price Index (less Mortgage Interest Repayments).

As regards university bursaries, the level and type of financial support will differ between institutions. However, as a minimum, we want to ensure, via the Director for Fair Access that no student who qualifies for maximum state support, in terms of the new higher education grant and the existing fee remission grant, has to take on additional debt as a result of higher fees. The director will expect more from institutions with further to go in widening participation.

University Funding

Dr. Pugh: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) how much of the total sum of new funding that the Government believes universities in England require is required by universities in (a) the South East region and (b) London; [148033]

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Mr. Charles Clarke: The funding for higher education in England between 2002–03 and 2005–06 is set out in the White Paper 'the future of higher education' (Cm 5735). There are increases of over 6 per cent. above inflation in each year so that by 2005–06 the overall funding reaches almost £10 billion.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) allocate funds to higher education institutions according to a formula which takes account of the number and type of students at the institution, the courses they are taking, and other factors relating to the institution such as whether it has old or historic buildings. The funds are paid to institutions as a block grant and it is for the institution to decide how to spend the money.

Under our proposals for variable fees, it will be for institutions to decide the level of any fee which they charge, taking account of a number of factors, including their financial needs.