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23 Feb 2004 : Column 191Wcontinued
Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what assessment he has made of whether a legal presumption of contact as a principle to the consideration of contact and residence disputes would generally be in the best interests of the child; 
Margaret Hodge: I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer I gave on 5 January 2004, Official Report, column 67W. The Government support the view that, in general, children benefit from a continuing relationship with both parents following parental separation, where it is in the best interests of the child and safe for all family members. The fundamental principle of the Children Act 1989 is that
There is no automatic "right" to contact for either fathers or mothers, but in practice the courts have taken the view that, in most cases, the child's welfare is best served by contact with both parents.
Mr. Dorrell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the total (a) schools funding spending share, (b) school pupil numbers and (c) schools funding spending share per pupil was in (i) Leicestershire, (ii) Leicester City, (iii) Lincolnshire, (iv) Nottinghamshire, (v) Derbyshire and (vi) Northamptonshire for (A) 200304 and (B) 200405. 
Mr. Miliband: The figures requested are shown in the following table. The Schools Formula Spending Share (SFSS) formula comprises a basic entitlement for each pupil, which is the same across the country, plus a top-up for each pupil with additional educational needs, which is again the same across the country, plus top-ups for areas where it costs more to recruit and retain teachers and for areas which are sparsely populated. Local education authorities with a greater proportion of pupils with additional educational needs or higher average earnings or with significant sparsity will receive a higher level of funding per pupil.
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|SFSS (£ millions)||3 to 15 pupil numbers used in SFSS calculation||SFSSper pupil(£)|
|Academic year||Percentage of 15 year old pupils with no GCSE/GNVQ passes|
Mrs. Helen Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what changes will be made to the sources of funding for environmental education in schools when the landfill tax credit scheme is amended. 
Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many new (a) sixth forms, (b) sixth form centres and (c) sixth form colleges have opened in each London borough under the London Challenge Planning since May 2003. 
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Geraldine Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans he has to introduce golden hellos that write off tuition fees for graduates taking up public service careers in areas where there are shortages of personnel. 
Alan Johnson [holding answer 12 February 2004]: I stated in the House on 27 January that I was commissioning a report to examine the gateways into the professions. On 12 February I was pleased to inform the House that Sir Alan Langlands, Vice Chancellor of the University of Dundee has agreed to lead this work.
The report will examine how the public sector and the professions can sustain and improve recruitment opportunities for graduates, especially those who do not qualify for the full £3,000 support. Sir Alan will be reporting to us by mid-2005.
However, the Government is already spending in excess of £700 million to support the recruitment and retention of graduates into the public services, for example teachers, dentists and social workers. Part of Sir Alan's work will be to examine this current support and analyse its effectiveness. Additionally he will research current practice in the private sector with a view to determining how employers might respond in a variable fee environment.
Mr. Ivan Lewis: My Department has an on-going relationship with the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), with whom we are in discussion on the issue of holiday pricing. ABTA advises that if parents book early, discounts may be made available for holidays out of term time. We also know that some local education authorities work in partnership with local tour operators to offer incentives to parents to take their children on holiday outside term time. Good practice on this issue is available at: www.dfes.gov/schoolattendance I am currently considering how this good practice could be implemented in all areas.
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Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many independent schools have applied for conversion to state schools since 1997; how many of these applications have been accepted; and what reasons have been given when applications have been declined. 
Mr. Miliband: Since 1997, 22 independent schools have applied to become maintained schools; of these 19 have been approved. Where approval was not given the reasons included a lack of basic need; surplus places in the area; questions on the longer term education and financial viability of the proposed schools; and being dissatisfied about the school's ability to deliver the full range of the National Curriculum.
Mr. Wilshire: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the average waiting time has been for claims for payment from the terminated individual learning accounts to be assessed and paid. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: Since the closure of the Individual Learning Account (ILA) programme on the 23 November 2001, due to serious potential fraud and abuse, the average waiting time for payment of ILA incentives, in cases where validation checks to confirm the propriety of payments from public funds are straightforward, is 20 days. The average waiting time for payment to learning providers in cases where validation checks have proved complex is some 17 months. This takes into account procedures for obtaining sufficiently robust evidence from both learning providers and learners to ensure the propriety of payments from the public purse and lengthy settlement negotiations.
Where registered learning providers have submitted a claim following the Ombudsman's Report into ILAs of 10 April 2003, the average waiting time for payment, including validation checks, is a little under 5 months.
Mr. Wilshire: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps he is taking to ensure that claims for payment to training providers are settled promptly from the terminated individual learning accounts. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: To ensure the propriety of payments and to protect public funds the Department requires registered learning providers to supply appropriate evidence to support all Individual Learning Account (ILA) claims. This evidence is subject to thorough validation checks before payments are made. Since closure of the ILA programme on 23 November 2001, due to serious potential fraud and abuse, to the end of January 2004 the Department's process for validating claims has resulted in £12.9 million being paid to 3,420 registered learning providers.
Where we have unresolved complaints or there are other on-going concerns, payments continue to be withheld pending the outcomes of inquiries and investigations. Currently, following closure, £14.8 million is withheld.
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