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1 Mar 2004 : Column 676W—continued

School Buildings

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how much money has been spent on school buildings in the Ribble Valley and Fulwood, broken down by school, in each year since 1997. [156490]

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how much money was spent on school buildings in each year since 1997 in (a) Lancashire and (b) Chorley; and if he will list the schools in Chorley where such money was spent. [157256]

Mr. Miliband: The majority of capital support is allocated to schools and local education authorities (LEAs) by formula, and they decide how to invest it in line with their asset management plans. The Department does not, therefore, have complete information about all the capital investments in each school. This information should be held locally. However, the following table shows the total capital support made by this Government for school buildings in Lancashire LEA since 1997–98 (including support for a PFI project in 1999–2000).

£ million

We have to date, also allocated indicative funding for future years worth approximately £36.5 million in 2004–05 and £17.3 million in 2005–06.

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Special Educational Needs

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what estimate he has made of total expenditure on the education of pupils with special needs in (a) mainstream schools and (b) special schools in the latest year for which figures are available. [156000]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: Information about expenditure on the education of pupils with special educational needs is collected from local education authorities on their Section 52 Budget Statements. Where money is delegated to mainstream schools, figures are indicative rather than actual as final decisions are made by the schools. Latest figures available are for 2003–04, as reported by LEAs at 19 February 2004.

Total estimated gross expenditure for pupils in mainstream schools is £1,717,253,601. This includes support for pupils with statements and for those with special educational needs (SEN) but without statements. This expenditure will be in addition to their normal place funding.

Total estimated gross expenditure for pupils in special schools is £1,511,349,567. This includes pupils in maintained special schools and fees for pupils in independent and non-maintained special schools.

In addition, an estimated £236,233,036 will be spent in this financial year on centrally funded SEN activities. These include the costs of educational psychology services, assessment and statementing, parent partnership services and the provision of information.

Overall, the estimated gross expenditure on pupils with special educational needs in the year 2003–04 is £3,464,836,204.

Specialist School Status

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) how many schools from (a) rural and (b) urban areas applied for specialist school status in the October 2003 application round; [156881]

Mr. Miliband: Of the 403 schools which applied for specialist school status in the October 2003 application round, 118 (29 per cent.) were from rural areas and 285 (71 per cent.) were from urban areas. Of the 238 schools then granted specialist school status in that round, 71 (30 per cent.) were from rural areas and 167 (70 per cent.) were from urban areas. These proportions are in line with the overall national picture: 27 per cent. of the 3,126 maintained secondary schools in England are located in rural areas, and 73 per cent. are in urban areas.

Student Drop-out Rates

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what measures his Department is taking to reduce student drop-out rates. [156523]

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Alan Johnson: The UK non-completion rate has stayed broadly the same at around 17–18 per cent. since 1991–92, and in the latest figures published in December 2003 by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) it fell to just over 16 per cent. This represents one of the highest completion rates in the OECD and we are determined to maintain this level of performance.

We have asked HEFCE to bear down on non-completion and their national co-ordination team, Action on Access, is working with institutions to improve retention rates and to spread good practice from those institutions with low drop-out rates and good access figures. The £255 million which HEFCE has allocated to institutions in 2003–04 for widening access and improving retention recognises some of the additional costs of supporting students from non-traditional backgrounds and those who are less well prepared for higher education.

Research indicates that the reasons for non-completion are many and varied, but one factor is incompatibility between the student and their course or institution. It is vital that potential HE students have the right information on which to base sound decisions. We are working with the National Union of Students to develop a new guide to help students narrow down their choices and make decisions about what and where to study. The guide will be linked to the new Aimhigher portal that launched in September 2003. A new National Student Survey is planned to take place in January 2005, seeking the views of final year students on their learning experience. HEFCE will also ensure that there is a wide range of published information about the quality and standards of institutions' programmes.

Another factor which has been associated with non-completion is financial hardship. In addition to statutory student support, discretionary support is also available as a safety net for vulnerable students. For 2003–04, Hardship Loans are available for students who are in such serious financial difficulty that their access to, or continued attendance on a course may be at risk. Grants from the Hardship Fund are also available to help students access and remain in higher education.

From the academic year 2004–05, the Hardship Loans budget will be amalgamated with the Hardship Fund into the new non-repayable, Access to Learning Fund. Students who would previously have been eligible for a Hardship Loan should be able to apply for a grant rather than a loan.

From 2006–07, under proposals laid out in the Higher Education Bill, the poorest students entering higher education will receive up to £2,700 in up-front support, and we are raising the levels of maintenance loan to meet the basic living costs of the mid-range student, in response to the recent Student Income and Expenditure Survey.

Additionally, institutions will, under the terms of access agreements, be required to provide further financial help to poorer students in the form of bursaries.

Student Finance

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many graduates are not

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making repayments on their income contingent student loans; and what proportion of the total number of such loans outstanding this represents. [155452]

Alan Johnson [holding answer 27 February 2004]: The information requested is not available centrally.

Borrowers enter repayment status in the April following graduation or otherwise leaving their course. There were 1,409,000 borrowers in the United Kingdom with income contingent student loan accounts at the end of the financial year 2002–03 of whom approximately 298,000 had accounts in repayment status. Borrowers can have accounts both in repayment status and not in repayment status if, for example, they have attended a second course of higher education.

No repayments are due from borrowers who are not in repayment status, although just under 15,000 borrowers made early repayments voluntarily in 2002–03. No repayments are deducted from income-contingent borrowers in repayment status whose income falls below £10,000 per annum. Repayments of income-contingent loans are, apart from a few exceptions, collected through the tax system. Most repayments are notified to the Student Loans Company more than one year after the end of the tax year, after which time has to be allowed for reconciliation with their records. Therefore the data on the number of borrowers with income-contingent loans where repayments are not being deducted because the borrower's income is below the repayment threshold, or for some other reason, are not yet available.

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what projections he has made of (a) the size of official student loan debt, (b) the likely annual interest accruing on that debt, (c) the likely total repayments of (i) debt and (ii) interest on that debt and (d) the likely subsidy required from his Department to support the official student loan debt in (A) 2007 and (B) 2009; and on what assumptions his calculations are based. [155538]

Alan Johnson [holding answer 23 February 2004]: Estimates of the cost of subsidising both maintenance and fee loans in 2006–07 were set out in the Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) published on 8 January alongside the Higher Education Bill. These estimates—rather than projections—are based on the different scenarios set out in the RIA. Because of the nature of a variable scheme, the costs vary greatly according to the decisions that both higher education institutions and students take, for example the number of students who decide to defer their fees, and the pattern of fee charging that emerges.

The economic cost of providing student loans is made up of the interest rate subsidy on loans together with the cost of any loans which are never repaid, for example loans written-off after 25 years or on death.

Copies of the Regulatory Impact Assessment were placed in the Library of the House; it is also available on the Department for Education and Skills website.

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