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Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills whether schools which (a) have already gained specialist status and (b) are involved in private finance initiative projects may apply for academy status. [199164]

Mr. Miliband: The Academies Programme is not governed by an application process, nor does it involve a simple change of status for existing schools. Academies are a completely different type of institution—independent charitable companies—which replace poorly performing schools in disadvantaged areas. This process involves the statutory closure of any predecessor schools and the creation of a completely new school, with a new ethos, governance and organisational structure and, in most cases, new buildings.

It is, therefore, possible for any school which meets these criteria to be closed and for an academy to open in its place. However, there are some technical issues around the closure of PFI schools, particularly those which are part of a larger PFI package, which may make their replacement by an academy impractical.

Adoption and Children Act

Sir Gerald Kaufman: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills when he intends to bring in the commencement of those parts of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 not yet commenced, with particular reference to section 112. [199092]

Margaret Hodge: I refer my right hon. Friend to the response given by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office on 15 November 2004, Official Report, column 1086W.

Agency Temporary Staff

Mr. Blunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many agency temporary staff have been working for the Department in each of the last five years, excluding those working for agencies for which no data is kept centrally. [196054]

Mr. Charles Clarke: My Department was established in June 2001. Statistics for temporary agency staff are recorded by days worked and the information, detailed in the following table, is available from November 2001 to March 2002, the financial years 2002–03, 2003–04 and April to September 2004.
Financial yearDays worked
April to September 20048,565


Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many (a) cancelled appointments and (b) non-attendances there were at each Children and Family Court Advisory and Support
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Service contact centre in the last year for which figures are available; and what percentage of appointments made this represents in each case. [194750]

Margaret Hodge: CAFCASS does not consistently collect statistics in relation to non-attendance or cancelled appointments at Child Contact Centres. The National Association of Child Contact Centres takes responsibility for the collection of national statistics, so as to develop a national perspective. It is not a mandatory requirement at the present time that NACCC member contact centres keep such statistics.

CAFCASS has a broadly purchaser-provider relationship with 180 contact centres through a variety of partnership agreements. In addition, CAFCASS is aware of more than 100 contact centres, which though not directly funded by CAFCASS, also provide services to families. This may include providing services to families in cases where CAFCASS has prepared reports under section 7 of the Children Act 1989. CAFCASS is significantly involved in the running of nine contact centres through the direct employment of staff, and in some cases, the provision of premises.

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the waiting times are for the completion of private law cases in each of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service regions. [194214]

Margaret Hodge: There is an expectation that private law reports are completed within 10 to 12 weeks of the request date to CAFCASS. Teams that are unable to meet this requirement generally make arrangements with their courts to extend the timetable for preparing reports.

At regional level and for Wales the times taken to complete reports, for the period 1 April to 30 June 2004, were as follows:

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On a case by case basis timescales may be extended by the courts where the needs of the case require it. This would apply across all regions and is not related to resource issues.

CAFCASS has been given an additional £12 million this year to improve performance. A new Board was appointed in April 2004 and a new Chief Executive was appointed on 1 September. They are committed to driving forward improvements in the service.

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, what proportion of families involved in separation and divorce cases were referred to the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service in (a) 2001–02, (b) 2002–03 and (c) 2003–04. [194218]

Margaret Hodge [pursuant to her reply, 1 November 2004, Official Report, c. 29W]: I wish to clarify that the number of private law referrals to the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) for 2001–02 was not collected or reported until October 2001. The number of referrals shown in my earlier reply (17352) is the number of referrals reported from 1 October 2001 to 31 March 2002.

Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many guardians are employed by the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service; and what their principal responsibilities are. [197074]

Margaret Hodge: At 1 November 2004, CAFCASS employed 1,292 (full-time and part-time) guardians. In addition, there were 424 self-employed guardians contracted to CAFCASS during August 2004 (the latest month for which figures are available).

Under the Children Act 1989, CAFCASS provides a children's guardian in specified public law proceedings. These include applications for care or supervision orders and applications for contact or residence orders (in public law cases). Children's guardians are also appointed in those adoption and freeing (for adoption) cases where the courts may have to dispense with parental consent.

Guardians are appointed by family courts in order to represent the interests of children and inform the court of the child's wishes and feelings. They are qualified and experienced in social work, and they are independent of social services, parents and other parties involved in the case.

In particular, guardians will:

Guardians also critically appraise a child's care plan, drawn up by the local authority.
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