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30 Nov 2004 : Column 54W—continued


Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills for what reasons a GNVQ pass is counted as four GCSE passes in reporting school performance. [200442]

Mr. Miliband: The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) decide on the equivalence of qualifications. In reaching these decisions they look rigorously at the level of difficulty, the content and size of the qualification. The QCA has established that 6-unit GNVQs are the equivalent of four GCSE passes. It is on this basis, these achievements are included in the School Achievement and Attainment Tables.

Sure Start

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will make a statement on progress of the West Hendon Sure Start scheme. [199487]

Margaret Hodge: Sure Start Underhill and West Hendon, a sixth wave local programme has been offering services to under fours and their families since 2003, so it is in its second year. Compared with other similar programmes it is making reasonable progress and was held to be low risk in its latest risk assessment.

The figure for the number of children 'reached' for Underhill and West Hendon at September 2004, was 12 per cent. This is slightly lower than the average for fifth and sixth wave programmes in London (20 per cent.) and national average for fifth and sixth wave programmes (15 per cent.). However, when looking at the percentage
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of new children seen, the local programme's results for September 2004 are clearly higher than the average for London and nationally.

September 2004ReachNew children seen
Underhill and West Hendon1226
London Rounds 5 and 6 average2021
National Rounds 5 and 6 average1518

Sure Start Underhill and West Hendon will form part of a purpose built children's centre on the site of Parkfield School in West Hendon, to be opened by March 2006. The programme is receiving special support from the Atkins Help Squad, who provide expert advice on capital projects, to ensure the deadline is met.

Teachers (Dismissal/Retirement)

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what measures have been introduced since 1997 to enable incompetent teachers to be dismissed by their employer; and how many teachers have been subject to those measures. [200648]

Mr. Miliband: As a manifesto pledge, action was taken following the 1997 general election to agree new procedures for dealing speedily and fairly with teachers who cannot do the job. A new outline procedure was agreed at a national level among representatives of teacher employers, teacher unions and associations, and other interested parties. Building on this a statutory duty was introduced for all maintained schools to establish procedures for dealing with teacher capability problems, and the Government issued guidance for schools and LEAs in July 2000. We do not collect records centrally on the number of teachers who undergo capability procedures; they would be an unnecessary burden on schools and LEAs.

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what percentage of teachers retired at age 60 in each of the last five years; and what percentage took early retirement in each year. [199731]

Mr. Miliband: The following table shows the numbers and percentages of teachers leaving service from maintained sector schools in England who have retired on age grounds at aged 60 or over, prematurely, with actuarially reduced benefit (ARB) or on ill health grounds in each of the last five years.
Ill health2,1302,4502,2201,8601,700

1. Actuarially reduced benefits were introduced in April 2000.
2. The percentages are calculated from the total number retiring from the maintained school sector during the year.
Database of Teacher Records and Pensioner Statistical System (PENSTATS)

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Teachers' Pensions

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what recent discussions his Department has had with the teaching unions regarding teachers' pensions. [199729]

Mr. Miliband: Many aspects of the Teachers' Pension Scheme (TPS) have been examined recently by the Teachers' Pensions Review Group (TPRG). The teacher unions from England and Wales represented at the TPRG include the National Union of Teachers, National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education, National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers, Secondary Heads Association, National Association of Head Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

Regular meetings of this group have been held since November 2003 and will continue throughout the review of the TPS.

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment he has made of the effects of proposed changes to teachers' pensions on recruitment and retention of teachers. [199730]

Mr. Miliband: The review of the Teachers' Pension Scheme (TPS) is an opportunity for modernisation in a way that scheme members will value and also secures the long term affordability of the scheme. We have therefore embarked upon a major consultation with interested parties, including individual teachers, to give them an opportunity to comment on range of issues related to the future of the TPS.

In particular, we are looking at ways of increasing the flexibilities available to teachers over the way in which they plan for their retirement because the more attractive and flexible the TPS is as a benefit to the membership, the greater the contribution it will make to recruitment and retention.

The consultation document can be found at

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what ill-health retirement benefits are available to teachers under their pension scheme; and what changes are proposed to those benefits. [199732]

Mr. Miliband: The Teachers' Pension Scheme (TPS) provides for early payment of retirement benefits, comprising annual pension and retirement lump sum, to teachers who become permanently incapacitated. These benefits are normally enhanced in relation to the teacher's age and the amount of pensionable service accrued in the TPS.

The current consultation on the Review of the TPS seeks views on an alternative approach that recognises the severity of the medical condition and its impact on future earnings capacity. Further details are available on
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Barnstaple Bypass

Mr. Flook : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when the Barnstaple bypass project was given final approval. [200092]

Charlotte Atkins [holding answer 29 November 2004]: Final approval for this scheme was announced on 9 November 2004.

Departmental Websites

Paul Holmes: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether his Department's websites comply with the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines adopted by the Government in 2001; and if he will make a statement. [199694]

Charlotte Atkins: The main Department for Transport web site at has been designed to comply with the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines at double AA level (Level 2). Following an RNIB audit of the site, RNIB asked for further changes, which we are now implementing. RNIB will be undertaking a further audit in December this year to measure progress.

The Department also maintains a number of web sites. Three of these do not currently fully comply with the guidelines for departmental sites. The specific problems have been identified and actions are being taken to ensure that they will all be compliant with the guidelines as soon as possible.

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