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20 Dec 2004 : Column 1367W—continued

Government-funded Agencies

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will list (a) the resource budget, (b) staffing levels and (c) administration costs for each Government funded agency for which she has responsibility for each of the past three years; and if she will provide projections of these figures for the next three years. [204393]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: The Department does not have any Executive agencies.

Keele University

Paul Farrelly: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what discussions the Higher Education Funding Council for England has had with the University of Keele on proposals to close the University's physics department; [204047]

(2) if he will request that the Higher Education Funding Council for England discusses with the University of Keele the conclusions of its Science at Keele Review; [204048]

(3) if he will request that the Higher Education Funding Council for England contacts the University of Keele before the meeting of the University's Council on 16 December to discuss the reasons for the proposal to close its physics course; [204049]

(4) if he will request that the Higher Education Funding Council for England urgently assess the impact of the proposed closure of the physics department at the University of Keele on (a) access for students to basic science in North Staffordshire and (b) the economic and regeneration prospects of this sub-region; [204050]

(5) what discussions his Department has had with the University of Keele on its proposals to close its physics and astrophysics courses. [204051]

Dr. Howells [holding answer 13 December 2004]: Higher Education Institutions are autonomous organisations responsible for their own academic direction and strategic use of funds. In considering their future plans, including the Science at Keele Review, Keele university has discussed possibilities and implications with several interested bodies, locally and regionally, including the Higher Education Funding Council for England. They continue to be in regular contact. I understand that no final decisions on any proposals have been reached.
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Schools (Asbestos)

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many (a) primary and (b) secondary schools in each local education authority in England have been identified as having classrooms and other public areas containing asbestos; and what steps he is taking to ensure it is removed. [204663]

Mr. Stephen Twigg [holding answer 14 December 2004]: There are no central records of the numbers of schools containing asbestos in England. However, as part of asset management plans, local education authorities record the presence of asbestos in the schools which they maintain. Other schools are required to keep their own records. Of approximately 20,400 primary schools and 3,400 secondary schools in the UK, some 13,000 were built between 1945 and 1974, when the use of asbestos-containing materials in building was at its peak. Many other school premises would have been refurbished during that period, providing the potential for the introduction of asbestos-containing materials. Schools constructed after 1999 will not contain asbestos building materials.

The new regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations; the duty to manage asbestos in non-domestic premises, came into force in May 2004. This regulation is designed to ensure that all those who have responsibility for the maintenance or repair of non-domestic premises manage the risks from asbestos materials on their premises.

Where asbestos-containing materials are in good condition and are unlikely to be damaged, HSE advice is that it is safer to leave the materials in place and manage them than to remove them.

Sefton Education Authority

Mr. Benton: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills whether the Government have given Sefton education authority dispensation to remove the small schools funding formula. [205006]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: The inclusion in an LEA's funding formula of a factor relating to small schools is a matter for local discretion.

I have, however, given dispensation for Sefton LEA to remove their small schools funding factor from the calculation of the minimum funding guarantee in respect of 15 schools. This dispensation was granted because the LEA demonstrated that by including it in the MFG calculation the 15 schools identified would have received an unfair budget share in 2005–06.

Special Schools (Gloucestershire)

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will make a statement on the future provision of special school places in Gloucestershire. [203184]

Margaret Hodge: Under arrangements introduced in the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, the consideration of proposals to establish, alter, or discontinue maintained special schools are a matter for local decision.
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Before publishing statutory proposals, the local education authority must formally consult all interested parties, including the school or schools which are the subject of the proposals, and the parents of pupils at those schools.

The authority must explain how interested parties can make their views known, and be able to demonstrate how they have taken into account the views expressed during consultation in reaching any subsequent decision. Once the local education authority has published proposals, there follows a two-month objection period during which anyone can submit formal objections to the authority.

Any formal objections must then be sent to the local School Organisation Committee. The Committee must give very careful consideration to proposals and reach properly informed decisions, based on all available evidence, including any objections received. If that committee is unable to reach a unanimous decision, it will pass the case to an independent adjudicator for determination.

Student Loans

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what her latest estimates are of the numbers of students expected to take out fee loans in 2006 for the (a) standard fee and (b) variable element of the fee; and if she will make a statement. [205825]

Dr. Howells: The Government do not have a particular expectation of the pattern of fee charging by universities and colleges of higher education in 2006, nor of the proportion of students that will decide to take out a fee loan. We published estimates on the basis of a variety of different scenarios in the regulatory impact assessment that was published alongside the Higher Education Bill.

Sure Start (Pendle)

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many children are involved in the Sure Start schemes operating in Pendle. [205008]

Margaret Hodge: There are three Sure Start local programmes in Pendle reaching a total of 2,083 children under the age of four. Sure Start Bradley and Whitefield covers 716 children; Sure Start Waterbridge covers 609 children and Sure Start Brierfield and Walverden covers 758 children under four.

Pendle has one Early Excellence Centre which serves 730 children and forms part of Walton Lane children's centre designated in September 2003. There are also four neighbourhood nurseries within Pendle providing a total of 134 new child care places.

Pendle has four children's centres to reach a total of 3,123 children under five: three of the centres have received approval to proceed from the Sure Start Unit and one centre was the early designation announced in September 2003.

All the Sure Start local programmes, neighbourhood nurseries and the Early Excellence Centre are involved in the delivery of the children's centre agenda.
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Air Cadets (Pendle)

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence for what reasons air cadets attended cenotaphs in Pendle on Remembrance Sunday without their rifles; and if he will make a statement. [205010]

Mr. Caplin: Following a recent change in drill procedures, the Air Training Corps (ATC) issued specific instructions that all participants in Remembrance Day parades were not to carry drill weapons.

Before this change, the ATC followed the RAF's drill manual. The recent revision of this manual has rendered the ceremonial drill procedures and associated weapons used by the RAF unsuitable for ATC cadets.

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