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24 Jan 2005 : Column 87W—continued

Sex Education

Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what rights parents have to withdraw their children from sex education in schools; and what steps her Department takes to inform parents of these rights. [210692]

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Derek Twigg: Parents have the right to withdraw their child from all or part of the sex and relationship education (SRE) provided at school, except for those parts included in the statutory science curriculum.

Guidance issued to schools in July 2000 makes it clear that parents have the right to withdraw, and emphasises the importance of schools working in partnership with parents. The Department has also published a leaflet for parents setting out their rights in relation to SRE. The leaflet is available on the Department's website at and in hard copy for schools to distribute to parents.

Special Needs

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what provision is being made to enable North Yorkshire schools to meet their special needs requirements and to ensure that their inclusion policy is adequately funded. [206543]

Margaret Hodge: The majority of funding for schools is distributed according to a locally agreed formula which will include factors for SEN and deprivation. Most pupils with SEN are in mainstream schools and are funded through their authority's local funding formula. This enables schools to intervene early and make good arrangements to meet children's needs while ensuring that these pupils are fully included. It is for local authorities to decide how best to distribute their funding.

Up to 2003–04 a grant for special educational needs was paid to all local education authorities through the Standards Fund; North Yorkshire's allocation was £788,153; of which 50 per cent. was government grant and 50 per cent. contributed by the local authority. In 2004–05, this allocation was increased by 4 per cent. to £819,679 for North Yorkshire. In 2004–05 a number of previously separate grants for schools including the grant for SEN were brought together within a single grant—the School Development Grant. This grant is allocated to schools to use for any purpose to promote school improvement, including special educational needs. In 2003–04 LEAs could retain 50 per cent. of the SEN grant for central support for special educational needs. In 2004–05, LEAs are allowed to retain the same cash amount from their schools development grant for these purposes.

Specialist Schools (England)

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many specialist schools there are in England; how many are in areas within the most deprived 20 per cent. of wards according to the Government's index of deprivation; and what specialisms have been chosen by the schools situated in those areas. [209788]

Mr. Stephen Twigg [holding answer 20 January 2005]: The information requested is shown in the tables.
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(i) Number of specialist schools—maintained secondary(39) and special

Number of schoolsNumber of specialist schoolsPercentage of specialist schools
20% Most Deprived Areas

(39) Includes middle schools as deemed

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(ii) Number of specialist schools by specialism

All Schools
Schools in 20% Most Deprived Areas
SpecialismNumber of
specialist schools
Number of
specialist schools
Business and Enterprise1467.53010.0
Business and Enterprise and Arts20.10
Engineering and Business and Enterprise10.10
Humanities and Arts10.10
Humanities and Business and Enterprise20.10
Language and Arts10.110.3
Language and Business and Enterprise10.10
Maths and Computing1537.8196.4
Maths and Computing and Engineering10.10
Maths and Computing and Humanities10.10
Maths and Computing and Languages10.10
Maths and Computing with Enterprise10.10
Music and Maths and Computing10.10
Science and Arts50.30
Science and Engineering50.320.7
Science and Maths and Computing60.30
Sports and Arts10.10
Sports and Business and Enterprise10.10
Sports and Science20.110.3
Technology and Arts20.110.3
Technology and Engineering30.20

Student Support

Dr. Francis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will assess the merits of a single system of student support based on intensity of study. [209236]

Dr. Howells: There are no plans to adopt a single system of general support based on intensity of study. However, changes we are introducing for the 2005/06 academic year will pro-rate the amount of fee support that a part-time student receives to the intensity of their part-time study. This Government are the only one to have provided support for part-time students. Prior to academic year 1998/99 no financial support of any kind was available to them. Since then we have introduced schemes which have enabled some part-time students to have their tuition fees met, to qualify for disabled students' allowances and to take out loans to cover course costs. In 2004/05 a new package of grants was introduced and this is being improved on further in 2005/06.

Dr. Francis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment she has made of the extent to which support for part-time students takes account of the costs of (a) travel, (b) child care and (c) lost income. [209237]

Dr. Howells: The Department for Education and Skills commissioned the Open University to carry out a survey into the incomes of and costs incurred by part-time higher education students while studying. The survey found that, excluding course fees, students faced extra costs of on average £246 per year. This is slightly less than the maximum course grant of £250 which is available to part-time students.

Dr. Francis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what measures the Government has taken since the Higher Education Act 2004 to support part-time students. [209241]

Dr. Howells: The Government are building upon the improved support for part-time students, which was introduced in academic year 2004/05, by increasing the
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amount of fee grant that a student may get in academic year 2005/06. There will be three maximum fee grants rates of £590, £710 and £885 for students who are studying at 50 per cent. or more of an equivalent full-time course with the highest rate applying to those who study at 75 per cent. or more FTE. The threshold below which students can get both the fee grant and the £250 course grant in full is also being increased from £14,600 in 2004/05 to £14,970 in 2005/06.

Sure Start

Mr. Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans he has to transfer responsibility for administering Sure Start to county councils after 2006. [201043]

Margaret Hodge [holding answer 30 November 2004]: Before April 2006, we will be discussing with local authorities and Sure Start local programmes how to ensure that the high quality services and successful ways of working pioneered by the Sure Start programmes can be maintained as local authorities take on increasing responsibility for planning of children's services. We expect that all local programmes will be administered through local authorities by April 2008.

We have no plans to remove the national ring fence from the Sure Start budget before 2008. However, some local removal of the ring fence will be piloted from 2005 as part of the Local Area Agreement pilots.

Mr. Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans she has to ring fence the funding for Sure Start programmes in Kent when the funding arrangements are moved to Kent county council. [208426]

Margaret Hodge [holding answer 17 January 2005]: Kent county council (CC) is taking part in the Local Area Agreement (LAA) pilot from April 2005 and as such will be able to request the inclusion of Sure Start local programme revenue funding as part of the children's services block of the LAA. As part of the LAA, Sure Start local programme funding would not be ring fenced.

Sure Start funding will however only be considered for inclusion in LAAs where areas can demonstrate that outputs will support Sure Start and the other targets in the 10 year childcare strategy. Kent CC will also be expected to continue to involve parents, children and community groups in the planning and delivery of services, and that will be reflected in the assessment of their performance. If Kent decide not to include Sure Start local programme funding within the local area agreement then the Sure Start local programmes revenue grant will be paid to the programmes' accountable bodies as in earlier years.

Ms Oona King: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment she has made of the effectiveness of Sure Start in reaching homeless families with children in temporary accommodation; and if she will make a statement. [209648]

Margaret Hodge: Sure Start Local Programmes are area-based programmes bringing together health and family support services with play, learning and child care opportunities to give young children living in the
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20 per cent. most disadvantaged communities the best possible start in life. Some programmes with large numbers of homeless families in their catchment areas have specifically targeted the needs of homeless families, for example by providing play and advice sessions for children living in temporary accommodation.

The experience of local programmes and other services has shown that Sure Start, with its combination of universal and targeted services and focus on outreach, has been effective in reaching groups such as homeless families who often fall through the service network. By providing them with information and support, services encourage such groups to access services. Many Sure Start services have also supported mainstream services to reach out to and be more responsive to the particular needs of homeless families.

A major evaluation of Sure Start Local Programmes began in January 2001. This is looking at: the impact of the programme in the short, medium and long-term; access and quality of services; and its cost-effectiveness. One aspect will be to assess the outreach and home visiting services in place within programmes and the methods being developed to meet the needs of hard- to-reach families. Information will be available in summer 2005.

The Government's 10-year strategy for child care, announced in December 2004, aims to provide every family with easy access to integrated services through children's centres and extended schools in their local community. They will build on the success of Local Programmes and other initiatives for young children and families. 2,500 centres will be in place by 2008, and 3,500 by 2010. They will be proactive in reaching out to ensure that families who do not access services readily, including homeless families, nonetheless receive the help and support they need.

The Sure Start Unit is continuing to develop approaches for piloting, from April 2006, ways of ensuring that particularly disadvantaged 2-year-old children, including homeless children, receive Sure Start services.

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