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7 Jun 2005 : Column 478W—continued

Run-away Children

Mr. Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what emergency accommodation provision is in place for children who run away from home; what plans she has to increase these facilities; and if she will make a statement. [673]

Maria Eagle: Local authorities and their local partner agencies in children's services have a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in their areas. This includes providing accommodation for any child, where the person caring for them is prevented from providing him/her with suitable accommodation or care.

For the majority of young people who run away from home it will be in their interests to be provided with support that maintains them in their family network. Given the variety of ways in which children who run away come to official attention, for example outside normal working hours or in emergencies, some young people may require immediate access to overnight accommodation. Usually, the local authority's children's services will be best placed to provide this. However, the Social Exclusion Unit, in its report Young Runaways" (2002) found that runaways may have difficulty accessing emergency overnight accommodation at the point of need.

For this reason, the Government have provided funding for a two year pilot scheme to develop, evaluate and test out the delivery and costs of flexible community based accommodation for young runaways. Six sites are now operating—in Co. Durham, Liverpool, Leicestershire/Leicester City and Rutland, Bradford, Torquay and London (at the long-established London Refuge). These pilot services have now reached the end of their first year. Government will give careful consideration to the lessons from this pilot programme to inform policy about future services for vulnerable young people who run away from home.

School Meals

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) if she will make a statement on the new vocational qualification for school caterers; [2083]

(2) how many schools currently participate in the Healthy Schools Programme; [2085]

(3) what proportion of schools provide drinking water to pupils; [2086]

(4) what proportion of (a) primary schools and (b) secondary schools meet current nutritional standards for school meals at lunch time; [2087]
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(5) what proportion of schools provide vegetables and/or fruit on most days; and if she will make a statement; [2088]

(6) what progress she has made in preparing legislation extending new nutritional based standards to cover food across the school day. [2089]

Jacqui Smith: Together with the Food Standards Agency and People 1st, the Department has developed a Vocationally Related Qualification (VRQ) at Level 1 in Healthier Catering. It is currently with awarding bodies to arrange for accreditation by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. The qualification should be in place and available for people to start on courses this autumn term. It is intended to give school cooks and caterers the knowledge and skills to deliver a healthier meals service. It has been specifically designed for staff involved in the preparation and service of school meals and it will enable school caterers to improve pupil nutritional intake from all food provided by the school meals service. It will ensure that everyone in the school kitchen aspires to the same high standards.

15,791 schools are currently participating in the Healthy Schools Programme. We currently targeting all schools with a 20 per cent. or more free school meals entitlement and aim to recruit the remainder of schools to the programme by 2009.

DfES does not collect data on the proportion of schools that provide drinking water to pupils. Regulations require all local authority maintained schools in England to have a wholesome supply of water for domestic purposes, including drinking water. However, it is for local education authorities, governors and schools to decide how and when drinking water should be made available to pupils.

Guidance produced by this Department advises caterers on meeting the requirements of the Government's nutritional standards for school lunches and recommends that drinking water should be made available to all pupils every day, free of charge. In addition, the Healthy Living Blueprint for Schools document suggests that all pupils should have access to drinking water at all times at a number of points around the school, preferably not from taps in toilets. The guidance also suggests that pupils should be permitted to carry water with them and consumption encouraged both in class and during break and lunchtime.

DfES does not routinely collect data on schools adherence to statutory school lunch nutritional standards. The responsibility for ensuring that the standards are met rests with local education authorities or, where the budget for school lunches is delegated to them, a school's governing body. Ultimately, the Secretary of State can direct a school to meet the standards where she considers they are failing to do so.

As part of the package aimed at improving school lunches, we are looking at a number of ways to strengthen the monitoring of school food:

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Current minimum school lunch standards require all schools to provide food from the fruit and vegetable group on a daily basis. More specifically, primary schools must ensure that both a fruit and a vegetable are provided on a daily basis; a fruit based desert is available at least twice per week; and fresh fruit, fruit tinned in juice or fruit salad is available every day. In secondary schools two foods from the fruit and vegetable group must be available each day, which must include both a fruit and a vegetable.

In addition, 16,069, or 97 per cent. of eligible schools (February 2005) benefit daily from the free fruit and vegetables provided by the Government's National School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme.

A School Meals Review Panel has been convened to recommend changes to current school lunch standards. The panel's work is expected to produce new draft school lunch standards for secondary schools in September 2005 and for primary schools soon after, both becoming mandatory in September 2006. Once the school lunch standards have been considered the panel will then set about looking at how the standards could apply to other food and drink on school premises, e.g. vending machines and tuck-shops. Any extended standards will need to be enshrined within regulations as are the current standards.

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) if she will list the members of the School Food Trust; [2084]

(2) if she will list the members of the School Meals Review Panel. [2090]

Jacqui Smith: The chair and members of the substantive School Food Trust have not yet been appointed. The posts are currently being advertised and will be filled according to Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments (OCPA) guidelines. The appointments will be for a three-year term initially.

In the meantime an interim School Food Trust was announced on 16 May. It comprises Suzi Leather as interim chair, supported by chef and school food consultant Rob Rees and headteacher Chris Dean. The interim Trust is now working to develop the full Trust which will become operational later this year.

The School Food Trust will draw together representatives from the food industry, caterers, nutritionists, food interest groups, schools and parents. It will play a key role in taking forward the Government's programme for improving school food. It will give independent support and advice to schools and parents to improve the standard of school meals and ensure that the issue of school food remains high on the agenda.
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The remit of the separate School Meals Review Panel is to advise the Government on how best to meet their commitment in the Public Health White Paper to improve school food, through the revision of current school meals standards. The panel's work is expected to produce new draft school lunch standards for secondary schools in September 2005 and for primary soon after, both becoming mandatory in September 2006.

The members of the School Meals Review Panel are as follows:


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