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Fostering

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps she is taking to encourage an increased number of foster carers; and how much her Department has spent on recruitment campaigns to encourage people to become foster carers in the last five years. [4463]

Maria Eagle: Funding of £113 million has been made available from 2003–04 to 2005–06 through the Choice Protects programme to support local authorities in improving placement choice for their looked after children—in particular through strengthening and expanding their fostering services, including by recruiting greater numbers of foster carers. Of this
 
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amount, a total of £7.25 million has been retained over the three years of the grant to fund national initiatives, including measures to support the recruitment and retention of foster carers. These include the establishment of a new national advice line for foster carers, a new national awards ceremony, measures to improve the support given to foster carers who are subject to allegations as well as work to improve training opportunities for foster carers.

In addition, my Department has funded a number of initiatives to support the recruitment activities of local authorities. We have funded the production of a Fostering Publicity Pack, at a cost of £100,000, designed to help local authorities to run targeted local campaigns to recruit new foster carers. We have awarded a three
 
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year grant of £180,000 to The Fostering Network to support 'Fostercare Fortnight', which has a particular focus on recruitment, and we have recently awarded a two year grant to The Fostering Network of £80,000 to look at innovation in foster care recruitment. These steps, aimed at supporting recruitment at a local level, follow on from a national recruitment campaign undertaken by the National Foster Carer Association on behalf of the Department, in 2000, in which £2 million was invested.

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will make a statement on Government plans to tighten safeguards protecting the welfare of privately fostered children. [4723]

Maria Eagle: The Government plan to enhance and strengthen the private fostering notification under the Children Act 1989 through new measures in the Children Act 2004 and underpinning regulations, which come into force on 1 July 2005.

The new measures will require local authorities to promote public awareness in their area of the requirements as to notification; to satisfy themselves of the suitability of a proposed arrangement before it commences, where advance notification is given; and to monitor the way in which they discharge their Children Act 1989 functions in relation to private fostering, and to appoint an officer of the authority for that purpose.

The new measures, along with National Minimum Standards, are expected to focus local authorities' attention on private fostering by requiring them to take a more proactive approach to identifying arrangements in their area. The new measures are also expected to improve notification rates and compliance with the existing legislative framework for private fostering, and significantly to increase the number of arrangements checked out before a child begins to be privately fostered.

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans she has to provide privately fostered children with greater access to their social workers. [4724]

Maria Eagle: Under the existing private fostering regulations (the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 1991) local authorities are already required to make arrangements for each child who is privately fostered within their area to be visited by an officer of the authority when reasonably requested by the child (or private foster carer) and, in particular, in the first year of the private fostering arrangement, within one week from its beginning and then at intervals of not more than six weeks and in any second or subsequent year, at intervals of not more than three months.

This requirement is reproduced and extended in the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005, which replace the 1991 regulations and come into force on 1 July 2005. The 2005 regulations also require the local authority to arrange for a privately fostered child to be visited when
 
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reasonably requested to do so by a parent of the child, or any other person with parental responsibility for him or her. Further, these regulations also require the local authority to visit a privately fostered child at least every six weeks during the first year after it becomes aware that a private fostering arrangement is in place.

In addition, under the 2005 regulations, on receipt of a notification of a proposal to foster a child privately, local authorities will be required to arrange for an officer to visit and speak to the child within seven working days of such a notification being received, among other things to establish the wishes and feelings of the child about the proposed arrangement (considered in the light of his or her age and understanding).

Grammar Schools (Buckinghamshire)

Mr. Paul Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many pupils in each (a) grammar school and (b) upper school in Buckinghamshire achieved each (i) GCSE and (ii) A-level grade in each year since 2001, broken down by ethnic group. [3233]

Jacqui Smith: The information requested has been placed in the Libraries.

Higher Education

Mr. Allen: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what representatives she will send to the Higher Education Funding Council Conference on rates of participation in higher education on 15 June in Birmingham; and if she will make a statement. [4333]

Bill Rammell: The Department will not be sending a representative to this meeting although officials are aware of its purpose, which we understand is to explore the reasons behind the low participation in higher education (HE) rates for three constituencies and to agree how these rates might be improved. The Department will be kept informed of and where appropriate involved in the outcomes of the 15 June meeting in Birmingham. The Government remain committed to widening participation in HE for all those who have the merit and potential to benefit from it, regardless of background. Much of the Government's reforms of HE over the last year has widening participation at its heart and we look forward to seeing improvements in participation rates as a result.

Key Stage Learning

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will make a statement on the research commissioned by Professor David Jesson of York University on the achievement at Key Stage 4 of children with high levels of attainment at Key Stage 2. [4233]

Jacqui Smith: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison) on 7 June 2005, Official Report, columns 474–75W.

Learning Methods

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the difference is between learning by heart multiplication facts, as required by the
 
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Framework for Teaching Mathematics: Reception to Year 6 document, and learning by heart multiplication tables. [4432]

Jacqui Smith: The Primary National Strategy stresses the importance of learning multiplication 'facts' (such as 8 x 7 = 56) which are bought together in multiplication tables. Acquiring these facts is a core part of children's mathematical education, and helps deepen their mathematical understanding, for example, enabling them to make the link between multiplication and division. Teaching multiplication tables can be used as a key means of ensuring that children learn multiplication facts.

Personalised Learning

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) if she will make a statement on progress on introducing personalised learning for secondary school pupils; [3785]

(2) when she expects all secondary school pupils to have access to a personalised package of learning; [3786]

(3) what role her Department will play in implementing personalised packages of learning for secondary school pupils; [3831]

(4) whether the Department will introduce targets for the implementation of personalised packages of learning; [3832]

(5) what assessment she has made of the (a) financial and (b) personnel resources needed to introduce personalised packages of learning for secondary school pupils; [3833]

(6) what assessment she has made of the training required for teachers to introduce personalised packages of learning for secondary school pupils; and what plans she has to implement this. [3834]

Jacqui Smith: Through the Five Year Strategy for Children and Learning and the 14–19 White Paper we have embarked on an ambitious long-term agenda to personalise the education system to meet the needs of all pupils. A central element of that is the idea of Personalised Learning"—tailoring educational provision to individual needs, interests and aptitudes so that every young person can receive a personalised package of learning and support to enable them to fulfil their potential.

Personalised learning has five key components that offer a framework for implementation:

Personalised Learning is not new, nor is it a discreet package or programme to be delivered in isolation. Many schools and teachers have tailored the curriculum and teaching methods to meet the needs of pupils with great success for many years. We will continue to support schools through the continuous professional
 
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development provision provided by the National Strategies, our workforce remodelling and forthcoming curricula reforms.


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