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Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many departments of (a) Chinese, (b) Arabic, (c) chemistry, (d) physics and (e) mathematics there were in higher education institutions in England in each year between 1994 and 2004; and what the projected numbers are for each year from 2005 to 2010. 
Bill Rammell: Information on the closure, merger or opening of particular university courses and departments is not collected by the Department. Higher Education Institutions are autonomous organisations responsible for their own academic direction and strategic use of funds, and any decisions on closures of departments are made by them, not by Government or the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).
The then Secretary of State for Education and Skills wrote to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) at the beginning of December 2004 asking their advice on what types of action should be considered to strengthen and secure subjects of strategic national importance, including mathematics and science. HEFCE have set up an expert group to look at this issue and to report to the HEFCE board this month. The board will inform Ministers of the outcome.
Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills pursuant to the Answer of 13 June, Ref 4022, regarding home-school agreements, if she will request from Ofsted the number of schools that have drawn up home-school agreements. 
Jacqui Smith: Ofsted does not collect this information. During inspections Ofsted looks generally at whether a school is meeting its statutory requirements. However, it does not look specifically at whether a school has a Home-School Agreement (HSA) in place. As I said in my earlier reply, we expect all maintained schools to have HSAs in place.
There are no plans to extend the London fringe allowance for teachers' pay. However, any teachers may be paid recruitment and retention incentives and benefits of any value or nature in addition to their salary, and this is a matter for their schools to decide in the light of local circumstances.
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Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what research her Department has conducted on the impact of ending the teacher salary London fringe allowance at the A130 on teacher recruitment and retention to the east of the A130; and if she will make a statement. 
Jacqui Smith: The Department has not conducted research on the impact on teacher recruitment and retention east of the A130. The Department does evaluate the impact of teachers' pay arrangements and the strategies used to support recruitment and retention. Recent evidence to the School Teachers' Review Body, submitted jointly with our partners from teacher unions and employers, points to the positive impact these strategies are having on teacher recruitment and retention while accepting that there continue to be pressures in places. All schools have discretion to use recruitment and retention incentives to ease any local pressures they face.
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how much was spent on (a) inner, (b) outer and (c) fringe allowances for teaching salaries in the last year for which figures are available. 
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A range of documents have been produced that develop further the guidance set out in the Framework. Key guidance documents include Mathematical Vocabulary" which lists the important vocabulary for all year groups; Teaching Mental Calculation Strategies; Teaching Written Calculations" and sample medium-term lesson plans to demonstrate to teachers how to plan for progression in mathematics.
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Bill Rammell: We have appointed Jim Rose to make recommendations on best practice in the teaching of early reading and synthetic phonics in primary schools and early years settings, covering content and pace of learning. He will also make recommendations on the best support for children with significant literacy difficulties to enable them to catch up with their peers, and the relationship between such targeted intervention programmes with synthetic phonics.
Mr. Rose's recommendations will draw on an examination of both academic research and classroom best practice in schools and early years settings, as well as recent reports by the Education and Skills Select Committee, Ofsted and the Clackmannanshire study. He will provide an interim report in November 2005 and make final recommendations early in 2006. Mr. Rose's findings will inform a renewal of the National Literacy Strategy framework for teaching.
Jacqui Smith: The demand for building new schools will depend on local factors such as pupil numbers, the capacity of existing schools, and the condition and suitability of existing buildings. Whether it is better value to refurbish or extend an existing school or to build new is a matter for local option appraisal and discussion. Local authorities assess these factors and we do not collect this information centrally.
Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will recommend that the School Food Trust consider the NVQ approach to work-based assessment of nutritional competence at levels 1 to 4. 
We are working with People 1st (the sector skills council for the hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism industries), the Food Standards Agency, the Teacher Training Agency, the Learning and Skills Council and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to review and build on the range of catering qualifications that are currently available, including NVQs. Our aim is to ensure that we have a ladder of qualifications that include information on nutritional standards where appropriate, meet the skills needs of all catering staff, and support progression from the level1 VRQ.
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Jacqui Smith: The School Meals Review Panel will make their recommendations to Ministers on the new draft nutritional standards in early September. A public consultation will follow, in the usual manner. The new standards will become mandatory in schools from September 2006.
Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what her estimate is of the proportion of secondary schools that are ensuring that children in years 10 and 11 are set, on average, between one and a half and two and a half hours of homework per day; 
The Government considers that learning at home is an essential part of the good education to which all our children are entitled. We know, and Ofsted confirm, that a well organised homework programme helps children and young people to develop the skills and attitudes they will need for successful, independent life long learning. Currently my Department does not collect information on individual school's homework policies or the amount of homework they set. We believe it is for schools themselves to make their own decisions in this area, taking account of the Homework Guidelines for Primary and Secondary Schools we provide. Home-school agreements, which we introduced in 1999, promote partnerships between schools and parents, and assist parents in supporting their children's learning at home, including their completion of homework.
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