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18 Jul 2005 : Column 1404W—continued

Ministerial Visits

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many requests have been received from hon. Members for ministerial visits to their constituency since the general election. [9299]

Maria Eagle: Since the general election, Ministers have received a total of 25 requests from hon. Members for visits to their constituencies.

Modern Apprenticeships

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the drop-out rates for modern apprenticeships were in each year between 1994 and 2004. [12022]

Phil Hope: The Learning and Skills Council routinely publish Apprenticeship outcomes in the Statistical First Release series Further Education and Work Based Learning for Young People—Learner Outcomes in England".

Musical Instrument Tuition

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many primary schools offered musical instrument tuition in 2003–04. [13268]

Jacqui Smith: This information is not part of the Department's statutory annual data collection for 2003–04. However, in February we undertook a survey of all music services, and this included information on the number of primary pupils in each local authority who were learning a musical instrument in 2004–05. The survey findings will be available in the autumn.

The national curriculum provides all children aged 5–14 with a statutory entitlement to music lessons, giving them the opportunity to sing, to play musical instruments, to hear live and recorded music from a range of traditions and styles, to compose and to perform.

National Literacy Strategy

Mr. Cameron: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what level of consultation will be undertaken by the National Literacy Strategy review panel; and with which organisations and groups; [10019]
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(2) what the terms of reference are for the review of the National Literacy Strategy; [10020]

(3) what criteria are being used to select the members of the National Literacy Strategy review panel. [10021]

Jacqui Smith: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced on 3 June 2005 that there will be an independent review of best practice in the teaching of early reading, including the role of synthetic phonics. The review is being led by Jim Rose, the former Director of Inspection at Ofsted. It is independent from, and is not being conducted by, the Government's Primary National Strategy.

Jim Rose has invited a group of advisers, with considerable experience as practitioners and researchers in this field, including early years expertise, to provide him with advice on conducting his review. The group will consist of the following members:

In addition to the specialist phonics advice that Janet Brennan will provide Ofsted will also be contributing to Mr. Rose's review by HMI Tim Key providing information from Ofsted's inspection data.

In making his recommendations Mr. Rose will draw on his advisers' expertise, and he will also examine academic research and best practice for using synthetic phonics in reading in primary schools and early years settings. He will seek views from a broad range of individuals and organisations that represent the interests of those sectors, as well as examining recent reports on reading by the Education and Skills Select Committee, Ofsted, the study in Clackmannanshire local authority in Scotland and other evidence.

Higher Education Access

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans there are for the Office for Fair Access to audit a sample of access agreements provided by higher education institutions; and how many institutions will be included in the sample. [10046]

Bill Rammell: In order to minimise the regulatory burden on institutions, OFFA has no current plans to audit access agreements. Institutions have set out within their access agreements how they intend to monitor the implementation of their own agreements and OFFA will take assurance from the information that institutions produce for their own purposes, and the other data that is already collected through institutions such as the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

Part-time Students

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will lift the cap on fee waivers for poor part-time students. [12483]

Bill Rammell: The discretionary fee waiver scheme for part-time students ran from 1998/99 to 2003–04. In 2004/05 for the first time non-repayable grants were introduced for part-time students: a fee grant of up to
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£575 (to replace the fee waiver), and a non-repayable course grant of up to £250. Transitional protection was put in place for continuing students who had received a fee waiver in 2003/04.

The support available to part-time students is being further improved for 2005/06: the maximum fee grant is being increased to £885; the income threshold below which students can get both the fee and course grants is also being increased; and the amount of fee support the student receives will, in future, be linked to the intensity of their study. The grants are means-tested in order to target funding most effectively at those on the lowest incomes.

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what research she has conducted on the financial situation of part-time students; [12484]

(2) what research she has conducted on the impact of new fees regulations in higher education institutions with an atypically high level of part-time students; [12485]

(3) what recent assessment she has made of the merits of fee deferrals for part-time students; [12486]

(4) what representations she has received from (a) higher education institutions and (b) the Office for Fair Access on the impact on student access of differences between the full-time and part-time student support regimes. [12487]

Bill Rammell: Over the last 12 months, Ministers and officials have met regularly with representatives from higher education institutions with high proportions of part-time undergraduate students to discuss a range of issues, including the changes to the student funding system which will be introduced in 2006–07. Ministers have listened to concerns raised by institutions and are considering the most effective means of using available funding to support part-time undergraduate provision. This includes an ongoing consideration of the merits of fee deferral in light of a deepening understanding of the diverse part-time student body.

To understand better the part-time undergraduate student body, the Department for Education and Skills commissioned Alan Woodley from the Open University's Institute of Educational Technology to survey part-time students. The report Earning, learning and paying: the results from a national survey of the costs and financing of part-time students in higher education" was published in November 2004. Additionally, part-time undergraduates are included within the scope of the 2004/05 Student Income and Expenditure Survey" (SIES). The SIES is due for publication early in 2006.

The Woodley survey confirmed the heterogeneity of the part-time undergraduate student body and that the barriers which individuals may face to participation are, by no means, uniform. Notably, 65 per cent. of part-time undergraduates are in full-time employment with a further 18 per cent. in part-time employment. Moreover, 36 per cent. of part-time undergraduate students have all their fees paid by an employer. Consequently, any consideration of the merits of fee deferral for part-timers must address the financial resources available to individual students and the likelihood of replacing existing employer support.
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The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has considered representations from institutions for special funding in response to concerns about the impact of variable fees on large scale providers of part-time undergraduate higher education. The Council announced its findings on 1 March. These included a commitment to develop a widening participation measure, from the 2006/07 academic year, designed to ensure that the most disadvantaged students will continue to be able to study on a part-time basis. Details of the measure will be confirmed by the HEFCE board in the autumn. No representations have been received from the Office for Fair Access with regard to part-time undergraduate provision.

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