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18 Oct 2005 : Column 937W—continued

Key Stage Tests

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans she has to review the food technology content of the national curriculum at key stages 1, 2 and 3. [17952]

Jacqui Smith: The Secretary of State has asked the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to review key stage 3 of the national curriculum. Food technology is part of the design and technology curriculum and is included in this review. There are no plans to review design and technology at key stages 1 and 2.

Learning and Skills Council

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many Level 3 student places were funded by the Learning and Skills Council in 2004–05; and how many Level 3 students there were in further education colleges in 2004–05. [19348]

Bill Rammell: Learner numbers for the academic year 2004/05 are not yet available. The following table shows the number of learners for the academic year 2003/04, including totals for the subset funded by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), versus all learners in Further Education (FE) provision:
Numbers: (000s)

2003/04LSC fundedAll learners
Level 1 and entry1,611.51,748.1
Level 21,037.01,111.1
Level 3837.4882.9
Level 4, 5 and HE72,6142.7
Level not specified555.7752.0

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Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will make it her policy to make nutrition a mandatory element of the food preparation and cooking national vocational qualification. [18649]

Jacqui Smith: Qualifications relating to food preparation and cooking are developed in response to employers needs, and at this point most employers do not want nutrition as a mandatory element, although such a unit is currently available as an option. However, our recent work on improving school meals has shown that it is essential that all school catering staff have the training they need to be able to provide healthy meals for school children. That is why we worked with People 1st (the Sector Skills Council for the hospitality industry) and the Food Standards Agency to develop a level 1 vocationally related qualification in providing a healthier school meals service. The aim of the VRQ is to give school cooks and caterers the basic 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. It will enable school caterers to improve pupil nutritional intake from all food provided by the school meals service and know how to market and promote healthier choices to pupils.

Reading and Literacy

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment she has made of the impact of the participation rate of schools in England on the effectiveness of the progress in the International Reading and Literacy Study. [17188]

Jacqui Smith: The target school participation rate for the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), established by the study organisers, the
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International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), was 85 per cent. England achieved 87 per cent. and its data were fully reported in the international report.

Safe Driving

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will introduce the teaching of safe driving in schools. [17174]

Jacqui Smith: The Government's non-statutory framework for personal, social and health education includes teaching about becoming safe and responsible road users. We have issued guidance to schools on how safety education can be delivered through the formal and informal curriculum. At present, the Government have no further plans to introduce measures to improve the teaching of safe driving in schools.

School Budgets

Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will extend the three year limit on school budgets for the accumulation of capital funds for school building projects. [17104]

Jacqui Smith: Devolved formula capital is allocated by national formula to all maintained schools in England so that they can invest in their local priorities. This year, a typical primary school receives over £25,000 and a typical secondary school receives over £87,000. By 2007–08, these amounts increase to £34,000 and £113,000 respectively. Guidance on this funding allows schools to roll over this funding for up to three years to enable larger projects to be funded. I do not intend to extend this roll-over period. We should not deliver money too far ahead of use. Where schools have priority needs which exceed their three year allocations, they should approach their local authority for additional funding from the capital of over £2 billion each year which we provide. In these times of high construction inflation, investment should be made as early as possible. This will also mean that children will benefit as early as possible from the investment.

School Closures

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what guidance her Department has given to local education authorities considering school closures because of falling numbers. [18776]

Jacqui Smith: Many local authorities are facing a decline in their primary school population. Working with local authorities and other partners the Department and the Audit Commission have jointly developed a toolkit which offers practical advice to help local authorities and schools tackle the challenges and make use of the opportunities presented by falling primary rolls. The toolkit is available at rolls.

When falling rolls lead to empty school places closing schools is not the only option. The toolkit gives advice on a range of options from reorganisation of school places, including school closures; amalgamations and federations; and extended schools.
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School Curriculum

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what estimate her Department has made of the proportion of primary schools that teach one hour a week or more in (a) design and technology, (b) history, (c) geography, (d) art, (e) music, (f) personal, social and health education and (g) a modern language. [18110]

Jacqui Smith: This information is not held centrally.

Primary schools are required to deliver the national curriculum programmes of study in design and technology, history, art and design and music. They are also encouraged to deliver PSHE and modern foreign languages. Schools are free to determine how much time to spend on each curriculum area (the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has published non-statutory guidance for schools on allocating curriculum time).

Research carried out for the DFES in 2002/03 showed that 44 per cent. of schools teaching key stage 2 pupils (ages 7–11) offered some form of language learning, including extra-curricular classes. That research also highlighted that approximately 3 per cent. of schools were offering language learning programmes within curriculum time to all year groups in key stage 2 for more than 20 minutes a week. A copy of the research is available at:

School Meals

Mr. Wills: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what percentage of children eligible for free school meals did not take up their entitlement in the last period for which figures are available, broken down by local education authority. [16584]

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

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what her estimate is of the cost of implementing the recommendations of the School Meals Review Panel(a) initially and (b) annually thereafter, broken down by costs associated with (i) food ingredients, (ii)refurbishment costs, (iii) catering staff training costs and (iv) catering staff costs. [17766]

Jacqui Smith: The Government are currently consulting on proposals to improve nutritional standards in schools. As part of its final report, Turning the Tables: Transforming School Food", the School Meals Review Panel offered an assessment of the additional costs of implementing its recommendations over a three-year transition period. The figures offered are estimates and should be regarded with due caution.

Government are investing £220 million over three years to help schools and local authorities transform school meals through training and increased hours for cooks, equipment and a minimum spend on ingredients. The Panel discovered that the school meals market is currently operating very nearly at our suggested
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minimum levels of ingredient costs, and is well on the way to meeting the Caroline Walker Trust recommendations for minimum spend.

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will revise Ofsted inspection criteria to include monitoring of school meals food and nutrition standards. [18688]

Beverley Hughes: The Education Act 2005 extended the statutory purposes for school inspection to include the requirement to inspect and report on the contribution made by the school to the well-being of pupils. Within these provisions which came into effect in September, Ofsted looks at school meals as part of the being healthy strand of well-being. The starting point for this is the evidence provided in the school's self evaluation form. Ofsted will expect schools to present evidence about their general approach to food and healthy eating within the school as well as more specifically about the standard of school meals. Reports will highlight particular strengths and areas of concern.

In addition, Ofsted will undertake an initial thematic study this autumn covering a small sample of schools and LEAs which is intended to look in more detail at school meals and nutritional standards. The Department is working with the Department of Health, Food Standards Agency and Ofsted on the requirements for this review. This is expected to lead to a more detailed study the following year to coincide with the planned implementation of the new nutritional standards.

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will review the length of the lunch break in (a) primary schools and (b) secondary schools to take account of the recommendations of the School Meals Review Panel. [18689]

Jacqui Smith: The Department does not prescribe how long schools should take for their lunch break. There are no current plans to change this arrangement. We will consider the implications of the consultation responses to the School Meals Review Panel's recommendations in due course.

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