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To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many people have (a) begun and
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(b) successfully completed apprenticeships related to the construction industry in each of the last five years for which records are available. 
Bill Rammell: Figures for those starting and successfully completing apprenticeships in construction funded by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) derive from the Individual Learner Record (ILR). This was collated for the first time in 2001/02 (as an Interim ILR) and comparable figures are only available for the three years from then. Results for 2004/05 are scheduled for publication in December 2005.
|Apprenticeships at level 2||11,900||14,100||17,100|
|Totalany framework or NVQ||19,600||20,400||22,900|
| Framework (x)|| NVQ only (y)||NVQ successes (x + y)||Total leavers|
|Advanced apprenticeships 2001/02||2,700||(38)||1,10015||(15)||3,800||(53)||7,200|
|Advanced apprenticeships 2002/03||1,600||(30)||1,200||(21)||2,800||(51)||5,400|
|Advanced apprenticeships 2003/04||1,400||(27)||1,700||(32)||3,100||(59)||5,200|
|Apprenticeships at level 2 2001/02||1,700||(24)||800||(12)||2,600||(36)||7,100|
|Apprenticeships at level 2 2002/03||1,400||(18)||1,200||(15)||2,600||(32)||8,100|
|Apprenticeships at level 2 2003/04||2,700||(25)||1,400||(13)||4,200||(38)||10,900|
|NVQ training 2001/02||||||1,800||(35)||||||5,100|
|NVQ training 2002/03||||||1,300||(32)||||||4,200|
|NVQ training 2003/04||||||600||(45)||||||1,400|
|Totalany framework or NVQ 200102||||||8,200||||||(42)||19,400|
|Totalany framework or NVQ 200203||||||6,700||||||(38)||17,700|
|Totalany framework or NVQ 200304||||||7,900||||||(45)||17,500|
Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills which hon. Members met (a) the Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education and (b) the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Skills to discuss further education in response to the invitation issued on 21 June 2005. 
Bill Rammell: The hon. Members listed accepted an invitation to attend the open meetings with the Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education on 23 June 2005 and with the Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Skills on 28 June 2005. No formal record was made of attendance at the meetings.
Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will take steps to enable further education colleges to retain funding for students who have withdrawn from courses; and if she will make a statement. 
Bill Rammell: Further education funding recognises the benefits to learners in completing their planned studies and the Learning and Skills Council's (LSC) funding methodology rewards institutions with higher retention rates. The LSC's agenda for change funding reform proposals include a simpler and less bureaucratic method of recognizing retention in calculating funding. I have no plans to ask the LSC to remove consideration of retention as a funding principle.
The Geography Focus Group, formed in 2004, is looking at ways to improve the teaching and learning of geography. Its remit covers both primary and secondary geography and the transition into higher education. The letter of invitation to Group members
21 Oct 2005 : Column 1254W
sent by the Royal Geographical Society and Geographical Association on behalf of the previous Secretary of State set out that
"He is very keen that the Department gets a much stronger focus on subjects and has sought the assistance of our two organisations in doing so. Clearly this has to go hand in hand with wider policies which go across the education sector, but the need is recognised to strengthen teaching and learning within each subject, and to give teachers opportunities to pursue their own subject knowledge and pedagogic development.
In geography, there are some challenging questions. For example, what is the unique contribution of geography to a broad and balanced education? How can we get the balance right between a solid knowledge base and well developed enquiry skills? What should young people have acquired by the age of 14, and beyond? What factors are currently impeding our progress? How can we foster the important contribution of geography to the sustainable development and international agendas?"
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