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31 Oct 2005 : Column 818W—continued

Gershon Review

Mr. Francois: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what progress has been made, in terms of (a) headcount reductions and (b) cost savings, in achieving the efficiency objectives set for the Department by the Gershon review. [21290]

Bill Rammell: Progress was reported in Budget 2005 and in the departmental annual report. Further progress will be reported in the autumn performance report and at an aggregate level in the pre-Budget report.

Mr. Francois: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills who in the Department has been made responsible for achieving the efficiency objectives set for the Department by the Gershon review. [21307]

Bill Rammell: The Secretary of State is responsible for the overall delivery of the department's efficiency programme.

Government Veterinary Service

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps she is taking to ensure that there are sufficient trained vets to staff the Government Veterinary Service. [19217]

Mr. Bradshaw: I have been asked to reply.

The State Veterinary Service's resources and work demands are reviewed regularly.

The number of vets employed by the State Veterinary Service will vary from time to time. The State Veterinary Service also engages Local Veterinary Inspectors and Temporary Veterinary Inspectors to act on its behalf as required.

In the event of a very large outbreak of exotic disease, Defra would rapidly ramp up veterinary resource as detailed in paragraphs 3.73–3.76 of the Exotic Disease generic Contingency Plan. The first call would be on vets within other Government Departments and agencies such as the Veterinary Laboratories Agency.

Additional resource is available through the contingency local veterinary inspector arrangements. A scheme intended to provide about 100 private vets to support the 24 SVS Animal Health Divisional offices across England, Scotland and Wales is being introduced. They will be trained in emergency roles and procedures
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and can be called upon immediately to work in the local offices, providing veterinary advice in the event of an outbreak of exotic disease.

The Department also has the ability, through the International Animal Health Emergency Reserve arrangements, to call on vets and other technical experts from other signatory countries—Ireland, Canada, USA, New Zealand and Australia.

Grandparents (Child Care Arrangements)

Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills which Sure Start programmes are aimed directly at grandparents who are raising grandchildren full-time. [20262]

Beverley Hughes: We do not hold specific information on Sure Start activities aimed directly at grandparents who are raising grandchildren full-time. Sure Start programmes are inclusive to all parents and carers of young children. We know that grandparents in Sure Start catchment areas are accessing a range of services and activities through these early years settings. Many grandparents also volunteer to have an active role in the delivery of services and the management of their local Sure Start programme; for example by participating in local partnership boards and parent/carer forums.

Higher Education Colleges

Mr. Newmark: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will guarantee that the prioritisation of education for 16 to 19-year-olds will not affect (a) fee concessions and (b) service levels for those aged 60 who wish to study at higher education colleges in Essex. [21383]

Bill Rammell: I announced on 21 October our priorities for further education (FE) funding for the coming two years. These apply to FE colleges and other providers including higher education institutions delivering FE. The priorities will enable more 14 to 19-year-olds to stay on in education or training and improve their results, and will enable more adults of all ages without basic skills and qualifications to train to join the work force. The funding changes do not affect the existing arrangements whereby my Department funds free tuition, on publicly funded courses, for all older learners on income based benefits such as income support, housing and council tax benefits and those receiving the pension (guarantee) credit. I expect a wide range of adult learning to continue to be available and we will maintain funding for Personal and Community Development Learning with £210 million set aside from 2006/07.

My Department does not set the detail of provision at local level. Working with the Learning and Skills Council, FE colleges as independent bodies retain discretion to decide on additional fee concessions and within the resources provided and agreed priorities will deliver provision to best meet the needs of local communities.
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Information-sharing Protocols

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will list local authorities which have final information-sharing protocols in place for dealing with children. [18993]

Beverley Hughes: The Green Paper Every Child Matters", published in September 2003, required local authorities to meet nine minimum requirements in relation to information sharing. These included putting in place information sharing protocols, covering health, education and social care; and to have them in development with other agencies providing services to children and young people by March 2004. All 150 top-tier local authorities were provided with funding in the financial year 2003–04 to meet these requirements.

Independent research by Royal Holloway, University of London, reported that by March 2004, 87 (65 per cent.) authorities had met the requirement. 29 (22 per cent.) of authorities were assessed as being 'well ahead' because they had protocols that were signed by health, education, social care and other agencies. 43 (32 per cent.) authorities were assessed as being a 'bit behind' when protocols had yet to be agreed at a high level.

Acknowledging the challenge in meeting the requirements to the original deadline, we allowed local authorities to carry over unspent funds into the financial year 2004–05. We commissioned Royal Holloway to do a further check on authorities in July 2004, which indicated that significant progress had been made. At this point, less than 10 per cent. were identified as 'a bit behind'.

We have not made any subsequent detailed checks on authorities about whether they have met the requirements and have no plans to do so. We continue to encourage local authorities to develop effective information sharing arrangements and, partly in response to calls from local authorities, we plan to provide them with non-statutory guidance on information sharing across all children's services early in the new year.

Intelligent Design

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many schools in England teach a course in which intelligent design forms a unit. [22201]

Jacqui Smith: Intelligent design does not form part of any programme of study in the national curriculum. In science pupils should be taught at Key Stage 4 how scientific controversies can arise from different ways of interpreting empirical evidence [for example, Darwin's theory of evolution]". Although it is possible that intelligent design could be raised in this context, controversies need to be scientific in order to meet national curriculum requirements.

Intelligent design may be taught in religious education lessons as a religious interpretation of how the world was created. All religious education syllabuses are devised by local authorities, so statistics are not held centrally.
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Key Stage Tests

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what proportion of secondary schools teach food technology at Key Stage 3. [17951]

Jacqui Smith: The Department does not collect this information centrally. However, each year the Design and Technology Association publishes an annual survey of schools. The results for 2004–05 suggest that 90 per cent. of schools offer food technology at Key Stage 3.

National Care Leavers Week

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what action her Department (a) carried out and (b) sponsored to mark National Care Leavers Week; and if she will consider ways to involve hon. Members in future years. [22618]

Maria Eagle: I am grateful for the opportunity provided by National Care Leavers Week to confirm my Department's commitment to continue to improve outcomes for looked after children and care leavers. I have sent a message giving my support to the reception to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Children (Leaving Care) Act, which took place on the 27 October, as part of the week's events.

National Care Leavers' Week is an annual awareness campaign run and supported by a coalition of charities and I am sure that the organisers would welcome the opportunity to involve hon. Members in future years.

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