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Part-Time Students

Mr. Holloway: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what steps her Department is taking to encourage greater numbers of part-time students; [22690]

(2) if she will make a statement on financial support for part-time students. [22691]

Bill Rammell: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne) on 27 October 2005, Official Report, columns 478–79W.

School Absence

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the latest figures for authorised and unauthorised absence for (a) primary schools and (b) secondary schools showing the number of children absent for at least one half day session and the proportion of children of school age in that constituency who have been absent for at least one half day session are, broken down by constituency. [18202]

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

School Admissions

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will take steps to ensure that appeals on school admissions are dealt with in an efficient and timely manner; [22187]

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Mr. Holloway: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will take steps to ensure that appeals on school admissions are dealt with efficiently and quickly. [22706]

Jacqui Smith: The School Admission Appeals Code of Practice advises that appeal hearings should be held within a reasonable time—normally within 30 school days of an appeal being made or, for appeals made during the normal admissions round, within 30 school days of the specified closing date for the receipt of appeals. All admission authorities must have regard to this advice.

School Construction

Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will make a statement on the three-year role for the rolling accumulation of capital funds for new build projects for schools. [22224]

Jacqui Smith: All maintained schools in England receive an annual allocation of devolved formula capital to invest in their local priorities. By 2008–09, a typical secondary school will receive £113,000 a year and a typical primary school £34,000. Schools may have investment needs such as larger building projects that cannot be fully supported with a single year's allocation and therefore, so that schools can build up funding for them, our guidance includes that this money can be rolled-over for up to three years. Also, where there is local agreement with their authorities, schools may be able to draw down future years' allocations so that they get early benefit of the investment.

School Places (Appeals)

Mr. Newmark: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many parental appeals were made against the allocation of school places in Braintree constituency in each year since 1997; and how many were upheld. [21806]

Jacqui Smith: The requested information is not available for all schools in Braintree constituency because admission appeals data for community and voluntary controlled schools are provided at local authority level. The available information for Essex local authority is given in the table.
Maintained primary and secondary schools: appeals by parents against non-admission of their childrenEach academic year: 1997/98 to 2003/04: Essex local authority

Maintained primary
Number of appealsAppeals heard
Appeals decided in
parents' favour

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Maintained secondary
Number of appealsAppeals heard
Appeals decided in
parents' favour

(38) Number of appeals heard by a committee expressed as a percentage of the number of appeals lodged by parents.
(39) Number of appeals decided in parents' favour expressed as a percentage of the number of appeals heard by a committee.
Annual Schools' Census and Admission Appeals Survey

School Playing Fields

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many state school playing fields have been sold since 1997. [21060]

Jacqui Smith: Prior to October 1998, there was no regulation of the sale of school playing fields at local authority controlled schools. If a local authority wanted to sell a school playing field there was nothing to stop it and it could spend the proceeds as it wished.

Section 77 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 was introduced in October 1998 to stop the indiscriminate sale of school playing fields. Local authorities and governing bodies of all maintained schools now need the Secretary of State's consent before they can dispose of a playing field or any part of a playing field. Section 77 defines playing field as land in the open air which is provided for the purposes of physical education or recreation.

All applications received since 16 July 2001 have been scrutinised by the independent School Playing Fields Advisory Panel, which comprises representatives from the National Playing Fields Association, the Central Council of Physical Recreation, Learning through Landscapes, the National Association of Head Teachers and the Local Government Association. The panel provides advice on the extent to which applications meet the published criteria.

Since 1997, 166 applications to sell an area of school playing field capable of being used for at least a small sports pitch have been approved. Of these approvals, 70 have been at closed school sites. Of the 96 disposals at operating schools, the proceeds of sale have been used to improve on-site sports facilities at 69 of these schools. In the other 27 cases the sale proceeds have been used to improve educational facilities.

Special Educational Needs

Mr. Holloway: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment she has made of the impact of the closure of special schools on overall provision of special education. [19817]

Maria Eagle: A targeted review of the role of special schools was carried out in 2003 which resulted in the Report of the Special Schools Working Group: the majority of the report's recommendations were subsequently embodied in the Department's SEN
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Strategy—Removing Barriers to Achievement". We believe special schools have an important role to play within the overall spectrum of provision for children with SEN—both through direct provision and through sharing their expertise with mainstream schools.

Under the Education Act 1996, local authorities are under a duty to secure sufficient schools for pupils in their area and in doing so must have particular regard to the need to secure special educational provision. Ofsted inspects the quality of educational provision for children with SEN, including specialist provision. Within this framework how provision is organised is a matter for local decision, and for that reason, Government plays no role in relation to local authority school reorganisations or in respect of decisions to close schools.

Student Finance

Mr. Nicholas Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what financial support is available for a graduate who has completed an undergraduate degree and wishes to undertake a second undergraduate degree as a foundation to a professional qualification. [18154]

Bill Rammell: Graduate students who wish to undertake a second undergraduate degree leading to a professional qualification, for example in medicine, veterinary medicine, architecture or a similar field can apply for a maintenance loan.

From September 2006 we will be introducing revised rules for determining what support should be available to students who have previously undertaken higher education courses. These new provisions will not alter the treatment of graduate students undertaking a second undergraduate degree leading to a professional qualification. As is the case under current rules, such students will not be eligible for fee support, or for the new grants that we have introduced. However, they will continue to qualify for the maintenance loan.

Graduates undertaking a four year accelerated medical or dental course are eligible for bursary support from the NHS from the second year of the course, and the NHS also pays the fees from the second year onwards. Where bursary support is available students will qualify for a reduced rate loan.

Mr. Cameron: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills when the decision was taken to set the cut-off date for those exempt from paying university tuition fees at 1 August. [19699]

Bill Rammell: There is no such cut off date or exemption from paying university tuition fees.

However it is the case that under section 25 of the Higher Education Act 2004, students that have received an offer before 1 August 2005 for entry to a course that starts before 1 September 2007 may not be charged more in tuition fees than the basic amount, which is set at £1,200 for the 2006/07 academic year.

The 1 August date was put into the Higher Education Act by an amendment carried in the House of Lords on 8 June 2004, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth.
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Mr. Holloway: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the total value of outstanding student loans at the end of 2004–05 was in (a) England and (b) Gravesham. [19815]

Bill Rammell: Provisional data from the Student Loans Company show the student loan amount outstanding (including loans not yet due for repayment) for publicly-owned debt in England at the end of financial year 2004–05 was £13,023.1 million. Data are not available at constituency level.

Data at a UK level are published annually in a Statistical First Release, the latest in the series being SLC SFR 02/2005 which is available at

Mr. Holloway: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what provisions are made for British citizens taken to live abroad as children who want to return to study at universities in England and receive student loans. [19820]

Bill Rammell: From 2006/07 all EU nationals, and this includes British nationals living abroad, will be entitled to tuition fee loans provided they have resided in the European Economic Area or Switzerland throughout the three years immediately preceding the start of the academic year in which their course commences. However, these students are not entitled to loans for living costs.

Apart from closely defined exceptions, to be eligible for student loans for living costs in addition to student loans for fees (from 2006/07), a British national must have been ordinarily resident in the UK and Islands (the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) throughout the three years immediately preceding the first day of the first academic year of the course and ordinarily resident in England on this date. A British national whose residence in the UK and Islands during the three year period was wholly or mainly for the purpose of receiving full time education is not considered to have satisfied the ordinary residence requirement—unless they have exercised a right of free movement within the European Economic Area and were ordinarily resident in the European Economic Area (including the UK) immediately prior to the three year period.

An exception is made where the three year residence requirement cannot be satisfied because the applicant or their parents have been temporarily employed or absent abroad. This provides flexibility where British nationals are not able to meet the residence requirements but have not made a long term decision to live outside the country.

British nationals may indeed meet the temporary absence provisions, dependent upon their individual circumstances and they and their families would then be eligible for the full range of student support, including, student loans for fees and maintenance. The term temporary is not defined in regulations. A statutory definition of the term could not reflect the range of circumstances under which students and their families may find themselves temporarily abroad. We believe the fairest approach is to allow local authorities to judge each case on its individual merits.
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A very specific exemption from the three year residence requirement applies to armed forces personnel and their families serving abroad as a result of their special situation because they are bound by military law to accept overseas postings.


The criterion of residence, rather than nationality, has been the principle of successive governments since it was introduced in the 1960's. We believe this remains a fair requirement which clearly demonstrates a substantial residential connection with the UK and recognises an economic contribution to the country. If a person lives abroad on a long term basis, it is not reasonable they should expect support for higher education, through subsidised loans, from public funds in the same way as students who reside in this country.

There are also a number of other carefully defined exceptions where a student may receive support without satisfying the normal residence requirement. In order to comply with European Union legislation, designed to ensure the free movement of workers throughout the European Economic Area, UK nationals, their spouses, civil partner, children and stepchildren, who have been working elsewhere in the European Economic Area or Switzerland and have returned to take up employment in the UK are generally eligible for support as is they had not left the UK. In order to benefit from this provision they must have been ordinarily resident in the European Economic Area or Switzerland throughout the three years immediately preceding the start of their course.

The vast majority of British nationals who choose to live and work abroad do so at their own volition. Where this is short-term the temporary absence provisions will meet their needs and they will be eligible for student support.

It would be not be right to open up the student loan scheme to expatriates and other British passport holders who have lived and been educated in other parts of the world and have few connections with the UK.

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the (a) original intended and (b) actual (i) launch date and (ii) cost was of the Student Finance Direct website; who the principal contractors involved were; what payments were made to each one; what the (A) usage targets for and (B) actual usage of the website were in the first year of its operation; and how much was spent on promoting the website to students and future students. [20191]

Bill Rammell: The Student Finance Direct website was launched by the Student Loans Company in January 2003. The cost of the website alone cannot be given since it is an integral part of a much larger IT project. No specific targets were set for the use of the website, but it receives an estimated 1.5 million visits annually. Students and their sponsors can use the website to make on-line applications for student loans. No special activities were undertaken to promote the website or the on-line system, but references were included in our usual student finance promotional material. It is not possible to separate out the costs associated with adding these references but these would have been small.
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