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1 Nov 2005 : Column 1000W—continued

Lifelong Learning

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps her Department takes to promote lifelong learning among teachers. [23367]

Phil Hope: Our recent White Paper Higher Standards, Better Schools for All" set out our plans for a new professionalism" for teachers, in which career progression and financial rewards will go to those who make the biggest impact on pupil progress and who show commitment to their own professional development and that of their colleagues. A thorough reform of all teachers' professional standards, with more stretch at every level, will set out what can be expected of teachers at each stage in their career. Existing teacher appraisals will be replaced by teaching and learning reviews, which will help focus teachers on effective classroom practice and ensure that they are involved in effective professional development and, where this is appropriate, contributing to the professional development of others.


Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what percentage of sixth form colleges have a designated smoking area for students. [20795]

Bill Rammell: Sixth Form Colleges are part of the further education sector and are independent institutions responsible for their own health and safety policies. The Department does not hold information about colleges' smoking policies or their provision of designated smoking areas for students.

Special Educational Needs

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment she has made of the training requirements of the education workforce to equip them with the skills needed to improve attainment among pupils with special educational needs; and what estimate she has made of the costs of such a programme. [23945]

Maria Eagle: The National Standards for Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), and the Induction Standards for Newly Qualified Teachers, both cover special educational needs (SEN).
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In order to be awarded QTS, trainee teachers must demonstrate that they understand their responsibilities under the statutory SEN Code of Practice, know how to seek advice from specialists on less common types of SEN, can differentiate their teaching to meet the needs of pupils, including those with SEN, and can identify and support pupils who experience behavioural, emotional and social difficulties.

Induction standards require newly qualified teachers to demonstrate that they can plan effectively to meet the needs of pupils in their classes with SEN, with or without a statement and, in consultation with the SEN co-ordinator, can contribute to the preparation and implementation of individual education plans or the equivalent.

Once qualified, all teachers are expected to identify their development needs through performance management arrangements, and to address identified needs by undertaking appropriate professional development. This includes strengthening SEN knowledge.

All schools receive a school development grant which they are able to use to support improvements in any aspect of teaching and learning. Local authorities may retain a proportion of this grant, under certain conditions, to provide specific training and development of SEN.

The Department's published SEN Strategy, Removing Barriers to Achievement" recognised the importance of training and committed us to work closely with the Training and Development Agency for Schools to ensure that initial teacher training and programmes of continuing professional development provide a good grounding in core skills and knowledge of SEN. We have commissioned the TDA to carry forward a range of initiatives designed to improve and strengthen the SEN skills and confidence of trainees, newly qualified and established teachers. These initiatives will be implemented over the period 2005–08 at a cost of approximately £1.1 million.

Support staff, including teaching assistants, also play an important role in schools, often working closely with pupils with SEN and disabilities. In recognition of this, the TDA also now has responsibility for support staff training and development. The National Occupational Standards for Teaching/Classroom Assistants contains elements relevant to working with pupils with SEN or particular educational needs. The TDA will be reviewing these standards as part of its new responsibilities. Induction training materials on SEN for teaching assistants working in both primary and secondary schools are available, as is introductory training for other support staff, which contains a discrete module covering inclusion, SEN and disabilities. The standards for higher level teaching assistants (HLTAs), for which the IDA is also responsible, require HLTAs to know the legal definition of SEN and be familiar with guidance about meeting SEN given in the SEN code of practice. HLTAs also promote and support the inclusion of all pupils in learning activities.
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Star Awards

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) pursuant to the letter concerning Star Awards from the Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education dated July 2005, and the correction letter of 2 August 2005, who the contractor who caused the distribution error was; what steps have been taken to ensure that the error is not paid for from public funds; and if she will make a statement; [23220]

(2) pursuant to the letter dated July 2005, concerning Star Awards from the Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education, what the estimated cost of the error was; and how much was accounted for by (a) stationery, (b) postage, (c) staffing costs and (d) other costs. [23221]

Bill Rammell: The contractor that caused the distribution error was Prolog.

The estimated total cost of rectifying the error was £500, most of which related to DfES staff time. Prolog has compensated my Department with this amount As a result of this incident, I instructed my officials that in future contractors should not be used to despatch letters signed by Ministers, unless agreed in advance. In these cases, additional checks will be carried out prior to despatch.

University Admissions

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment she has made of the impact post-qualification university applications will have on the Government's 50 per cent. target for university entry. [23218]

Bill Rammell: The consultation on higher education applications is primarily about increasing fairness in the system. It argues that an improved application system may encourage some students to apply who otherwise would not have considered higher education as a destination, but it does not attempt to quantify any increase in applicant numbers. Instead, we have put forward a number of important proposals for reform that are driven by a shared desire to make the higher education application system fairer for all students. They do this by giving applicants better information about their higher education options so that they make better targeted applications; by not basing admissions decisions on predicted examination grades, more than half of which are wrong; and through an extended system to allow students whose results are better than expected to apply to other institutions or courses with the safety net of their conditionally offered places to fall back on if necessary. The consultation explains that it is possible to introduce such reforms by 2008–09 and that they might pave the way for a further reformed system of post-qualification applications in the longer term.

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment she has made of the recent proposals from the Secondary Heads Association regarding post-qualification university applications; and if she will make a statement. [23219]

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Bill Rammell: A commission of the Secondary Heads Association (SHA) published a report in November 2004 that found the reasons for a system of post-qualification applications to higher education overwhelming". That report was a timely one, coming just as Sir Alan Wilson was beginning his work to consider how a post-qualification application system might be implemented. Three members of the SHA group that had prepared that report sat on Sir Alan's national Consultation Group that was prominent in helping to develop the present proposals for reform. Sir Alan's report, which forms the current consultation document, acknowledges fully the SHA work and adopts some of its rationale for post-qualification applications and in particular the practical concept of the two-stage approach which is described in detail in the consultation document.

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