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9 Nov 2005 : Column 588W—continued

Student Fees

Dr. McCrea: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on student fees for Northern Ireland students. [25776]

Angela E. Smith: Northern Ireland students entering higher education from the 2006–07 academic year will be charged tuition fees of up to £3,000 a year for higher education courses at institutions in England and Northern Ireland. In Scotland the proposed fee levels at Scottish institutions are £1,700 with the exception of
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medical courses which are proposed to be £2,700. In Wales, fees will be charged on the same basis as in England and Northern Ireland but from 2007–08. From 2006–07, all Northern Ireland domiciled students studying at institutions in the UK, will be able to defer payment by taking out a non-means tested loan which will not have to be repaid until after the student leaves higher education and is earning more than £15,000 per year.


Dr. Alasdair McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make Teriparatide available to patients in Northern Ireland suffering from osteoporosis. [25524]

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Mr. Woodward: I refer the hon. Gentleman to my answer of 17 October 2005, Official Report, column 751W.


Sammy Wilson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how much each education and library board in the Province has paid to Translink in each of the last five years. [25770]

Angela E. Smith: The education and library boards have incurred the following expenditure in the last five years in relation to schools services provided by Translink:


Vacant Teaching Posts

Sammy Wilson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many vacant teaching posts there were within each education and library board in the Province in 1997. [25797]

Angela E. Smith: This information is not held by the Department of Education nor by the relevant employing authorities, and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Water Charges

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what sum he originally budgeted to receive in 2006–07 from water charges. [25840]

Angela E. Smith: In considering public expenditure allocations for 2006–07, in the course of the Priorities and Budget 2005–08 process, it was estimated that the revenue from the phased introduction of water and sewerage charges, on 1 April 2006, would be between £50 million and £80 million for that year Reflecting the uncertainty regarding the final amount, the lower amount, £50 million, was factored into public expenditure allocations for 2006–07.


Careers Advice

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what arrangements are made to provide careers advice for those who leave higher education without completing their courses. [25745]

Bill Rammell: All Higher Education (HE) Careers Advisory Services, which are funded by institutions themselves, offer some level of information, advice and guidance (IAG) to students who are considering leaving their courses before completion. Institutions determine the level of provision to offer, taking account of funding and resource levels in their careers service, and also the specific circumstances of each discontinuing student.

HE Careers Services work with other IAG services to ensure that students who are leaving their course are referred to the most appropriate source of help, including: Connexions for young people; the national learndirect" telephone and on-line advice service; and the local nextstep" information and advice service for adults. Other services such as counselling or financial advice are recommended if appropriate.

Alongside this, the Higher Education Funding Council for England provides higher education institutions with substantial funding—£282 million for 2005–06—to help universities give more support to students who may be at risk of leaving their courses before completion.

Childrens' Diets

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps the Government is taking to ensure young children are eating a well-balanced diet. [25187]

Jacqui Smith: The Department for Education and Skills announced a package of measures in March 2005 to improve school food and good progress has been made. Elements of the package include: (i) the School Meals Review Panel which published its report containing recommendations for new nutritional standards for school lunches. The consultation period runs until 31 December 2005 and finalised standards will be announced in the new year; (ii) an independent School Food Trust which is currently being set up to support schools making the transformation to healthy meals; (iii) the new Ofsted inspection framework which will expect schools to present evidence about their general approach to food and healthy eating; (iv) and from September 2005, the 'Healthy Schools'
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programme which has included healthy eating as a key element, which schools will need to address to reach the National Healthy Schools' standard.

The recently published 'Choosing Health White Paper' also sets out a number of actions to improve nutrition and physical activity levels, particularly among children and to reduce obesity.

Finally, the Department of Health's Food in Schools Toolkit provides guidance/resources to help schools deliver a whole school approach to healthier food and drink. A similar toolkit has recently been published by the Food Standards Agency for school Governors; and a Parents Toolkit has been published by the DfES.

Citizenship Education

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what steps she is taking to improve the quality of citizenship education in schools; [24385]

(2) what steps she is taking to ensure that staff teaching citizenship education have appropriate opportunities for continuing professional development. [24387]

Jacqui Smith [holding answer 3 November 2005]: Citizenship was made a statutory subject in the national curriculum for Key Stages 3 and 4 in 2002. We have introduced Initial Teacher Training in Citizenship and funded places for over 1,000 trainee teachers so far.

For existing teachers, we have developed a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) handbook which supports the development of effective teaching and learning in citizenship education. We are also developing a CPD certificate for the teaching of citizenship, which is currently being piloted in three areas.

In addition, we continue to support the Association for Citizenship Teaching and have developed a short course GCSE in Citizenship Studies which 38,000 pupils took in 2005, an increase of 10,000 over the previous year.

Community Schools

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills whether it is her policy that community schools should be allowed to be run by religious educational trusts. [27081]

Jacqui Smith: A community school could not acquire a religious character by acquiring a trust. In order for a school without a religious character to acquire such a character proposals must be published to close the school and to open a new school with a religious character in its place.

A school which did not have a religious character could acquire a trust which had some religious objects, as well as educational ones, but that trust could not affect the religious character of the school.

Disabled Students Allowance

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how long on average an individual waited when claiming the Disabled Students' Allowance from the point of application to the point of receiving the allowance in 2004–05. [26556]

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Bill Rammell: Applications are dealt with by local authorities and the information requested is not held centrally. The target turn round for all applications for student support is six weeks. Applications for Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs) tend to take longer because they involve a specialist assessment to determine course related needs. We do not set and monitor specific DSA processing times, but we have given advice to local authorities to prioritise DSA applications and speed up the referral process with the aim of achieving payment of DSA in advance of the start of term for those who need it, wherever possible.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what measures are being taken to reduce the time taken for an individual to receive the Disabled Students' Allowance. [26557]

Bill Rammell: Following a review of Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs) we changed DfES guidance to local authority awards officers for 2002/03 to allow disabled students to receive a DSA funded assessment of their course needs prior to the start of the course, so that arrangements could be made for their special support to be ready in time for the start of their course.

Currently over 35,000 students are receiving DSAs annually. We are not aware of any general problem of undue delays in the DSA assessment process but are always prepared to consider carefully further proposals for improving the speed and efficiency of administration.

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