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In addition to our strategy for improving attendance outlined in my previous reply, my Department has introduced a range of measures to promote parental responsibility for school attendance. These include supportive parenting contracts, compulsory parenting orders, penalty fines and prosecution. We are working with 146 secondary schools with high levels of persistent truancy, and a further 293 secondary schools with high levels of absence, to tackle persistent truancy by providing advice and effective practice. We are working with the 265 secondary schools in pathfinder partnerships to improve behaviour and tackle persistent truancy.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment she has made of the impact of parental education levels upon under-achievement (a) nationally and (b) by children from low socio-economic backgrounds. 
The Department funds the Centre for Research on the Wider Benefits of Learning (WBL) which produced a report and developed a model of the inter-generational transmission of educational success in 2004. The WBL report concluded that
These other factors include pre-school, neighbourhoods and schools which can mitigate or offset the impact of family level factors in a substantial way. Parental beliefs, values, aspirations and attitudes, as well as parental well-being, have an independent effect on pupil attainment. Parental skills in terms of warmth, discipline and education behaviours are all major factors in the formation of school success. These behaviours can be adopted by parents no matter what their background. (http://www.learningbenefits.net/Publications/ResReps/ResRep10.pdf).
Another influential report commissioned by the Department and published in 2003 reviewed a large number of studies on the impact of parental involvement, parental support and parental education on pupil achievement. The review confirmed the importance of maternal education on child outcomes. However, the authors noted that when effects such as parental education and income were controlled the findings show that what parents do is as important as who they are:
parental involvement in the form of 'at-home good parenting' has a significant positive effect on children's achievement and adjustment even after all other factors shaping attainment have been taken out of the equation".
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps are being taken by her Department to improve the education and skills of parents of children from low socio-economic backgrounds. 
We aim to support such parents through the development of Sure Start with 3,500 children's centres planned by 2010. All centres will provide information, advice and support for parents. Those in the most disadvantaged areas will provide more intensive programmes of family support and parental outreach. These services can help parents to access the wide range of courses in further and adult education designed to help people attain the platform of employability through improving their language, literacy and numeracy skills and studying for a full level 2 qualification (equivalent to five GCSEs at A*-C). Help is also available through family learning programmes funded by the Learning and Skills Council with budgets in 2005/06 of £37 million. As part of this, extended schools can offer family learning sessions to enable children and parents to learn alongside each other. Adults from low socio-economic groups, including parents, are already eligible for a wide
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range of support to improve their skills, including full fee remission for those on means-tested benefits. The Government's Skills Strategy will roll out implementation of further targeted support for adults to improve their skills, including the level 2 entitlement which gives free tuition for a first full level 2 qualification.
Early intervention to support very young children and families to lay the foundations for later successnot just in education, but in supporting the welfare of the whole child, carrying through into better services for all children and young people;
A continuing drive to ensure that every child leaves primary school with the basics in reading, writing and maths; and an enjoyment of learning, built through an enriched curriculum including the arts, music, sport and a foreign language;
The Department remains committed to creating a system of education that allows all children to achieve, regardless of family circumstances. For example our recent White Paper Higher Standards, Better Schools for All" sets out reforms to improve our school system and encourage greater personalisation, enabling all children to achieve. Curriculum reform is important too. The White Paper 1419 Education and Skills sets out how we will build a system of 1419 education to enable every child to reach their potential by providing better vocational routes; ensuring that all young people have a sound grounding in English and Maths and the skills they need for employment; and providing a stretching curriculum for all while re-engaging the disaffected.
We continue to analyse the impact of socio-economic factors upon under-achievement. Following the publication by the Department of the paper Has the Social Class Gap Narrowed in Primary Schools" in July (IPPR/2005), further analysis will be carried out over the coming months. In particular, we will look at key stages 1, 3 and 4, to the extent that data for these phases can be tracked over time on a comparable basis.
Tackling poverty and exclusion is well embedded in the Department for Education and Skills policies. Through our Five Year Strategy for Children
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and Learners" (July 2004), we are committed to giving children and families the best possible start in life, reducing the number of young people who leave school with low qualifications and providing opportunities through widening participation for the number of young adults with low and poor skills.
DfES policies place particular emphasis on tackling child poverty and investing in high quality early years services because we know that this improves outcomes for children and that those benefits are greatest for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Many of these programmes, including Sure Start local programmes, neighbourhood nurseries and the early children's centres, are concentrated in the most disadvantaged areas. By promoting children's development, supporting parents and helping build strong local communities, early years provision particularly tackles deprivation and social exclusion by benefiting vulnerable families and disadvantaged neighbourhoods.
We recognise, though, that the life chances of children and young people are still strongly determined by their parents' background. Through the recently published Schools White Paper we aim to break completely the cycle that makes under-achievement (and not 'lack of ability') and low expectations a regular hand-me-down from parent to child.
Well-organised, safe and stimulating activities before and after school make a real difference to children's chances at school. We have committed additional funding to support the development of extended services in schools by making approximately £160 million of funding available to local authorities since 2003 and we will be making a further £680 million available from 200608. Deprivation levels will be a factor in distributing funding.
The 1419 White Paper sets out our priorities for those aged 1419, including new opportunities for young people to enjoy new styles of learning, in different settings and with more opportunities for practical and applied learning. Those at most risk of dropping out will get extra support, including progression. Financial support and a number of learner support funds will be available for those who need it.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what efforts are being made to (a) reduce the rate of exclusion and (b) improve the provision of alternative education when excluded to children from low socio-economic backgrounds. 
Jacqui Smith: The Department is putting in place a range of measures to reduce the rate of exclusion of pupils from school, including that of children from low socio-economic backgrounds. In particular, since 2002 the Department's Improving Behaviour and Attendance Programme has provided all schools with high-quality guidance and training materials on managing behaviour, backed by advice from expert teachers; and has targeted extra resources on schools facing the greatest challenges, particularly those in disadvantaged areas.
In addition, by September 2007 we expect all secondary schools to be part of a partnership to improve behaviour and attendance. Partnerships will have funding devolved from their local authorities to enable
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them to commission a range of support and provision for pupils at risk of exclusion, persistent truants and excluded pupils. Evidence from existing partnerships shows that they are effective in reducing the rate of exclusion.
Head teachers will have a direct interest in ensuring that the alternative provision available to partnerships is of good quality and is value for money, whether this is provided by a pupil referral unit or is contracted externally. We are committed to developing a more vibrant, diverse and effective alternative provision market. Over the next six months we shall be carrying out a survey of alternative provision to establish a clear picture of the provision that is available and whether it meets the needs of pupils. This information will help us to guide school partnerships, and enable them to commission and procure good quality, effective, and value for money provision that suits the needs of their pupils
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment she has made of the impact of exclusion upon educational under-achievement (a) nationally and (b) by children from low socio-economic backgrounds. 
Jacqui Smith: Departmental data shows that schools with higher levels of permanent exclusions tend to have lower levels of attainment and that young people who have been excluded from school also have lower levels of attainment. For example, only one in five young people who was reported as having been excluded from school in years 10 or 11, permanently or for a fixed period, achieved 5 A*-C GCSEs compared to almost three in five young people who had not been excluded. However, a direct causal link between exclusion and attainment has not been established.
As well as having lower levels of attainment, in general schools with higher rates of permanent exclusion also tend to have higher percentages of pupils who are eligible for free school meals. However, there is a lot of variation at individual school level. Data from the Department for Work and Pensions shows that children who have been temporarily excluded from school are more likely to come from lone-parent families or from families where both parents are working less than 15 hours per week.
In the recently published White Paper, Higher Standards, Better Schools For All", we committed to requiring schools and local authorities to provide suitable full-time education for all excluded pupils from the sixth day of their exclusion, rather than from the sixteenth day as at present. This should help to raise levels of attainment among excluded pupils.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment she has made of the impact of truancy upon under-achievement (a) nationally and (b) by children from low socio-economic backgrounds. 
Analyses of national data show that there is a correlation between both authorised and unauthorised absences from school and pupils' levels of achievement. On average, pupils in schools with lower
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levels of absence tend to perform better at key stage 2, key stage 3 and GCSE than pupils in schools with higher levels of absence.
Analyses of national data also show links between higher levels of pupils in receipt of free school meals and higher levels of absence. Recent research on behalf of the Department by the National Foundation for Educational Research An analysis of pupil attendance data in Excellence in Cities areas and non-EiC EAZs: final report" reports that the highest levels of attainment at key stage 3 and GCSE, once all other pupil characteristics, prior attainment and school variables were taken into account, were associated with, among other things, pupils who lived in areas of relatively less deprivation compared with the cohort. On average, these pupils also tended to have fewer absences from school than other pupils in the cohort.
The associations identified do not in themselves prove that there is a direct causal relationship between pupils' absences and their attainment. However, we believe that every pupil should attend school regularly if they are to achieve their full potential and our strategy aims to reduce the overall level of absences from school, including those due to persistent truancy.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment she has made of the impact of the introduction of university top up fees upon the educational performance of children from low socio-economic backgrounds. 
Bill Rammell: The new student support arrangements are designed to protect and support students from lower socio-economic groups. The new package abolishes up-front costs; makes generous provision of grants and bursaries for students from low-income families; offers extended subsidised loans; and increases the repayment threshold.
Analysis by PwC 1 shows that, once the timing of the payments are taken account of, for many students the average net effect of these changes is to increase the financial benefits to a degree. We expect that those from lower socio-economic groups will benefit the most, being more likely to receive grants and bursaries.
Concern about debt is a significant factor in making HE choices. However this is just one of many issues that people weigh-up in coming to their participation decision, and the new reforms should offer peace of mind by removing up-front tuition costs and only requiring repayments when earning £15,000 or more.
We are providing schools with increasingly sophisticated data to help them measure the progress of their pupils. This includes being able to compare the achievement of pupils taking account of contextual factors including deprivation and prior attainment and against the achievement of similar schools in the top quartile of performance nationally.
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School improvement partners will help schools to interpret this data, focusing particularly on groups of pupils that are falling behind and the best ways to help them. The Primary and Secondary National Strategies and other initiatives will continue to provide schools with advice, guidance and a range of targeted support.
Jacqui Smith: Teachers who fail to perform satisfactorily are monitored and supported by their employers, either through continuing professional development or, if necessary, in accordance with locally agreed capability procedures. Where teachers fail to improve to a satisfactory standard, they may be dismissed or moved to more suitable duties. Teachers dismissed on capability grounds are reported to the General Teaching Council which may require certain conditions of them, including retraining, to retain their registration.
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