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Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps the Government is taking to ensure all staff working in (a) schools and (b) other children's services receive sufficient and suitable training to equip them to work with children with autism. [29258]

Jacqui Smith: I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given on 3 November 2005, Official Report, column 1309W, in response to her earlier question on minimum training standards for people who work with autistic children.

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 knowledge of special educational
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needs. 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, which of course covers a wide range of conditions, including autism.

We have commissioned the IDA 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—2008 at a cost of approximately £1.1 million. The TDA will be reviewing its Standards, as part of its new responsibilities for the school work force, and the Department will feed in to that process.

On the wider children's services front, we have developed the Common Core of Skills and Knowledge to support and focus professional development in the children's work force, including those working for private and voluntary sector. It also covers those working with disadvantaged children as well as those with a disability. The Common Core sets out the areas of expertise that everyone working with children, young people and families (including those who work as volunteers) should be able to demonstrate. It sets out the skills and knowledge that, if accredited, could form the basis of a minimum competence for working with children, young people and their families.

There is funding available under the National Training Strategy Grant and Human Resources Development Strategy through local authorities and other organisations, for a number of initiatives to support social work, education and training, provide financial support to students and strengthen the social work and social care work force (with children and adults). It would be appropriate for some of this to be used for training for those in children's services working with children with autism, but the Government does not specify a proportion that has to be used in this way.

Basic Skills Agency

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment she has made of the performance of the Basic Skills Agency; what funding it has received since 1997; and if she will make a statement. [28302]

Phil Hope: The Basic Skills Agency (BSA) has received a total of £52 million in core grant funding since the 1996–97 financial year. The agency has also received additional funding for fixed term initiatives and contracts.

The BSA as a 'near to Government body', was subject to a quinquennial review in 2001. The review reported positively that BSA was making

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and that there was

The Department for Education and Skills regularly reviews the Agency's performance and is responsible for approving the BSA's strategic plan and annual delivery plan. DfES continues to work closely with the BSA on the delivery of its current three-year strategic plan and annual delivery plan, which is supported by DfES core funding. BSA's performance is reviewed each month against their delivery plan and their core grant is paid on the basis of this assessment.

Children's Organisations

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills which children's organisations the Minister for Children has met since May. [28250]

Beverley Hughes: In my ministerial capacity, I have met a wide range of organisations which represent the interests of children, young peoples and families, and have also visited a large number of local projects and spoken at a wide range of events. My colleague, Maria Eagle, Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Children, Young People and Families, has also met a wide range of organisations. National level organisations that have been represented at meetings with me, since May, include:

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Martin Horwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps the Department takes to ensure that consultancies do not claim excessive expenses while working for her Department and its agencies. [29102]

Bill Rammell: My Department has effective financial controls in place, and follows HM Treasury Government Accounting 2000" guidelines on the responsibilities of Accounting Officers.
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My Department also uses 'model' contracts for Consultancy which contain specific clauses and guidance to ensure that Departmental limits are applied to consultancy expenses claims. In addition to this the Departments policy is to ensure that invoices are thoroughly checked for propriety and value for money.

Departmental Engagements

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the Minister for Children's departmental engagements have been since 1 September. [28251]

Beverley Hughes: My external departmental engagements from 1 September to 11 November are listed as follows:
1 September 2005Metropolitan Police Child Abuse Command, London
2 September 2005Parent Partnership, Beechwood Family Support, Watford
7 September 2005Michael SIEFF Foundation Conference Every Young Person Matters"
8 September 2005Milton Keynes, Round Table discussion with Children's services partners
Galley Hill Education Centre, Milton Keynes
9 September 2005Health Inequalities Conference, Manchester
Benchill Play centre, Manchester
21 September 2005Early Childhood Forum, London Children's Workforce Network, London
23 September 2005Chester Youth Forum, Chester
27 September 2005RU-OK? (Young people' substance abuse project), Brighton
30 September 2005Brook Advisory Centre, Manchester
3 October 2005Harpurhey Centre, North Manchester Sixth Form College, Manchester
Grange Community Resource Centre, Manchester
URBIS—Museum of Urban life, Manchester
Manchester Town Hall, Manchester
4 0ctober 2005Saltash college, Cornwall
Estover Community College
Devon Children's Trust—Roundtable discussion with Children's Services partners, Exeter
5 October 2005Bideford Sure Start Children's Centre, Cornwall
Flashpoint Life Skills Centre, Cornwall
Bodmin SHARE information and advice service, Cornwall
7 October 2005Bridehill Sure Start Children's Centre, Stockport
Stepping Hill Hospital Birth Centre, Stockport
10 October 2005Roundtable discussion with Children's Services partners, Hull
11 October 2005Coram Family, London
Local Government Association Youth Matters conference
Reception for childminders and pre-school teachers in Enfield, House of Commons
12 October 2005Teenage Magazine Arbitration Panel, Holborn
13 October 2005ACPO Youth Justice Conference, Belfast
19 October 2005Paediatrics and Child Health Conference, London
IPPR Active Fatherhood project launch, London
20 October 2005DfES Social Enterprise Seminar, London
21 October 2005LGA/ADSS Conference, Birmingham
NFPI Parents Consultation event, Old Trafford
25 October 2005NPQICL Graduation Ceremony
26 October 2005BAAF Private Fostering Reception, House of Commons
31 October 2005Whitby High Schools, Ellesmere Port
1 November 2005Daycare Trust Annual Conference, London
Ormiston Children and Families Trust Launch event, House of Commons
Connexions Youth Green Paper Event, London
8 November 2005Gospel Oak Children's Centre, London
"Brake" launch of Road Safety Week Campaign; London
NSPCC Reception, London
DfES Board of Children, Young People and Families Stakeholders, London
9 November 2005West London Centre of Vocational Excellence Centre
10 November 2005Continyou Extra Community Conference, Coventry

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