|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Maria Eagle: At September 2005, the total number of (registered) child care places reported from Ofsted stood at 1.22 million. We do not collect national data on the demand for child care places although we have commissioned a number of sample surveys of parental needs and surveys, most recently in 2001. This survey found that a quarter of all households experienced some form of unmet demand in that year. Estimating the supply and demand at the national level is difficult because the child care market operates at a very local level, leading to significant local variation. We know for example the gap is bigger in London, South West and the East Midlands.
The Childcare Bill currently going through parliament formalises a new duty on local authorities to secure sufficient child care to meet local needs. Within this the duty also requires LAs to carry out an assessment of the local child care market, at least every three years, to develop an overall picture of child care provision in the area. This will help them to identify gapsin provisionand to support providers, from all sectors, to achieve a child care market that meets local needs of working parents. Statutory guidance will support the provisions.
The Department is unable to provide details of child care places for Normanton because we do not collect data by parliamentary constituency. However, from April 1999 to March 2005 Wakefield local authority increased the stock of registered child care places in Wakefield by more than 2,900. The Ofsted registered stock of child care in Wakefield in March 2005 was 5,099 places.
2 Dec 2005 : Column 859W
Beverley Hughes: Our legislative proposals include provision for the proposed functions in the Bill, which fall upon local authorities, to be subject to the existing powers of the Secretary of State to secure proper performance. These will ensure that where the Secretary of State is satisfied that a local authority is failing to perform the duties set out in the Bill, for example through the independent evidence of a Joint Area Review, the proposals will allow the Secretary of State to intervene.
Mr. Prisk: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans her Department has to enable parents to require a local authority to fulfil its statutory duties under the Childcare Bill. 
Beverley Hughes: Local authorities already have in place procedures to consider complaints relating to the services they provide. Statutory guidance issued to local authorities under the Childcare Bill will make clear that they must provide parents with a clear pathway within existing procedures for considering complaints about the availability of child care and other early years services. We will also expect local authorities to advise parents of this complaints procedure and, where parents need assistance, to help them navigate through it.
All complaints received by a local authority about its duties under the Childcare Bill will be available to Ofsted to take into account when forming judgments as part of the Joint Area Review and the Comprehensive Performance Assessment process.
Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps she is taking to improve safety checks on new partners of a parent with custody of a child in cases of disputed contact with a non-resident parent. 
[holding answer 29 November 2005]: We wish to ensure that safety checks are undertaken in all cases where there is a concern that a child could be at risk. Subject to parliamentary approval, the Children and Adoption Bill will strengthen the safeguards for children, by placing a statutory duty on Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) officers to undertake risk assessments whenever they are involved in private law family proceedings, where they suspect that a child is at risk of suffering harm. This will include those cases of disputed contact which are the subject of court applications,
2 Dec 2005 : Column 860W
where the child resides with a parent who has a new partner and there is a concern that a child might be at risk.
Since section 120 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 came into effect on 31 January 2005, parties in contact, and other section 8 Children Act 1989 proceedings, have the opportunity of raising concerns about harm, when an application for proceedings is first made or when the respondent files an acknowledgement of proceedings. If either party indicates there may be an issue of harm, including concerns about a new resident partner, they are then expected to provide details in a supplemental information form. These forms will be copied to CAFCASS by the courts, thus enabling its practitioners to prepare in advance of the hearing by making relevant checks and assessments. These include checks of social services and police records, which CAFCASS is entitled to ask for through its duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children under section 12 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Services Act 2000.
John Hemming: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many children were placed on child protection registers in each year since 2002, broken down by category of registration; and how many were taken into care in each case. 
Maria Eagle: Details of registrations to child protection registers broken down by category of abuse may be found in table E of the Department's Statistical First Release on Referrals, Assessments and Children and Young People on Child Protection Registers England: Year Ending 31 March 2005". Information on the number of looked after children that are placed on child protection registers can be found in table C of the same publication. This information can be downloaded from the Department's website at: http://www.dfes.gov.uk/rsgateway/DB/SFR/s000614/index.shtml. It is also placed in the House of Commons Library.
Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many (a) primary and (b) secondary schools in the constituency of Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland have class sizes of more than 30 children. 
Jacqui Smith: In January 2005 there were 15 primary schools and four secondary schools in the constituency of Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland with class sizes of 31 or more children (classes taught by one teacher).
Legislation to limit the size of classes taught by one teacher to 30 or fewer pupils only applies to infant classes for 5, 6 and 7 year olds. In January 2005 there were no key stage 1 classes in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland that exceeded the statutory maximum class size of 30.
2 Dec 2005 : Column 861W
Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will take steps to ensure the Department's websites attain the W3C AAA standard of accessibility for people with visual and other disabilities; and if she will set a target date for this standard to be achieved by. 
Maria Eagle: The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) follows government policy on publication on the web. This entails following the Guidelines for UK Government websites and compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Version 1. Neither these Guidelines, e-Accessibility communications from the European Union or advice from the RNIB have ever suggested that government websites should attain and maintain Level AAA.
Government Guidelines currently indicate that websites should meet Level A of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines that is the Priority One Checkpoints. They also identify a significant number of the Priority Two and Priority Three Checkpoints that have been deemed to be best practice.
The Department for Education and Skills websites currently meet Level A of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines that is the Priority One Checkpoints. The DfES is currently working towards making all of its websites attain Level AA accessibility by July 2006. In addition to this, DfES identify that a number of checkpoints from the Level AAA requirement are essential best practice and routinely use aspects such as ensuring that there is sufficient contrast between foreground and background colours (P3 Checkpoint 2.2), the provision of search facilities (P3 Checkpoint 13.7) and the use of consistent presentation across all pages (P3 Checkpoint 14.3) in all websites.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|