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7 Dec 2005 : Column 1341W—continued

Influenza Pandemic

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills when her Department plans to issue interim advice regarding an influenza pandemic to local emergency planners in respect of schools. [34726]

Jacqui Smith: This Department is contributing to further government guidance that will be issued in due course. It will build on initial advice that was issued to Regional Resilience Directors last spring.

Law Students

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps her Department plans to take in response to the recent report by the Higher Education Funding Council for England that ethnic minority candidates face a significantly lower chance of receiving an offer to study law. [34928]

Bill Rammell: The report Higher Education Admissions: Assessment of the Bias", by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) re-works a previous study from 2002 (based on 1996/07 data) that found that applicants from ethnic minorities were disadvantaged. It is good news that the re-examination of the data does not show the same biases in HE admissions as suggested by the original research. HEFCE did however find that ethnic minority applicants had lower chances of receiving an offer when applying to study law than would be expected given their predicted grades and other factors. A certain amount of caution needs to be attached to these findings, due to the age and other inadequacies of the data. It is important to look at what has happened more recently, and HEFCE's proposals for more research in this area will do so.

It is not acceptable for any bias to be found for any subject or minority group. While admissions are the sole responsibility of institutions, the Government do have a legitimate interest in the fairness of the admissions process. That is why Professor Steven Schwartz was invited to lead an independent review of the HE admissions system. That review found that admissions processes are generally fair but established a number of underpinning principles that the sector has been encouraged to adopt. The Department, as requested by Professor Schwartz, plans to undertake a follow-up review of progress in 2007/08.

Institutions must not be complacent and must strive to eradicate biases as they develop their fair admissions policies and practices. Research such as this and the follow-up work that HEFCE is recommending will help institutions address the problems identified.
7 Dec 2005 : Column 1342W

Learning and Skills Council

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment she has made of the implications for (a) the advice given to 16 to 18-year-olds and (b) the funding for the education of that age group of the restructuring of the Learning and Skills Council. [35452]

Bill Rammell: The LSC's proposed restructuring is designed to achieve better focus and more consistent delivery at a local level through the creation of 148 Local Partnership Teams. The provision of high quality advice and guidance will remain a key priority for the LSC, and the Local Partnership Teams will work with a range of partners, including services providing advice and guidance for 16 to 18-year-olds, to ensure an improved choice for learners. The LSC's funding priorities for 2006–07 and 2007–08 were published in its funding document Priorities for Success" on 21 October 2005. Priority will be given to increasing the numbers of 16 to 18-year-olds engaged in learning and achieving a worthwhile qualification. These funding proposals allow for a significant increase in volumes for this age group.

School Care (Disabled Children)

Ed Balls: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how extended schools will cater for children with disabilities in (a) England, (b) Wakefield district and (c) Normanton constituency. [34541]

Beverley Hughes: This Government want all schools to provide access to a core offer of extended services by 2010, with half of all primary and a third of all secondary schools doing so by 2008. We have made clear that children with disabilities and special educational needs must be able to access all the services. The needs of children in particular schools and areas will vary. It will be for individual local authorities, in discussion with all schools in their area, to take a strategic approach to developing access to the core offer through schools. Schools will need to work closely with parents to ensure that services are shaped around the needs of children and the wider community.

We are making funding available to all local authorities and schools up to 2008 to support them in setting up and embedding services in mainstream and special schools.

School Location

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what estimate she has made of the number of pupils attending state schools outside their own local education authority area each September since 2003. [34129]

Jacqui Smith: The information required to answer this question is not collected until January of each academic year. The information showing the position in the January of each year since 2002 is provided in the following table.
7 Dec 2005 : Column 1343W

Percentage of pupils attending maintained schools outside of the local authority in which they reside(19)

Pupils resident in
North East9,7302.910,1283.010,1733.010,0613.0
North West39,8434.341,0774.441,6414.541,6914.0
Yorkshire and Number20,3373.020,9163.121,1593.121,2093.2
East Midlands23,4504.224,1424.324,5324.324,6874.4
West Midlands38,8605.339,7095.440,0945.540,3315.6
East of England19,4712.825,7173.620,5562.920,8463.0
South West22,9353.823,3703.823,4593.823,9394.4
South East41,6764.242,8374.343,0984.443,3064.6

(19) Attending maintained primary and secondary schools (including middle deemed), CTCs and academies.
Annual School Census 2002–2005 Final.

School Places

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many children did not receive their first choice (a) primary and (b) secondary school place in each local education authority in the most recent year for which information is available. [34807]

Jacqui Smith [holding answer 5 December 2005]: Information on pupils who did not receive their first choice of a primary or secondary school place is not collected centrally. Local authorities are required to co-ordinate admissions to secondary schools and, as a result of that process, many will have this information available for those that applied for entry in September 2005. Where co-ordination took place prior to 2005, it may also be available for those years. Local authorities are required to co-ordinate admissions to primary schools for entry in September 2006.

Specialist Language Schools

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many (a) GCSE and (b) A level entries there were in modern languages from each specialist language school in each of the last 10 years, including years before the school acquired specialist status. [33056]

Jacqui Smith: The information requested is not readily available and can only be obtained at disproportionate cost.


Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the levels of truancy were in (a) Lancashire and (b) England in each of the last three years; and if she will make a statement. [35512]

Jacqui Smith: The information requested on truancy in Lancashire 2002/03 to 2004/05 can be found as follows. 2004/05 data are provisional: they are currently in the process of being checked by schools and, therefore, may change as a result of this process.
Percentage of half days missed due to unauthorised(20) absence in maintained schools

Primary schools
Secondary Schools

(20) Unauthorised absence includes other forms of absence such as lateness, holidays during term time not authorised by the school, absence where reason is not yet established and truancy.

7 Dec 2005 : Column 1344W

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps she is taking to combat truancy. [35513]

Jacqui Smith: I refer my hon. Friend to the replies given on 2 November 2005, Official Report, column 1216W to a question from the hon. Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell) and on 9 November 2005, Official Report, column 623W to a question from the hon. Members for Buckingham (John Bercow) and for Romford.

In September 2005, I announced a drive against 'serial truants' in 146 secondary schools which account for one in five of all instances of unauthorised authorised absence across the country. This drive will provide an intensive package of support and challenge to truants and their families. We have now extended this drive to cover 200 secondary schools and an estimated 13,000 pupils.

Key workers in the 200 schools and their local authorities will draw up an individual action plan and work with each truant to improve their school attendance. Where appropriate, truants and their families will be given co-ordinated support from children's services to tackle wider issues such as drugs, mental health or parenting skills that might be contributing to their truancy. Key workers will also consider referring parents of the most persistent truants onto the 'Fast Track to Attendance' scheme and, unless the youngster's attendance improves over a 12 week period, the parents will face a penalty notice or prosecution.

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