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9 Jan 2006 : Column 401W—continued

Disabled Workers

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans she has to expand skills training for disabled workers in Coventry; and if she will make a statement. [29331]

Phil Hope [holding answer 21 November 2005]: More people than ever before with self-declared learning difficulties and/or disabilities are now engaged in LSC funded education and training with 579,000 learners across the post-16 sector in 2003–04 at a total cost of around £1.3 billion. We want to work closely with the LSC to continue to break down the barriers that people with disabilities face in accessing quality training. The Learning and Skills Act 2000 places a statutory duty on the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) to promote equality of opportunity between persons of different racial groups, men and women, and between disabled and non-disabled. To support that work, the LSC has introduced Equality and Diversity Impact Measures as a planning tool to promote greater equality of opportunity in both fair access to and outcomes from publicly-funded training.

Earlier this year, in our White Paper Skills Getting on in business, getting on at work" we outlined how the LSC is providing capital funding to support colleges and training providers in making the necessary changes to their accommodation, in order to improve access for disabled learners.

However, responsibility for the planning and funding of skills training in Coventry, including skills for people with disabilities, is the responsibility of the LSC. Mark Haysom, the council's chief executive, has written to my hon. Friend with further information. A copy of his letter has been placed in the House Library.

Letter from Mark Haysom, dated 5 December 2005:

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Drinking Water

Dr. Stoate: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what measures her Department is taking to improve the access of (a) primary and (b) secondary school students to fresh drinking water; [39527]

(2) what guidance her Department issues to local authorities regarding the provision of drinking water facilities in (a) new build schools and (b) refurbished schools. [39529]

Jacqui Smith: The Education (School Premises) Regulations 1999 apply to all existing and new schools maintained by a local education authority: that is, to nursery, community, community special, foundation, foundation special and voluntary schools, and to pupil referral units. These require that a school shall have a wholesome supply of water for domestic purposes,
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including a supply of drinking water. The Regulations do not specify how drinking water should be provided for pupils. However, in our guidance note Standards for School Premises" (DFEE 0029/2000), we say that those responsible should consider the pattern of demand within schools, which can be concentrated within quite short breaks.

We give further advice on drinking water supplies in Building Bulletin 87, Guidelines for Environmental Design in Schools" (2nd Edition Version 1-May 2003). This gives technical guidance, but also makes it clear that adequate supplies of wholesome drinking water should be accessible to staff and pupils throughout the school day. In addition, it states that all water outlets should be labelled as Drinking" or Not for Drinking".

Dr. Stoate: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will make it her policy to ask each primary and secondary school to draw up a school hydration policy, setting out the measures it will take to improve access to fresh drinking water in the school, promote water awareness amongst students and encourage sustainable use of water resources. [39528]

Jacqui Smith: We are aware of the importance of children drinking water during the school day and the benefits that it brings. The interactive Food in Schools Toolkit, published jointly by Department of Health and DfES, provides a wide range of guidance, resources and interactive tools to inspire and support schools in taking a whole school approach to healthy eating and drinking, including water provision. The 'Water Provision' guidance supports schools in reviewing and improving current provision and in promoting water consumption.

The Cross Departmental Healthy Living Blueprint", issued to all schools, brings together all government advice and examples of best practice about healthy eating and drinking in schools. It provides schools with advice on how to improve children's approach to food and drink and exercise, and shows how developing whole school approaches can help bring about significant improvements to the health of children.

Healthy School Lunches guidance, published by the DfES, contains the Secretary of State's expectation that drinking water should be available to all pupils every day, free of charge. This view is mirrored in the 'Healthy Living Blueprint for Schools', which states that,

The School Meals Review Panel (SMRP) made a reference to drinking water in recommendation 7 of their report-Turning the Tables: There should be easy access to free, fresh, chilled drinking water throughout the school day (paragraph 2.32)". The consultation closed on 31 December 2005 and officials are now collating the responses.

It is the responsibility of headteachers and school's governing bodies to decide when water should be made available. We consider that they are best placed to make these decisions in their role of having responsibility of
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the day to day running of the school and with their knowledge of the individual circumstances of their pupils.

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