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9 Jan 2006 : Column 422W—continued

Local Authorities/Schools Relationship

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the working relationship between local authorities and schools since 1997. [37847]

Jacqui Smith: Many local authorities are working effectively with schools and partnerships of schools to raise standards, increase access to education and life chances for pupils. Schools responsibility for driving up standards is reinforced by the New Relationship with Schools, which builds on the freedoms they have increasingly received and also strengthens the changed role of local authorities, which is to challenge and support schools improvement, and, in particular, to intervene to prevent or overcome failure. The recently published White Paper 'Higher Standards, Better Schools For All' continues this direction of travel by building further on and extending school freedoms, and clarifying the new role for local authorities, as commissioner rather than provider. This will be central to the transformation of our school system and to all our reforms across education and children's services.

Local Authority Expenditure

Annette Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what discussions she has had with the local authority in Poole on funding services previously financed by the Safeguarding Children Grant under the Local Government Settlement for 2006–07. [40410]

Maria Eagle: We have had a number of discussions with the Local Government Association and Association of Directors of Social Services about the Safeguarding Children's Grant. The grant has always been consistently described as being for 2004–06.

London Challenge New Views Scheme

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) how many schools in Islington have been offered the opportunity to participate in the London Challenge New Views scheme; and how many have participated in the scheme; [39613]
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(2) what plans she has to extend the London Challenge New Views scheme to other regions of the country. [39614]

Jacqui Smith: The New Views programme of residential visits has been offered to all London secondary schools as part of the London Student Pledge. Every secondary school in Islington has had the opportunity to take part. Eight secondary schools out of the nine in Islington chose to take part in this voluntary scheme.

The consultation on the Education outside the Classroom Manifesto, which endorses all pupils having the opportunity for high quality out-of-classroom educational experiences, including residentials, will finish at the end of January 2006. The 10 working groups will make proposals for action early next year. Decisions have not yet been made on extending New Views outside London.

Mental Health

Mr. Pelling: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps her Department takes to support staff with mental ill-health. [36865]

Maria Eagle: My Department has in place a range of measures to support managers and employees on health and welfare issues. Staff with mental ill-health can access professional counselling and awareness sessions undertaken by the Department's employee assistance provider Right Corecare.

The services of Right Corecare are complemented by internal policies and procedures aimed at ensuring consistent standards of behaviour, enabling fair and prompt mediation in the event of a grievance and through the provision of flexible working options. A number of flexible working options e.g. job share, part-time, part year, compressed hours and home working are available to staff to help them achieve a better work/life balance and to enable them to work effectively within the department.

My Department has developed a draft stress prevention policy based on the HSE Management Standards and is working towards introducing it with supporting procedures early in the new year. Health promotion events and internal communication systems are used to promote occupational health issues including healthy lifestyle options, time management and leisure activities. Leisure activities such as aerobics and the use of on site or local fitness centres are supported and encouraged.

Ministerial Discussions

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what recent discussions she has had with (a) local authorities and (b) education specialists in (i) the UK, (ii) the North East and (iii) Middlesbrough, South and East Cleveland constituency. [37779]

Ruth Kelly: I regularly meet many people from all parts of the country, including people from local authorities and education specialists, to discuss a range of issues.
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Ministerial Travel

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills on how many occasions since 7 July she has used the London Underground in connection with her official duties. [35019]

Ruth Kelly: I have not used the London Underground in connection with my official duties since 7 July 2005.

All Ministers in my Department use the most efficient and cost effective mode of transport for official business which is undertaken in accordance with the rules set out in Travel by Ministers".

Modern Apprenticeships

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what percentage of people aged 22 years and under had started a modern apprenticeship by 2004; and if she will make a statement. [40439]

Phil Hope: Final figures for the academic year 2004/05 show that 28.1 per cent. of young people started an apprenticeship by age 22 in that year. This is slightly higher than our PSA Target of 28 per cent. and was a great achievement by all involved in the apprenticeship programme, particularly the Learning and Skills Council and training providers. In meeting this ambitious target we have successfully revived apprenticeships as a highly valued learning option following many years of decline.

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many people enrolled on advanced modern apprenticeships in each academic year since 2001–02. [40441]

Phil Hope: This information is published in the Statistical First Release Further Education, Work Based Learning for Young People and Adult and Community Learning—Learners Numbers in England 2004/05", published on 8 December 2005. The document is available from the Learning and Skills Council website and copies have been placed in the House Libraries.

Peer Review

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what peer review process is undergone by the conclusions of research (a) commissioned and (b) produced by her Department. [39508]

Jacqui Smith: My Department decides whether and how the conclusions of research it (a) commissions and (b) produces should be peer reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Given the diversity or research conducted, my Department does not consider it practical to have a fixed approach.

PR Companies

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will list the public relations companies that have had contracts with (a) her Department, (b) each (i) non-departmental public body and (ii) executive agency for which her Department is responsible and (c) independent statutory bodies, organisations and bodies financially sponsored by her Department and other such organisations since May 1997. [39090]

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Bill Rammell: The following list at (a) is the public relation companies that the Department have had contracts with:

(a) Ad hoc PR/sponsorship departmental contracts for specific projects/function:

Suppliers on a previous framework agreement 6 November 2000 to 30 April 2004:

Suppliers on the current framework agreement 1 May 2004 to 30 April 2007:

(b) Non-departmental public bodies/executive agencies

Not available except at disproportionate cost.

(c) Independent statutory bodies

This information is not held centrally.

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