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19 Jan 2006 : Column 1602W—continued

Departmental Equipment

Mrs. Villiers: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many (a) laptops and (b) mobile phones her Department bought in each year since 1997; and what the cost of each category of equipment was in each year. [41267]

Phil Hope: The number and cost of laptops and mobile phones purchased in each complete year since 1999/2000 is shown as follows. Figures in respect of 1997/98 and 1998/99 could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.
Mobile phones
(incl. VAT)
(incl. VAT)

Departmental IT Systems

Mrs. Villiers: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how much her Department has spent on IT systems in each year since 1997; what the purpose of each system is; what the outturn against planned expenditure of each system was; and what the (a) planned and (b) actual date of completion was of each system. [41326]

Phil Hope: The information as requested is not readily available centrally within the Department for Education and Skills. To respond fully would involve an extensive
19 Jan 2006 : Column 1603W
internal and external information collection exercise which would exceed the recommended disproportionate cost threshold.

However, to be helpful, I refer the hon. Member to the answers given by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children Young People and Families on 3 November 2005, Official Report, column 1314W; and 13 June 2005, Official Report, column 192W.

Early Support Pilot Programme

Mr. Paul Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the Early Support Pilot Programme; and if she will make a statement. [43949]

Beverley Hughes: An independent evaluation of the Early Support Pilot Programme began in July 2004 and is being undertaken by the University of Manchester, in association with the University of Central Lancashire. A report on the outcomes and cost effectiveness of the programme will be available towards the end of June 2006. To date, feedback about the programme and its materials from parents and professionals working with disabled children has been extremely positive.

Employment Training Pilots

Dr. Francis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what policy options will be considered following the Institute of Fiscal Studies evaluation of the work of employment training pilots up to 2004. [43738]

Phil Hope: The IFS report covers the first phase of the Employer Training Pilots (ETP) and has highlighted that we need to do more to attract the harder to reach employers. The subsequent phases of the pilots have shown us better how to do this, which has been one of the many real values of the pilots and their evaluation. ETP has also been the subject of an ongoing evaluation by the Institute of Employment Studies (IES). The development of the new national programme, Train to Gain, was based on the lessons learned from these evaluations. The final IES evaluation report is due in the spring, and we will consider the findings of that report alongside the IFS report.

Skills brokers in Train to Gain will have a target of at least half the employers they engage being hard to reach", additional employers. We are making £15 million available in 2005–06 and £20 million in 2006–07 to develop the capacity of the brokerage network and implement a performance management system that focuses services on this priority and rewards achievement accordingly.

A number of evaluations, including the IFS report, have shown that employers identify many benefits from ETP including productivity improvement, changed attitudes to learning, improved motivation and provided employers and employees with a platform for progression. Participating employers were more likely to train their low-skilled staff to the benefit of their business and say that ETP has allowed them to train more people over a shorter period of time. So we are confident that we are already involving more hard-to-reach learners.
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We expect Train to Gain to deliver over 40,000 additional level 2 qualifications in 2006–07; over 140,000 in 2007–08 and, by the time the programme reaches full capacity, 175,000 in 2008–09 and in each year thereafter.

Extended Schools Programme

Mr. Paul Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many (a) children and (b) adults have made use of the extended schools programme in each year for which figures are available; and how many schools have used the programme in each year. [43938]

Beverley Hughes: We do not currently hold data on the number of children and adults that have made use of extended services accessed through schools and it could only be provided at disproportionate cost. However we do have data on the number of schools offering access to extended services from a baseline survey of maintained schools published in September 2005. This survey showed that 87 per cent. of primary and 95 per cent. of secondary schools provide some form of childcare or activities outside of normal school hours; 69 per cent. of primary and 66 per cent. of secondary schools provide some form of parenting support; and 75 per cent. of primary schools and 97 per cent. of secondary schools provide wider community access to their facilities such as sports, arts and ICT facilities. This is a good baseline to build on and we will continue to monitor progress.

Higher Education

Dr. Francis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what research she will undertake on the effects on willingness to study the 50 per cent. threshold requirement for financial support for part-time higher education students. [43739]

Bill Rammell: We have no current plans for undertaking research on this issue, but will keep the need for further research under review, as we assess the impact of the improved funding package for part-time students which will be introduced in 2006.

For 2006–07 the support package available for eligible part-time English-domiciled students studying in England will include: an increase in the grant for fees of 27 per cent. to a maximum of £1,125 alongside a course grant of £250; an additional £40 million in institutional funding—provided jointly with the Higher Education Funding Council for England—to encourage participation from, and improve provision for, the most under-represented groups; and an increase in the Access to Learning Fund allocation available to part-time students from £3 million to £12 million. Welsh-domiciled students will, from 2006, be funded according to the decisions of the National Assembly for Wales.

Information Sharing and Assessment Index Project

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what her Department's estimate is of the cost of (a) setting up and (b) running the Information Sharing and Assessment Index Project; and how much her Department has (i) spent to date and (ii)plans to spend on consultants and other specialist staff associated with the project. [43447]

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Beverley Hughes: As announced on 8 December, the estimated set-up costs are £224 million over the next three years. This includes the costs of adapting existing systems that will supply the data to the index and ensuring that data are accurate; adapting the day-to-day systems used by practitioners so they can access the index from those systems; introducing robust arrangements to ensure security, and training staff to use the index properly.

Estimated operating costs, thereafter, will be £41 million per year. Most of this will pay for the additional staff needed to ensure the ongoing security, accuracy and audit of the index.

Since the start of the feasibility phase of the index project in February 2004 we have spent around £5 million on consultants and other specialist staff. We expect to spend around a further £15 million on such support between now and the completion of index roll-out in 2008. Developing and implementing large IT-enabled systems is not an area where DfES can rely on employing permanent civil servants to deliver, since we cannot offer the career structure or range of projects that people with the necessary specialist skills will be seeking. There is no alternative approach which will deliver to Government at lower cost the expert people with the skills we need to deliver this project.

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