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Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what criteria must be satisfied before the Learning and Skills Council fund a national industry-specific apprenticeship scheme; 
(2) what duty there is on local learning and skills councils to work together to support an apprenticeship scheme which operates in different parts of the country but is not supported by the Learning and Skills Council nationally. 
Phil Hope [holding answer 23 January 2006]: The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) only funds apprenticeship programmes that use a framework approved through a process managed by the Sector Skills Development Agency. The learning provider must also meet the LSC quality criteria. Funding is routed either through the LSC's local offices or its National Employer Service (NES) which awards national contracts for large multi-site employers. The basic criteria for awarding of a NES contract are that the business has 5,000 or more employees and that it is has the capacity to deliver at least 200 learner places. Programmes delivered through national contracts can cover a single apprenticeship or industry framework, or a number of them. Around a quarter of apprenticeships are covered by NES contracts.
Where an employer or learning provider does not meet the criteria for a contract with the NES but does operate across local LSC boundaries alternative simplified contracting arrangements should apply. These can include a contract with a lead local LSC to cover one of the nine LSC regions or where a provider is multi-regional a national lead can be designated.
Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps she is taking to encourage the involvement of local business in schools in Staffordshire; and if she will make a statement. 
Phil Hope: We have allocated £25 million a year to the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) since 200203 to support a range of school business links activities, including in Staffordshire. These include professional development placements for teachers, work experience and mentoring for young people, and enterprise activities. Nationally there are 300,000 employers working with schools. The local Staffordshire Education Business Partnership is called 'Business and Education Together Ltd'.
Mr. Paul Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what percentage of those working in child care were qualified at NVQ levels (a) 2, (b) 3, (c) 4 and (d) 5 in each year for which figures are available. 
Figures are available for 2001 and 2002/03 and are taken from the Childcare and Early Years Workforce surveys for those years. The information collected for the surveys did not distinguish between NVQ levels 4 and 5.
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Mr. Paul Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment she (a) has made and (b) plans to make of the effectiveness of children's centres; and if she will make a statement. 
In addition, a comprehensive evaluation of children's centres is planned to begin in 2006. It is likely the evaluation will look at the implementation and cost effectiveness of children's centres as well as assess their impact on child and family outcomes over the short, medium and long term.
Mr. Paul Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) which (a) private (b) voluntary and (c) public sector organisations have delivered services in children's centres in each year for which information is available; 
My Department does not collect information on the location of children's centres by constituency. The Department does, however, have a list of designated Sure Start Children's Centres in each local authority and a copy has been placed in the Library of the House.
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Our target is to establish 2,500 Sure Start Children's Centres by March 2008 and 3,500 by March 2010, representing one for every community. At present there are 466 designated Sure Start Children's Centres.
Phil Hope: We do not hold information in the form requested. However, the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) have calculated statistics on the total numbers of learners on apprenticeships overall and in construction in particular. In 2004/05 1 a total of 411.2 thousand learners were funded by the LSC on apprenticeships, of which 95.9 thousand were classified as construction area-of-learning (AOL) from a total of 14 categories.
Alternatively apprenticeships can be recorded in terms of the average number of learners over the year or at particular points in the year. For apprenticeships overall in 2004/05 the average number of learners on apprenticeships was 255.8 thousand, with a total number in learning in July 2005 of 252.3 thousand. More detail on the apprenticeship frameworks (of which there are currently over 100 and growing) pursued by the 252.3 thousand learners in July 2005 is published by the LSC on the internet via:
Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what representations she has received from business on the irrelevance to employment of certain degree subjects; and if she will make a statement. 
Bill Rammell: A search of my Department's correspondence database has identified no such representations from business. However, I can confirm that my Department does have frequent and open dialogue with employers, business representatives and higher education institutions to ensure better alignment of the supply of higher level knowledge and skills with business needs. This is being achieved through the promotion of greater collaboration between business and higher education institutions. Sector skills councils, working with lifelong learning networks and organisations like Foundation Degree Forward, the HE Academy and regional development agencieshave been set up to ensure their business needs are being met.
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