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26 Jan 2006 : Column 2282W—continued


Ms Katy Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many consultants have been engaged by her Department since March 2005; and at what cost. [43684]

Bill Rammell: The Department for Education and Skills spent £2.3 million from administration costs and £7.5 million from programme expenditure on consultants from March 2005 to date. The Department does not hold centrally information on the number of consultants engaged in this period and it could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
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All these figures relate to consultancy as defined centrally by the Office for Government Commerce (OGC). Other transactions also take place with consultancy firms, who supply a range of services which are not consultancy under this standard definition.

Contact Visits

Margaret Moran: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps the Government are taking to ensure that contact visits are safe for adopted and fostered children. [44666]

Maria Eagle: The Children Act 1989 recognises that, in the majority of cases, it will be in a child's best interests to maintain contact with his or her birth family and includes a duty to promote contact, unless that is not reasonably practicable or consistent with the child's welfare. In such cases, the Act makes provision for contact arrangements to be supervised, restricted or suspended. Exceptionally, contact will be refused from the time the child enters care.

Consideration of contact is an essential part of the care planning process for looked after children and any arrangements for contact will therefore be kept under ongoing review and monitored in order to identify problems which may arise and changes which may need to be made to the arrangements. Detailed records about contact will form part of each child's case record and will be considered as part of regular formal review meetings, although the review of contact arrangements should not be restricted to such meetings. Following an amendment to the Review of Children's Cases Regulations in 2004, review meetings must, where possible, be chaired by an independent reviewing officer, whose role it is to ensure both that the child's views are understood and taken into account and that reviews are carried out in accordance with the relevant regulations.

Once an adoption order is made, any existing contact order will be extinguished and the adopters will acquire full parental responsibility for the child. Unless the court makes a new contact order, it will be for the adopters themselves to decide on the nature and extent of the child's contact with his or her birth family. The Government have, however, put in place a new framework for supporting adoptive families, which includes counselling, advice, information and assistance with facilitating appropriate contact arrangements.

Departmental Expenditure

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will list the organisations to which her Department made payments through grants or contracts other than in relation to the Department's administrative expenditure over the value of £20,000 in 2004–05. [39512]

Bill Rammell: A list of organisations who received over £20,000 in grants and contracts in 2004–05 from the Department for Education and Skills other than in relation to the Department's administrative expenditure has been placed in the House of Commons Library.

Mr. Francois: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how much has been spent by her Department on salaries paid to civil servants in each year since 1997. [41576]

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Maria Eagle: The information requested is set out in the following table. The figures are taken from the Department's resource accounts for the years in question. They represent the gross wages and salaries of civil servants, including bonuses, but excluding the costs of Ministers and special advisers and social security and other pension costs.

Salaries (£ million)
Salaries as percentage of net admin costs

These figures reflect the Department as constituted at the time the accounts were produced and so are not adjusted for machinery of government changes.

Educational Attainment

Mr. Wills: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what national target she has set for the percentage of children looked after for a year or more achieving five or more GCSE (a) A*-C and (b) A-G grades by 2009. [45522]

Maria Eagle: Our current targets in this area run until 2006 and 2008 respectively.

In SR 2002 (amended by the SEU report 'A better education for children in care' in 2003) a national PSA target was set to improve life chances for children by:

Substantially narrowing the gap between the educational attainment and participation of children in care and that of their peers by 2006. This will have been achieved if:

This target is still extant and will be reported on when the figures for 2006 are made available in May 2007.

In SR 2004 a national PSA target for looked-after children was set as follows:

This is underpinned by a number of indicators to improve absolute performance and narrow the gap
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between the performance of looked-after children and that of their peers. For education this included the following measures:

Local authorities are still required to set targets against these performance indicators through the school and local authority target setting exercise (SaLTs).

Employer Training Programme

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment she has made of the Institute of Fiscal Studies evaluation of the employer training programme; and if she will make a statement. [43052]

Phil Hope: The IFS report identified a number of issues relating to the employer training pilots. The report has highlighted that we need to do more to attract the harder to reach employers and the subsequent phases of the pilots have shown us better how to do so. That has been one of the many real values of the pilots and their evaluation.

In some ETP areas around 25 per cent. of eligible employers are now taking part in the pilots—a far higher penetration rate than the 8 per cent. that IFS estimated carried out similar training without the pilots. We therefore anticipate that a higher proportion will be additional. Skills brokers in the new national programme, 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.

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.
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