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Kerry McCarthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will ensure that teachers and school staff are aware of (a) the needs of young carers and (b) the impact caring responsibilities may have on their schoolwork and attendance at school. 
Maria Eagle [holding answer 20 January 2006]: The Government want to ensure that young carers can gain maximum life chance benefits from educational opportunities. Local authority children's services and adults social services should work with families to ensure that young people are not expected to carry inappropriate levels of caring. We have also advised schools that in a genuine crisis, they can approve absence for a child to care for a relative until other arrangements are madethe school should set a time limit for the absence and set some school work so that the pupil does not fall far behind while at home. This advice is reflected in the existing guidance on the codes which are used to record absence and attendance in the school register. It is also reflected in Managing Behaviour and Attendance: Groups at Particular Risk". This guidance has been available since 1999, initially included within the Department's Social Inclusion circulars, and was published again on the Department's school attendance and behaviour website in 2005 as Managing Behaviour and Attendance: Groups at Particular Risk".
The Department has not made any assessment of the proportion of young carers who have school attendance difficulties and does not collect or hold data that would enable it to do so. Census data are based on self-identification by carers' families.
When a pupil is not attending school regularly, for whatever reason, local authorities are best placed to decide on the most appropriate course of action on a case by case basis. The Government would expect, however, any assessment of school attendance difficulties to take into account the possibility of circumstances such as caring responsibilities.
One of the options available is the Fast-track to Attendance framework which is a time-focused approach to case management. Its aim is to ensure that schools and local authorities deal with attendance cases quickly and in the most effective way to get the child back into school. The Fast-track framework promotes early intervention both by the school and, when necessary, by the local authority and other agencies. Fast-track is not just about prosecutions or sanctions, rather the approach aims to ensure that appropriate action is taken to identify and tackle attendance problems as soon as they become apparent. Guidance on the 'Fast-track' process was issued to local authorities in 2003. As the guidance relates to a process it does not specifically refer to young carers or any other group.
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Bill Rammell: The Government are committed to tackling our internationally low post-16 participation rate. In the 1419 White Paper we set out our aim to increase participation at age 17 from 75 per cent. to 90 per cent. over the next 10 years. Critical to achieving this ambition will be securing our reform of 1419 curriculum, in particular the introduction of specialised Diplomas from 2008.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the participation rate of each age group in (a) higher education and (b) first degree courses in (i) Southend, (ii) Essex, (iii) Hertfordshire, (iv) Greater London and (v) England was in each year since 1978. 
The latest available figures on participation by local areas were published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) in January 2005 in Young participation in higher education", which is available from the HEFCE website at: http://www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/hefce/2005/05_03/. The HEFCE report shows participation rates for young people who enter higher education aged 18 or 19 disaggregated by constituency, local education authority (LEA) and region for the years 1997 to 2000.
|Year cohort aged 18 in:|
The Higher Education Initial Participation Rate (HEIPR) measures the percentage of English-domiciled students aged 17 to 30 years, participating in higher education (both full-time and part-time courses) at UK Higher Education Institutions and English Further Education Colleges. The available figures for the academic years from 1999/2000 to 2003/04 are shown in the table.
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The Age Participation Index (API) measures full-time participation by UK-domiciled students, aged below 21 years, in higher education courses in Great Britain. Ramsden, B. (1995), 'Participation in Higher Education: A Study to Determine Whether the Higher Education Initial Participation Rate Should Be Disaggregated', confirmed that there are significant weaknesses in the Age Participation Index and the figures should therefore be treated with caution.
Maria Eagle: There is currently no national target for reducing the number of looked-after children by local authorities each year. In SR2004 a National PSA target for Looked After Children was set as follows:
To narrow the gap in educational achievement between looked after children and their peers, and improve their educational support and the stability of their lives, so that by 2008, 80 per cent. of children under 16 who have been looked after for 2.5 or more years will have been living in the same placement for at least 2 years, or are placed for adoption.
This target is a recognition of the fundamental importance of stability to the lives of these most vulnerable of children and young people. Children become looked after for a variety of reasons, though the most common reason for children becoming looked after is abuse or neglect (in 62 per cent. of cases). It is important that this decision is based on the individual assessed needs of each child. To set a target to reduce the number of looked after children could create a perverse incentive that would serve as a barrier to children who may need to become looked after, which would not be in their best interests.
Mr. Wills: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what national targets she has set for reducing the number of looked-after children (a) placed more than 20 miles from their local authority, (b) placed in independent placements and (c) from black and ethnic communities. 
To narrow the gap in educational achievement between looked after children and their peers, and improve their educational support and the stability of their lives, so that by 2008, 80 per cent. of children under 16 who have been looked after for 2.5 or more years will have been living in the same placement for at least two years, or are placed for adoption.
This target is a recognition of the fundamental importance of stability to the lives of these most vulnerable of children and young people. However data on the groups of looked after children are available in
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the departmental statistical volume: Children Looked After by Local Authorities, Year Ending 31 March". The most recent figures are available at: http://www.dfes.gov.uk/rsgateway/DBA/OL/v000569/index.shtml
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