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Peter Viggers: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what estimate she has made of the average amount of time taken by junior schools to complete the relevant application forms for local education authorities in order to hold (a) a nativity play and (b) other similar events in schools. 
Jacqui Smith: If the forms in question were about health and safety, then we would recommend that local education authorities should not require schools to seek clearance from the authority for on-site events that involve no particularly hazardous activities. Schools can, and do, manage these themselves.
Jacqui Smith: The Department does not hold data centrally on languages spoken by schoolchildren in London. A survey undertaken in 2000 by Philip Baker for the School of Oriental and African Studies 1 indicated that there are over 300 languages spoken in London and that the 20 most common first languages are, in descending order of number of speakers, English, Bengali/Silheti, Panjabi, Gujerati, Hindi/Urdu, Turkish, Arabic, English based Creoles, Yoruba, Somali, Cantonese, Greek, Akan (Ashanti), Portuguese, French, Spanish, Tamil, Farsi, Italian and Vietnamese.
The medium of instruction in maintained schools is English and all pupils learning English as an additional language (EAL) should be supported to acquire English. The Government's 'Aiming High' strategy for raising achievement of pupils learning EAL advocates that schools should make use of pupils first language in the classroom, where appropriate, as a tool for learning alongside learning English.
The Department does not hold data centrally on the provision of mother tongue teaching in London, however, it is known from local authority data, where available, that there is widespread provision for teaching community languages through supplementary schools. For example, supplementary schools in Croydon provide teaching in 23 languages and supplementary schools in Islington provide teaching in 30 languages. These schools are usually run by local communities and respond directly to local demand.
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Peter Bottomley: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills pursuant to the Prime Minister's answer of 18 January 2006, Official Report, column 839, what definitions she uses of (a) aptitude and (b) academic ability in modern languages. 
Jacqui Smith: 'Ability' is defined in statute by section 99(5)(b) of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 as 'either general ability or ability in any particular subject or subjects'. Paragraph 7.11 of the statutory School Admissions Code of Practice defines a pupil with aptitude as 'one who is identified as being able to benefit from teaching in a specific subject, or who demonstrates a particular capacity to succeed in that subject'.
Admission authorities of schools have been able to select up to 10 per cent. of their intake based upon applicant's aptitude in certain prescribed subjects, which includes modern foreign languages. We allow this limited flexibility so that pupils with a relevant aptitude can gain access to particular schools with relevant specialist provision where they might not otherwise have been able to do so.
Jon Cruddas: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the total budget of London's learning and skills councils was in each year since 2001; and how much was spent on (a) school sixth forms, (b) the further education sector, (c) work-based training for young people, (d) workforce development, (e) adult and community learning, (f) information and advice for adults, (g) education-business links and (h) administrative costs in each year. 
Bill Rammell: I have overall responsibility for the LSC; however the operations of the LSC are managed and overseen by Mark Haysom, the LSC's chief executive. The Grant Letter and Priorities for Success sets the LSC budget for the year including a breakdown of school sixth forms, further education, work-based learning, and PCDL (ACL). Allocations within these overall categories to regional and local levels are a matter for the LSC. Mark Haysom will write to the hon. Gentleman with further information and a copy of his reply will be placed in the House Library.
The following table shows the total spend by the Greater London Region between 200102 and 200405 taken from the LSC's published accounts. Note that the LSC did not have responsibility for the funding of school sixth forms in 200102.
|Greater London programme expenditure||Total programme expenditure|
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps she is taking to make London's learning and skills councils more accountable
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to the people who use their services as part of the Government's commitment to devolve decision-making to the lowest appropriate level. 
Bill Rammell: The LSC is currently undergoing a radical restructuring exercise which will enable it to work even more effectively with local partners and stakeholders in identifying and responding to London's learning and skill needs. The existing local office structure will be replaced by a number of specialist local Partnership and Economic Development teams made up of experienced education and training professionals. They will work closely with local partners and stakeholders to ensure that properly funded education and training is available that meets the needs of learners and employers in the London area. These changes are in keeping with the Government's wider public sector reform agenda, which seeks to move responsibility for local delivery closer to the frontline. Each of the local LSC councils in London continue to include representatives from a wide range of local interests, including employers, local authorities and the voluntary and community sector.
The LSC's proposals are currently out to consultation with staff and unions until the end of January, and the final agreed changes will take effect from summer 2006. We will also want to consider in due course the outcomes of the current consultation on the powers and responsibilities of the Greater London Authority.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will make a statement on the proposed powers of the National Complaints Service from Ofsted referred to on page 9 of the White Paper, Higher Standards, Better Schools for All". 
Jacqui Smith: Subject to the passage of legislation, we intend to give Ofsted the power to investigate complaints by parents about matters which fall within Ofsted's inspection remit. Ofsted will consider complaints which concern the work of a school as a whole, rather than individual pupils or staff, and will expect parents to have previously sought resolution at a local level. In pursuance of an investigation, the school and the local authority may be required to provide information to Ofsted, and the school may be required to arrange a meeting between parents and inspectors. Ofsted will determine, in the light of its investigation, whether further action is necessary. This may include bringing forward a scheduled school inspection or carrying out an inspection without notice.
The National Remodelling Team (NRT), part of the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA), works with my Department and the Workforce Agreement Monitoring Group (WAMG) to support schools in implementing the provisions of the National Agreement on Raising Standards and
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Tackling Workload that was signed in January 2003 by the Government, employers and the majority of school work force unions.
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