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Skills Olympics

17. Margaret Moran: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps she is taking to bring the Skills Olympics to the UK. [49954]

Phil Hope: Following a successful Pre-Qualification Visit from the WorldSkills Executive in January, we are now preparing a formal bid to host the 2011 WorldSkills Competition in London. The final decision will be made in Melbourne on 10 May, by secret ballot of WorldSkills member countries. A period of international lobbying prior to this will focus on securing the votes of countries considered undecided or unlikely to vote for the UK.

Our bid will focus on the UK's ability to raise WorldSkills' profile and reputation by giving the competition a global stage from which to spread its messages. We aim to establish links with media interest in the 2012 Olympics (held only six months after WorldSkills 2011) to associate world class achievement in sport with world class achievement in skills in the public mind, and change perceptions of vocational education and training positively and permanently.

The social and economic diversity of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland offers a distinctive experience to competitors and observers alike, and a unique opportunity to extend the reach and impact of the competition to many different countries and communities.

If our bid is successful, the Government will build a social partnership with individuals, partners and business to encourage skills investment across the UK. This will be a national wide celebration of world class
 
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vocational skills, and promises to be a very exciting time, with the potential to offer great economic and social rewards for the whole of the UK.

Education White Paper

18. Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what research was undertaken which supported the contents of the Education White Paper; and if she will make a statement. [49955]

Ruth Kelly: A wide range of research was used to inform the White Paper and the policies contained within it.

All the research commissioned by the Department is published on the Department's website when it is complete.

Language Teaching

19. Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what recent guidance she has issued to schools on the teaching of foreign languages. [49956]

Jacqui Smith: On 27 January I wrote to all secondary schools setting out measures being introduced from September 2006. I expect all schools to set a benchmark for numbers of students studying languages leading to a recognised qualification at Key Stage 4. Schools will decide a target to set themselves between 50 per cent. and 90 per cent., dependant on their circumstances. Also, on 27 October 2005 the Key Stage 2 Framework for Languages was launched introducing languages into primary schools.

Departmental Expenditure

Mr. Gauke: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps she has taken to reduce the total administration costs of (a) her Department, (b) its non-departmental public bodies and (c) Ofsted; and what assessment she has made of the savings made as a consequence. [50121]

Bill Rammell: The Department has agreed budgets which reflect a commitment to make 15 per cent. efficiency savings in real terms in administrative expenditure by 2007–08, within the Department itself, and across the landscape of its non-departmental public bodies and Ofsted. We are monitoring spend across all these budgets to ensure spend does not exceed profiled levels.

My Department reported progress towards our Gershon Review target in the Department's Autumn Performance Report. It will report further progress in the Departmental Annual Report which we expect to publish in April.

Higher Education

Mr. Vaizey: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will make a statement on measures to promote fair access to higher education. [49999]

Bill Rammell: The Government remains committed to fair access and widening participation in higher education for reasons of social justice and economic need. In England, from 2006, no full-time student will have to pay fees up-front, nor will they repay anything
 
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until they leave higher education (HE) and are earning a reasonable wage. Repayments are suspended when not earning and interest will grow only in line with inflation. Students from low income households will once again be entitled to non-repayable grants.

Alongside this, we have established the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) to promote fair access. OFFA has approved access agreements from 180 institutions intending to charge higher level fees. These will deliver around £300 million in financial support to students from low income backgrounds.

In 2005–06, HEFCE has allocated £282 million to higher education institutions to help offset the costs associated with recruiting and retaining students from groups under-represented in HE.

Our Aimhigher programme seeks to raise aspiration and attainment levels among those currently under-represented in HE. We have announced that Aimhigher will continue until at least 2008.

In addition, we have set out proposals to reform the higher education applications process to make the system fairer to all applicants. We will publish our response to the consultation in the spring.

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what recent discussions she has had on the Higher Education Funding Council for England's review of its methods of funding teaching; and if she will make a statement; [49231]

(2) what representations she has received on the Higher Education Funding Council for England's proposal that funding for teaching in higher education institutions should be based on the number of credits obtained by students; and if she will make a statement; [49277]

(3) if she will make it her policy that changes in the funding mechanisms for higher education institutions should provide those with a high proportion of part-time students with appropriate support. [49278]

Bill Rammell [holding answer 7 February 2006]: We discuss these matters on a regular basis with HEFCE. The council has been consulting the higher education sector on the future formula to be used for the distribution of grant for teaching. I am sure the council will consider carefully any arguments and evidence which are put forward in the consultation exercise on these issues. We have already brought forward proposals to provide additional support amounting to £40 million over the next two years for part-time students from non-traditional backgrounds.

Learning and Skills Council

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps she is taking to encourage greater involvement of small companies in funding the Learning and Skills Council and its initiatives. [50034]

Bill Rammell: The Department funds a wide range of learning provision through the Learning and Skills Council's Learner Participation budget which is £6.7 billion for 2005–06. In April 2006 we will roll out Train
 
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to Gain which will target small and hard to reach employers in particular. Train to Gain will provide skills brokers whose role will be to help employers analyse their skill needs and source the training to meet those needs. Some of the provision will be funded by the LSC, employers themselves will contribute to the funding of other learning.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how local Learning and Skills Council offices will be funded to deliver partnership arrangements and economic regeneration; and if she will make a statement. [50037]

Bill Rammell: As part of its restructuring plans, the Learning and Skills Council proposes to establish 148 local partnership teams which will work closely with their local communities, understand the needs of individuals and employers at grass roots level and build strategic relationships with local schools, colleges and other learning providers. The local partnership teams will work alongside 35 economic development teams which will focus on skills for employment, regeneration and economic development.

The local partnership and economic development teams will be funded from within the LSC's existing administration budget. The new structure is expected to achieve savings of around £40 million, which can be reinvested in front-line delivery. The final agreed changes will take effect from summer 2006.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what measures are in place to resolve differences between national and local priorities in the Learning and Skills Council, with particular reference to those between level 2 and level 3 obligations. [50041]

Bill Rammell: The Government's priorities for post-16 learning are set out in my right hon. Friend's annual Grant Letter to the Learning and Skills Council and in the LSC's Priorities for Success" document published in October 2005.

The LSC has introduced a new business planning cycle which is helping to strengthen the local, regional and national planning process. The LSC's Annual Statement of Priorities, along with the more detailed guidance in Planning for Success" set out the priorities for the LSC. These provide the strategic framework for the development of local plans, which themselves reflect the key learning and skills priorities for the local area, as well as taking into account key national and regional priorities. National priorities include tackling basic skills and extending a new entitlement for fully funded first full Level 2 qualifications in all regions from September 2006. Through the mechanisms outlined above we anticipate a marked increase in the delivery and achievement of first full Level 2s from 2006–07 while also supporting progression to Level 3 and higher skills including technician, advanced craft and trade skills and apprenticeships for adults.

The LSC's proposed new structure will help to further strengthen its ability to respond flexibly and rapidly to local priorities, while at the same time providing
 
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stronger drivers at regional level. The national office will continue to provide the overarching planning and funding framework.


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