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Education Funding

Mr. Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what extra funds are available for schools with outstanding results. [50169]

Jacqui Smith: We do not provide additional funding to schools for the achievement of outstanding results, but we are actively harnessing the strengths of our most effective schools for the benefit of the system as a whole. Where schools are playing a wider role in support of the education system we make funding available to support that commitment. We have offered the opportunity for specialist schools that meet performance criteria at specialist re-designation, to take on a leading role. In 2005, high performing schools had the opportunity to
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take on a second specialism, a vocational second specialism, training school status, or participate in a raising achievement programme. Schools receive a minimum of £60,000 per annum to work in partnership with other schools to raise standards and improve pupil outcomes across the partnership.

At primary level around 1,800 of our most successful Head teachers are working as Primary Strategy Consultant Leaders (PSCLs) to help the leadership teams in underperforming schools in their local authority to develop and improve teaching and learning across their schools. Each PSCL receives £8,000 to cover the time spent out of their school. We have also funded Primary National Strategy Learning Networks which enable groups of primary schools to work together to raise standards in English and mathematics. Lead schools in the networks, which are usually successful or high performing schools, receive £17,000 in total to support the network activity.

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will make a statement on the allocation of funding for schools in rural areas in 2006–07. [50219]

Jacqui Smith: The formula used to calculate Schools Formula Spending Share for 2005–06 and previous years took account of the extra spending needed by sparsely populated rural authorities, mainly to keep larger numbers of small primary schools open; the additional costs for secondary schools are mainly from home to school transport, funding for which was delivered through the LEA FSS for 2005–06, and which continues to be part of the local government finance settlement. Since the formula for Dedicated Schools Grant starts from local authorities' spending on schools for 2005–06, which in two thirds of cases was above Schools FSS, so that will also take account of the extra spending needed by rural authorities. In distributing their Schools Budget, most local authority formulae take account of the need to provide extra funding for smaller schools, to allow them to meet the extra costs they face, that a purely pupil led formula would not deliver.

Mr. Rob Wilson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills why funding for colleges with students taking more than four AS levels is being reduced in the 2006/07 funding allocation. [51095]

Bill Rammell: The funding colleges receive for students taking larger programmes of study is reduced on the principle that colleges derive economies of scale as pupils take more intensive programmes, as costs do not rise in proportion to the size of the programme. It will continue to be the case that no funding is paid for parts of programmes larger than the equivalent of 6 AS/A2 levels. The current arrangements allow for the equivalent of 5AS/A2 levels to be fully funded with the sixth being funded at half the standard rate.

On 21 October as part of the announcements of our funding strategy for post 16 education and skills in 2006/07 and 2007/08 we set out our plans to revise the maximum qualification funding for both school sixth forms and FE colleges. The revised arrangement for colleges will allow full funding for the equivalent of 4.25 AS/A2 levels with the next 1.75 AS/A2 levels being
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funded at two thirds the standard rate. The revised maximum level of funding has been set to reflect the aim to encourage breadth at AS with more specialisation at A2.

The maximum qualification funding does not include the additional per pupil funding available for key skills, tuition support and enrichment activities. It is possible to make use of this funding to fund courses of enrichment activities rather than seek funding for such courses as separate qualifications. We need to ensure an equitable share of resources between schools and across a range of pupils with different needs. The LSC's funding system recognises both the additional costs of larger programmes while maintaining a proper level of funding for those pupils unable to study a larger number of AS/A2 levels.

Education Procurement Centre of Excellence

Mr. Gauke: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment she has made of the (a) changes in performance and (b) savings made as a consequence of the establishment of the Education Procurement Centre of Excellence. [50127]

Bill Rammell: Since the Department for Education and Skills established the Centre for Procurement Performance (CPP) in April 2005, the team has been working pro-actively with the schools sector, children services, Further Education (FE) and Higher Education (HE) to embed the principles of the Gershon Review and secure commitment from the front line. Working with and through key stakeholders in these sectors, CPP has engaged with procurement experts in the sectors, working in partnership on projects and pilots that will help deliver efficiency gains.

This has resulted in nine projects currently underway and a further 14 projects due to commence shortly. At this stage it is too early to assess changes in procurement performance as a result.

The validated procurement efficiency gains to date have amounted to £87 million.

Education Professionals

Mr. Gauke: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps she has taken to enable frontline professionals in (a) schools, (b) colleges and (c) higher education institutions to use their time more productively; and what assessment she has made of the efficiency gains made as a consequence. [50113]

Jacqui Smith: My Department has developed a wide range of initiatives to enable frontline professionals to use their time more productively. These focus on greater use of ICT; reducing bureaucracy; and workforce reorganisation and training.

We are promoting the use of ICT in schools to enable easier and quicker assessment of students' progress and simpler, more timely, and more personalised remedial action to be taken. It will also enable easier and quicker access to online resources, make lesson planning easier and save time for teachers; and lead to better quality lessons and an enriched classroom environment which improve standards for our children.
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We have better embedded ICT in the further education sector through the development of a self assessment tool for institutions, better provision of on-line e-learning materials and through development of e-learning training provision for leaders.

To minimise any unnecessary bureaucracy burdens on frontline staff and thereby help them to function more productively we have established gateway groups in each sector to look at the level of bureaucracy being imposed on the frontline and to challenge existing ways of working with the frontline and between agencies. In, for example, the Higher Education sector we have established the Higher Education Regulation Review Group as an independent group of practitioners working in the HE sector and asked them to help identify new and additional ways to reduce existing burdens, as well as reviewing all new Government policies to try and ensure they do not create unnecessary bureaucracy.

The workforce reforms we have introduced have also helped professionals to make better use of their time. In January 2003, the Government, employers and majority of the school workforce unions signed a National Agreement on Raising Standards and Tackling Workload that led to a series of changes to teachers' contracts. Teachers have been freed to teach and a wide range of support staff have been deployed to work with teachers in improving standards of teaching and learning.

Each of these initiatives contributes to our Gershon target of realising £4.3 billion efficiency gains by 2007–08. Productive time savings are expected to be the biggest slice of those gains.

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.

Efficiency Gains

Mr. Gauke: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment she has made of the of the efficiency gains that have been achieved in the last two years as a consequence of improvements in school-level financial management. [50125]

Jacqui Smith: Because of the relatively recent inception of policies to assist schools in their financial management, it is too early to evaluate of their success, especially when success is measured in terms of improved pupil attainment. Policies that have been launched include: the Financial Benchmarking Website (November 2003), the Financial Management Standard and Toolkit (May 2004) and focussed financial management training for finance officers, head teachers and bursars/school business managers in schools and local authorities.

Our measurement techniques have been designed to ensure that we can monitor and report efficiency gains throughout the Gershon review period, which starts in the current financial year, 2005–06. Because of the
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timing of our data collections from schools we shall be able to report the first of these measures towards the end of the current calendar year.

We do, however, collect very detailed financial benchmarking website user statistics, so we are able to track accurately how many schools and local authorities are using the tools, which provides an indication of the gains we may expect to see in subsequent years. Case study information is also gathered, providing information about the kind of gains schools make through using the website. An example of such a gain was a school which reported gains of £6,000 a year on water rates as a result of action taken after using the benchmarking website.

Mr. Gauke: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what savings have been obtained in (a) schools, (b) colleges and (c) higher education institutions in the last two financial years as a consequence of (i) investment in information communication technology, (ii) reducing administrative burdens and (iii) work force reform. [50126]

Phil Hope: My Department does not keep detailed management information on spending decisions by individual schools, colleges and higher education institutions. However, we have put in place methods to measure efficiency gains accruing through a range of specific initiatives which contribute to our Gershon efficiency target. These are set out in our Efficiency Technical Note. In most cases the gains are recyclable at the frontline into other activities rather than being clawed back by the Department.

My Department reports progress towards our efficiency target through existing departmental reporting processes. We reported progress towards our target in the Department's autumn performance report and will report further progress in the departmental annual report which we expect to publish in April.

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