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Safeguarding Grant

Philip Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment she has made of the likely effect on child protection teams of the withdrawal of the Safeguarding Grant; and if she will make a statement. [52067]

Maria Eagle: The ending of the Safeguarding Children grant was one of the factors taken into account when deciding on the level of extra provision to be provided in the Local Government Finance Settlement. It is for authorities to determine locally, based on their own priorities, if they wish to use this resource to continue services previously funded by the Safeguarding Children grant.

The Local Government Finance Settlement, announced on 5 December 2005, increased the total resource to local government by 4.5 per cent. in 2006–07 and 5 per cent. in 2007–08 and included significant new funding for children and families. Local authorities will therefore be able to continue to invest in child protection teams.

Safer School Partnerships

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills pursuant to the White Paper Higher Standards, Better Schools for All, how many (a) safer school partnerships and (b) children's trusts have been set up. [53577]

Jacqui Smith: Currently there are just under 500 safer schools partnerships (SSPs) in England.

All local authorities are on target to meet the Government's expectation that most areas will have a children's trust by April 2006, and all by 2008. 35 pathfinders and many other local areas have already established their children's trust arrangements, and some 137 local authorities say that their directors of children's services have been or are being appointed.

Higher Education

Mr. Gauke: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps she has taken to reduce the costs to higher education institutions of accountability, quality and reporting requirements; and what savings have been made as a consequence. [52391]

Bill Rammell: The Department ensures that the costs to higher education institutions of accountability, quality and reporting requirements are kept under regular review, with a view to simplifying and streamlining processes and ensuring the burden placed on institutions is the minimum consistent with safeguarding public money and the high quality of teaching, learning and research at our higher education institutions.

To ensure impetus to these developments and help minimise unnecessary bureaucracy burdens on frontline staff in higher education institutions including those generated by their accountability, quality and reporting requirements we have established the Higher Education Regulation Review Group. This is an independent group of practitioners working in the HE sector who help identify new and additional ways to reduce existing
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burdens, as well as reviewing all new Government policies to try and ensure they are introduced with the minimum of additional bureaucracy.

We will be measuring efficiency gains from a range of specific initiatives which contribute to our Gershon efficiency target, including reducing the costs to higher education institutions of accountability, quality and reporting requirements. 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. The Department is reporting progress towards our overall 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.

School Admissions

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what research her Department has (a) conducted and (b) commissioned on the relationship between school admissions policies and levels of social segregation; and when she expects to be able to publish the conclusions. [45390]

Jacqui Smith: The department has commissioned work on this topic from the Centre for the Economics of Education as part of their wider research programme.

This work is not yet ready for publication, but will be published as soon as the work is complete.

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills when she will issue best practice guidance to assist promoters of new schools in designing admission policies. [53609]

Jacqui Smith: The School Admissions Code of Practice, in force since April 1999, gives guidance on setting admission policies for schools, including new schools established by promoters. We shall be revising the code following the forthcoming Education Bill. Under arrangements to be introduced in the forthcoming Bill, subject to Parliamentary agreement, promoters will be expected to act in accordance" with the code in determining their admission arrangements and decision makers will have the power to modify arrangements to ensure that this is the case. Once admission arrangements have been approved, they will not be able to be changed for a period of three years.

School Assets

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills under what circumstances trust schools would be able to dispose of assets; and whether restrictions are planned on the use to which money from the sale of such assets could be put. [50175]

Jacqui Smith [holding answer 9 February 2006]: Trust schools will be responsible for managing their own estate and assets and will be able to dispose of surplus land in the same way as foundation and voluntary schools can now. At present foundation and voluntary schools require the Secretary of State's consent before they can dispose of any land or buildings provided at
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public expense. We are proposing to strengthen local decision making by removing this requirement. Instead schools, including trust schools, will be expected to inform their local authority of any proposals to dispose of non-playing field land. Any disputes arising from the sale of such land will be determined by the schools adjudicator. Trust schools disposing of non-playing field land will be required to use any sale proceeds for capital purposes connected with education. Local authorities will potentially be able to claim a share of any excess sale proceeds either by agreement with the school or determined by the adjudicator.

The proposed disposal, or change of use, of playing field land will continue to be subject to the existing arrangements which require all local authorities and schools to obtain the prior consent of the Secretary of State. There is a strong expectation that any sale proceeds will be recycled for sport or education purposes.

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment she has made of the merits of leaving local authorities in control of school assets in the context of the Education White Paper. [53302]

Jacqui Smith: While many local authorities undoubtedly do a good job in managing their school assets, we see considerable advantages to all sides in our proposals in Higher Standards, Better Schools for All" to encourage more school to own their assets directly. For schools, the benefits of acquiring foundation status include that they will gain direct responsibility for improving their buildings and land. This is an important strand in developing a strong school ethos.

Local authorities will benefit from having a new role of commissioning rather than providing education. They will have a new duty to promote choice, diversity and fair access for school places. This means that they still retain responsibility for a strategic overview of capital and asset matters. For instance, they will develop the educational vision and investment plans for their Building Schools for the Future projects.

Currently, local authorities do not own the assets of the 875 existing foundation schools, of over 2,600 voluntary controlled schools, or of over 4,300 voluntary aided schools, except usually their playing fields. In all, local authorities do not now own the assets of more than a third of all maintained schools. A fifth of all authorities already work successfully with over half their secondary schools either voluntary aided or foundation.

Schools Estate

Kelvin Hopkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the capital value is of the land and buildings occupied by state secondary schools in England. [51637]

Jacqui Smith: The capital replacement value of maintained secondary school buildings is estimated to be in the range of £50 billion to £55 billion. The capital value of land occupied by secondary schools building is not held centrally.
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