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Child Abuse

Ms Abbott: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills whether her Department has commissioned a report into the scale of alleged child abuse related to witchcraft practices. [56620]

Maria Eagle: In September 2005, the Department for Education and Skills commissioned a study to scope the problem of child abuse in England linked to belief in possession" or witchcraft", or in other ways related to particular spiritual or religious belief, and to consider the circumstances leading to such abuse and the common features between cases. The report of this study was submitted to the Department in January, and will be published when Ministers have considered its findings and recommendations.

Child Protection

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment she has made of the Ofsted report into the Alcuin Independent school, Leeds, with particular reference to teachers working without criminal record checks. [57137]

Jacqui Smith: The Alcuin school was inspected by Ofsted, under Section 163 of the Education Act 2002, in December 2004. The inspection identified a number of regulatory failings which the school has rectified, including some cases where Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks had not been completed.
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Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what her policy is on teachers working without police record checks in (a) state and (b) private schools; and if she will make a statement. [57138]

Maria Eagle: We strongly recommend Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks are made as part of the appointment process on anybody who will be working in a maintained school, further education institution or LEA education service. The law already requires independent schools to make CRB checks on the suitability of staff to work with children prior to confirming their appointment.

Safeguarding children in education" (September 2004) emphasises the wider responsibilities of employers, including adopting recruitment practices which involve scrutinising applicants, verifying any qualifications, obtaining references, checking previous job history, as well as checking List 99 and making a CRB check where appropriate.

Changes announced recently by the Secretary of State will make a CRB check compulsory prior to appointment, or as soon as practicable after, for all new appointments to the maintained school workforce where the individual concerned has not worked in a school or institution within the further education sector for at least three months prior to the appointment. There is no requirement to obtain a CRB disclosure on existing staff. Employers will continue to have discretion to seek a disclosure where they have grounds for concern about the suitability of an existing member of staff.

Childcare Affordability Programme

Mr. Paul Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills whether she plans to extend the Childcare Affordability programme being piloted in London to other areas in England. [56791]

Beverley Hughes: The London Childcare Affordability Pilot programme is jointly funded by the London Development Agency (£22 million) and the DfES (£11 million) and will run from October 2005 to March 2008.

The pilot is being evaluated carefully so that lessons can be learned about its effectiveness in order to inform thinking about how best to address in future problems of affordability of child care for lower income families. There has been no decision at present to extend funding to other areas. However, we recently announced the allocation of the Transformation Fund to every local authority. This will enable private and voluntary providers to improve levels of qualification among their staff while maintaining affordability for parents.

Children's Workforce Development Council

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will make a statement on the work of the Children's Workforce Development Council for England since April. [33853]

Beverley Hughes: CWDC was launched in April 2005 with an overall aim to build the very best work force for children, young people and families. Since its launch, CWDC has been making good progress in building their
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capacity to deliver on the challenges set out in the Every Child Matters: Change for Children programme. As part of this they have recruited a strong and committed board of employer and employee representatives from their sector.

The first products of the council's early work will shortly appear. They will publish this month web-based advice for local planners on local work force strategies in support of their Children and Young People's plans. To complement this they will also offer local planners consultancy assistance.

With the Training and Development Agency for Schools they are working up proposals for developing professional roles within the early years and child care sector, as part of the implementation of the Government's 10-year child care strategy. These proposals will be published in the new year.

The council is also taking a leading role in the Children's Workforce Network, a partnership of sector skills councils and similar bodies responsible for work force development across the full range of children's services in early years, education, social care, youth work, playwork, youth justice and health. With partners in the network the council has begun work to review relevant national occupational standards to embed a common core of knowledge and skills for all those working with children, young people and families and to develop an integrated qualifications framework to support service improvement and career opportunities for individual workers.

CWDC is working with other organisations and Government to review recruitment and training and work force roles in social care as part of the recently-established 'Options for Excellence' Board. An initial report is due in April 2006.

CWDC is working with Government on its response to the Children's Workforce Strategy consultation, and will be commissioned to implement major parts of the strategy during 2006–07. The precise role which CWDC will play in implementing the CWS will be made clear in their Business plan for 2006–07 which is currently being developed.

Communication Aids

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how much Government funding has been provided for communication aids projects in (a) England and (b) Gloucestershire in each of the last 10 years for which figures are available; how much will be made available in each of the next three years; and if she will make a statement. [56612]

Maria Eagle [holding answer 7 March 2006]: The Communication Aids Project (CAP) has received grant totalling £21 million, allocated as follows:
Financial years£ million

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CAP, a DfES-funded initiative for school-age children, was created to supplement, not replace, provision made locally. The project, which has been successful, comes to an end in March 2006.

Local service providers have a central role in meeting needs, including the needs of individuals with severely impaired communication. Where children are concerned, we would be looking to children's services, through children's trusts, to provide appropriate support and equipment to all disabled children.

CAP did not operate on the basis of area allocations; referrals were made in relation to individual children. If an application was successful, assistive technology was provided to the individual child based on his or her particular needs, identified by means of a specialised assessment.

During the lifetime of CAP, a total of 24 referrals were made in relation to children living in Gloucestershire. 20 of these received support geared to their individual needs.

Information on application rates by area was contained in the independent evaluation of CAP, work undertaken by University College London in conjunction with the University of York. The report was published in October 2004 as DfES Research Report 580 and it confirmed that CAP had positive benefits for the children being assisted and those working with them.


Sir Gerald Kaufman: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills when she will reply to the letter to her dated 19 January 2006 from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton, with regard to Labour party branches. [56257]

Jacqui Smith: I responded to my right hon. Friend's letter on 1 March.

Mr. Beith: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills when the Minister of State for Schools and 14 to 19 Learners will reply to the correspondence from the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed dated 15 September 2005 relating to education maintenance allowance; and what the reasons are for the delay in replying. [56434]

Maria Eagle: I responded to the right hon. Member's letter on 27 February.

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