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Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills when he expects the restructuring of the Merseyside Learning and Skills Council to be completed; and what consequential effects he expects on costs. 
Bill Rammell: The Learning and Skills Council is making good progress in implementing its restructuring proposals, and has announced a number of senior level appointments in Merseyside, including the Area Director and Local Partnership Directors. The timescale for completing the restructuring programme is a matter for the LSC, but we would expect implementation across the whole organisation to be complete by March 2007. The LSC estimates that nationally these changes will save up to £40 million, including in property and related costs.
Bill Rammell: The Learning and Skills Council has consulted staff and unions on its proposals. The formal consultation ended on 8 February, following a short extension to the agreed 90 day consultation period. The Learning and Skills Council is continuing to discuss the changes with staff and Unions at both national level and local level. We expect implementation to be complete by March 2007.
Peter Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what role (a) the Higher Education Funding Council and (b) his Department will have in (i) establishing links between West Midlands universities and (ii) developing a university for Milton Keynes. 
Bill Rammell: The DfES and the Higher Education Funding Council for England do not have a formal role in establishing links between Universities or for developing new Universities. However, HEFCE do work closely with and contribute funding towards the West Midlands Higher Education Association whose aims are to promote West Midlands HEIs and to facilitate collaboration between HEIs and provide a forum for sharing, communicating and disseminating good practice.
David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what the total cost was of overnight accommodation for Ministers of State in his Department on foreign visits in each of the last three years; 
Since 1999 the Government have published an annual list of all visits overseas undertaken by Cabinet Ministers costing £500 or more during each financial year. This information includes accommodation costs. Copies are available in the Library.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will ensure that every adult prison has (a) a learning support assistant and (b) a special educational needs co-ordinator. 
David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how much has been paid in (a) salary, (b) travelling expenses, (c) subsistence allowance and (d) removal expenses to special advisers in his private office in each of the last five years. 
Mr. Dhanda: Since 2003, the Government have published on an annual basis the names and overall cost of special advisers and the number in each payband. For information relating to the last financial year I refer the hon. Member to the written ministerial statement made by my right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister, on 21 July 2005, Official Report, columns 158-61WS.
Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the average pupil:teacher ratio in primary schools in (a) Cornwall, (b) the South-West Region and (c) England was in each year since 2001. 
Jim Knight: The following table provides the pupil: teacher ratio in maintained primary schools in Cornwall local authority, the South West government office region and England, in each January from 2001 to 2006. Information for 2006 is not yet available at local authority level.
|Pupil:teacher ratios in maintained primary schools in Cornwall local authority, South West government office region and England, as at January of each year|
|n/a = Not available.|
Annual School Census
David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many complaints of racial abuse have been (a) investigated and (b) upheld in his Department in each of the last five years. 
Mr. Dhanda: The Departments investigation procedure, to consider allegations of racial abuse, has been initiated less than five times in each of the last five years. On this basis, we regret that the information is suppressed on grounds of confidentiality.
The DfES believes that everyone should have an equal opportunity to meet their aspirations, realise their full potential and improve their life chances and we aspire to be an exemplary equal opportunities employer, and create a workplace which values diversity and is free from any form of unfair discrimination.
The Department does not tolerate unacceptable behaviour towards others. Formal complaints of racial abuse are investigated quickly and thoroughly and where complaints are upheld, appropriate disciplinary action is taken.
Bill Rammell: The Department for Education and Skills does not provide any direct support to higher education institutions for the provision of student accommodation. Institutions are able to use other funding available to them to secure the provision of appropriate accommodation for their students.
Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what evaluation he has
undertaken of the impact of regional variations in students' cost of living on the number of students (a) going to university and (b) completing their course. 
Bill Rammell: Since 1999/2000 the initial entrants to HE have increased from 246,000 to 271,000 in 2004/05 and we now have world class completion rates of 86 per cent. I am not aware of any evidence to demonstrate that regional variations in living costs are correlated with participation or completion rates, and in the most recent Student Income and Expenditure Survey (SIES 2004/05) commissioned by the DfES 4 out of 5 of students thought the benefits of HE were greater than the costs. We are already making £2 billion a year available in student support, abolishing up front tuition fees and institutions will become more responsible for providing additional support for deserving students through bursaries which will be worth over £300 million.
Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what research his Department has (a) undertaken and (b) assessed on the (i) levels of rent in student accommodation and (ii) impact of rent levels on levels of participation. 
Bill Rammell: The recently published the Student Income and Expenditure Survey (SIES) 2004/05 questioned students on their expenditure on rent and mortgage, this has increased by 29 per cent. on average across all full-time students in real terms since the last comprehensive study in 1998/09.
Since 1999/2000 initial entrants to HE have increased from 246,000 to 271,000 in 2004/05 and we now have world class completion rates of 86 per cent. I am not aware of any evidence to demonstrate that accommodation costs are correlated with participation rates although SIES 2004/05 showed that 4 out of 5 of students thought the benefits of HE were greater than the costs. We are already making £2 billion a year available in student support, abolishing up front tuition fees and institutions will become more responsible for providing additional support for deserving students through bursaries which will be worth over £300 million.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many state-maintained schools offer Mandarin as a language option from Key Stage 3; and how many state-funded colleges offer A and AS level Mandarin. 
Jim Knight: Information is not collected on the subjects offered at any Key Stage by schools and colleges. However, it is possible to provide figures on the number of schools where at least one pupil has been entered for an examination in a particular subject at Key Stage 4 and Post-16 education (but not for Key Stage 3) and these are given as follows.
In 2005, the number of maintained schools where at least one 15-year-old(1) pupil was entered for a GCSE full course in Chinese(2) was 500. In the same year, 183 maintained schools and 70 FE Sector Colleges had at least one student entered for A or AS level Chinese.
(1) Age at start of academic year i.e. 31 August.
(2) GCSE and A/AS level Chinese qualifications are accessible to both Mandarin and Cantonese speakers.
Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills which foreign languages are taught in schools in each local authority in England; and how many children between the ages of 14 and 16 years are studying each language. 
Jim Knight [holding answer 22 May 2006]: Information is not collected on the subjects taught in schools, however it is possible to provide figures to show where at least one pupil has been entered for a particular subject. It is not possible, however, to say whether the school has actually taught the subject or whether the pupil has been entered privately.
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