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4 July 2006 : Column 1034W—continued

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills pursuant to the answer of 9 June 2005, Official Report, column 698W, on school meals, when he expects to decide how best to capture information about school meals provision; and what information about school meals provision is collected by his Department. [81798]

Mr. Dhanda: The Department has commissioned research to assess compliance with statutory National Nutritional Standards and to measure food consumption in maintained schools in England. A study of ‘School Meals in Secondary Schools in England’ reported in 2004 (DfES Research Report 557). A similar ‘Study of School Meals in Primary Schools in England’ has been conducted, and reported on 29 June 2006 (DfES Research Report 753).

The Annual Schools Census collects data on free school meal eligibility and take up. An internal DfES survey of local authorities (LA) was conducted in November 2005 to assess the nature of school meal provision and providers, the patter of commercial provision and contractual arrangements.

The Department has asked the School Food Trust (SFT) as part of its remit to monitor progress on school meals and report regularly to the Department. The SFT plans to collect information about school meals provision using several approaches. First, they are working with Ofsted and the national Healthy Schools Programme to develop a way of assessing whether or not the new DfES standards for school meals are being met. The intention is for this to be completed by early 2007. Second, they plan to undertake national sample surveys of primary and secondary schools’ food provision and consumption, similar to the two studies commissioned by the Department. These provide baseline information against which the change in the national profile of provision and consumption of foods in school meals can be evaluated. The timing and scale of the national sample surveys will be confirmed by the end of August 2006. Finally, the SFT has just completed a survey addressed to all local authority catering providers in England to assess school meal take-up, the costs of providing a school meal, factors believed to be associated with increases or decreases in take-up, and perceived barriers to change. The survey will be published in July 2006 and repeated annually at the end of each financial year.

School Principals

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what estimate he has made of how many hours a week on average (a) head and (b) deputy head teachers worked in the last year for which figures are available. [81696]

Jim Knight: The following table provides the average number of hours worked by head, deputy and assistant head teachers in primary and secondary schools in a week in March 2005. This is the latest information available.

Average hours


Head teachers


Deputy/assistant heads



Head teachers




Teachers’ Workload Diary Survey, March 2005, School Teachers’ Review Body.

School Sports Facilities

Mr. Andy Reed: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what procedures his Department has put in place to improve the link between community leisure needs and the opportunities for community use of sports facilities provided under the Building Schools for the Future programme. [81589]

Jim Knight: The Building Schools for the Future programme adopts an area approach to transforming secondary provision. For each phase of the programme, local authorities are required to develop
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an educational vision in line with our guidance, which takes into account a range of policy areas, including PE and sport facilities, and community use. Our Building Schools for the Future guidance to local authorities covers the preparation of educational visions, joining-up all potential sources of funding and the design of school buildings and facilities. This Department is also represented in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s “Sports Facilities Infrastructure Programme”.

Schools Commissioner

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) how many candidates applied for the post of Schools Commissioner; how many were invited to the final selection panel interview; and who the members of the selection panel are; [80719]

(2) when he will appoint the Schools Commissioner; [80720]

(3) what performance objectives will be used to determine the bonus paid to the Schools Commissioner. [80989]

Jim Knight: 21 candidates applied for the post of Schools Commissioner and three were invited to the final selection panel.

The panel members are:

The outcome of the competition will be announced as soon as possible after the selection process has been completed and is likely to be during July 2006. A performance agreement, including business objectives, will be put in place with the Schools Commissioner when they take up post. This will be the basis on which any bonus award is assessed.

Special Advisers

Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what role is played by special advisers in answering parliamentary questions asked of his Department. [80654]

Mr. Dhanda [holding answer 27 June 2006]: Special advisers conduct themselves in accordance with the requirements of the ‘Code of Conduct for Special Advisers’.

Staff Absenteeism

Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many working days were lost to his Department and its executive agencies in each year since 1997 due to staff absenteeism, expressed as the average annual number of absent days per
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employee; and what the estimated total cost to his Department and its agencies of absenteeism was in each year. [77253]

Mr. Dhanda [holding answer 19 June 2006]: The information is set out in the following table.

Department/calendar year Days lost per staff year Estimated cost of absence (£ million)

Education and Skills













Education and Employment




Employment Service Agency




Education and Employment




Employment Service Agency




Education and Employment




Employment Service Agency




The data are taken from the report “Analysis of Sickness Absence in the Civil Service”, which Cabinet Office publishes annually. The information in the “Days lost per staff year” column is quoted directly from the reports; the “Estimated cost of absence” is based on the average basic salary used in each report.

For the years 1998 to 2003, data for the Department for Education and Skills and the former Department for Education and Employment included staff in the Government Office network. In the 2004 report “Government Offices” is shown as a separate Department.

Student Finance

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many individual student loan accounts were passed to debt collection agencies from the Student Loans Company in each financial year from 1997-98 to 2005-06; and if he will make a statement. [75320]

Bill Rammell: The table shows the number of pre-1998 mortgage-style student loan accounts with debt collection agencies, as at 31 March of each year. Data for 1997/08 are not available.

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Referrals with debt collection agents at 31 March—England and Wales

















On average, referrals to debt collection agents represent 1.8 per cent. of the total number of borrowers. These data should not be equated with the number of loan accounts in arrears; cases may be referred more than once in a year and debt collection agents are asked to locate borrowers as well as to collect loans.

There was a particular drive in 2004/05 to tackle longstanding cases via external collection agents but the volume of referrals to collection agents, and the numbers of accounts in arrears are now decreasing.

There have been no referrals to collection agents of cases under the post 1998 income contingent loan scheme.

Student Safety

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills who is responsible for checking that schools have sufficient smoke alarms and fire extinguishers and that they are in working order. [81666]

Jim Knight [holding answer 3 July 2006]: The Department for Communities and Local Government recently published guidance for schools on the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, “Fire Safety Risk Assessment—Educational Premises”. This states that the responsibility for complying with the Fire Safety Order rests with the “responsible person”. With a school maintained by a local authority, the duties of the responsible person are likely to be shared between the local authority, the governing body and the head teacher. One of the prime duties of the responsible person is to appoint one or more competent persons—someone with sufficient training, knowledge and experience to carry out the preventive and protective measures required by the Fire Safety Order. The guidance covers what these are. In Part 1, section 3.41 deals with fire detection and warning systems, and 3.42 with firefighting equipment and facilities. They give advice on what to look for in school premises and provide checklists for both detection and firefighting.

Sure Start

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many available places there are on Sure Start schemes in (a) Yeovil constituency, (b) Somerset and (c) the south-west; and what percentage of children are on the Sure Start scheme in each area. [82148]

Beverley Hughes: There are two Sure Start children's centres up and running in the constituency of Yeovil
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offering services to 1,815 children under five and their families including 58 child care places. In Somerset there are 14 children's centres offering services to 10,401(1) children under five and their families including 237 child care places. In the south-west as a whole there are 78 children's centres offering services to 57,155(2) children under five and their families including 2,234 child care places. Data on how many children have accessed services are based on information collected for Sure Start Local Programmes (SSLPs) because data on numbers using children's centres are not yet available.

There are no Sure Start local programmes in the Yeovil constituency. 2,139 children under four live in areas covered by three SSLPs in Somerset. In all 24,613 children under four live in areas covered by 31 SSLPs in the south-west. The latest information available (at March 2005) shows on average 30 per cent.(3) of children in the Somerset and on average 25 per cent.(4)of children overall in SSLPs in the south-west had significant contact (that is, a home visit or attendance at a centre-based activity) with Sure Start.

Sure Start Local Programmes (SSLPs) were set up between 1999 and 2003 offering a range of services to children under four years of age and their families living in defined areas. In 2002, Mini Sure Start programmes were set up in rural areas and pockets of deprivation that would not normally be covered by larger SSLPs. All SSLPs and mini programmes are becoming Sure Start children's centres and will offer services to children under five years of age and their families. Information about the percentage of children reached by SSLP services is now collected once a year. The Department does not keep data on how many children have participated in Mini Sure Start programmes. However, each programme typically covers between 150 and 170 children under four in their catchment areas.

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