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24 July 2006 : Column 844W—continued

Foreign Language Teaching

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what percentage of (a) primary and (b) secondary school children are taught at least one foreign language. [87493]

Jim Knight: The Department does not collect data on the number of primary school children learning languages. However, in January 2005 the findings of Headspace, a survey of head teachers by Education Guardian and Edcoms, indicated that 56 per cent. of all primary schools in England were planning for or implementing language learning programmes to their pupils, (b) In 2005, the percentage of pupils at the end of key stage 4 attempting any modern foreign language examination was 59 per cent. (375,300 pupils out the cohort of 633,400).

Further Education Colleges

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills pursuant to the answer of 13 July 2006, Official Report, column 1984W, on further education colleges, from which providers’ prospectuses he found evidence of these types of courses. [86896]

Bill Rammell: Information about tarot card reading, stand-up comedy and various forms of cake decorating courses is available on the learndirect website ( or the London Floodlight website ( The websites provide course information plus details of those colleges and other providers which offer the course.


Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many students re-sat at least one examination at (a) GCSE and (b) A-level in each of the past five years. [86862]

Jim Knight: The information requested is not readily available and can be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many completed examination papers at (a) GCSE and (b) A-level were lost in each of the past five years. [86870]

Jim Knight: The National Assessment Agency (NAA) collected data on the number of GCSE, AS and A-level examination scripts missing on results day in 2004 and 2005; comparable data is not available for previous years. More than 20 million exam scripts circulated in summer 2005 across all awarding bodies. The number of scripts missing prior to marking was as follows:

Missing scripts
2004 2005


Total for AQA, Edexcel and OCR



AS, A-Level and Vocational Certificate of Education (VCE)

Total for AQA, Edexcel and OCR



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Gifted Pupils Register

Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will make a statement on the creation of a gifted pupils’ register; and what assessment he has made of the merits of such a proposal. [86950]

Jim Knight: The National Register is a key part of our programme to support gifted and talented learners in our schools. The National Register will help schools to identify these learners, as requested in the Schools Census, including those aged 11-19 who are eligible for membership of the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth. It will enable schools and local authorities to target interventions where necessary to help pupils at risk of underachieving to fulfil their potential. We are also exploring whether higher education institutions might use data from the register to assist with their widening participation strategies.

Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill

Annette Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what recent discussions he has had with the Home Department on protection of children on the internet and the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill. [85737]

Mr. Dhanda: My right hon. Friend and I have been informed of the content of discussions between DfES and Home Office officials and representatives of the industry about the provisions in the Bill for vetting chat room moderators. My hon. Friend the Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety wrote to the Moderation Sub-Group of the Home Secretary's Taskforce for Child Protection on the Internet setting out the two Departments' response to the concerns raised by the group. Discussions are continuing with a view to clarifying how the requirements in the Bill will work alongside the “Good Practice Guidance for the Moderation of Interactive Services for Children”, which the taskforce published in November 2005. There is ongoing discussion at official level on matters arising from the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill which impact upon both Departments as and when they occur as well as a range of other areas concerning child protection on the internet. The taskforce child protection measures sub group has, for example, set up a working group, of which DfES is part, to look at the safety issues for children caused by the development and growth of social networking sites.

School Finance

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if his Department will take steps to ringfence schools spending to ensure the appropriate level of investment is allocated to providing ergonomic, height adjustable furniture in schools; and if he will make a statement. [87415]

Jim Knight: The Government believe that schools are best placed to decide how to deploy the resources available to them through their delegated budgets and allocations of devolved formula capital and to decide on the appropriate level of investment to maintain the fixtures and fittings of their schools, including ergonomic furniture.

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School Sport

Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what proportion of (a) primary and (b) secondary schools have a playing field or playground where students can practise sports and participate in physical education lessons; and how much land was in use as school playing fields in (i) 1997 and (ii) the most recent year for which figures are available. [86872]

Jim Knight [holding answer 20 July 2006]: Data on areas of school playing fields and external spaces were supplied to my Department by local education authorities in 2001 and 2003. However, the completeness and quality of the data are not good enough accurately to assess the proportion of schools that have playing fields or playgrounds where students can practice sports and participate in physical education lessons. Nor can the data provide information on the total area of land in use as school playing fields.

Section 77 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 was introduced in October 1998 to stop the indiscriminate sale of school playing fields. Local authorities and governing bodies of all maintained schools now need the Secretary of State’s consent before they can dispose of a playing field or any part of a playing field.

Since 1998, 175 applications to sell an area of school playing field capable of forming at least a small sports pitch have been approved. Of these, 73 related to playing fields at closed or closing schools. In every case the sale proceeds were used to provide new or improved sports or educational facilities.

School Toilets

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many (a) primary and (b) secondary schools have toilets fitted with (i) hippos, (ii) cistern and flush controls and (iii) other water saving devices. [87376]

Jim Knight: The Department does not hold information on how many schools have fitted cistern displacement devices (such as hippos), cistern and flush controls and other water saving devices. However the Water Regulations (Water Regulations Advisory scheme 2005) require automatic controls to be fitted to all new or refurbished urinal flushing cisterns. Comprehensive guidance on the fitting of water saving devices in schools is available in a new free publication “Sustainable water management in schools(1)”.

Sign Language

Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills which colleges offered a British Sign Language course for the academic years (a) 2003-04, (b) 2004-05, (c) 2005-06 and (d) 2006-07; which colleges expect to offer such a course in 2007-08; and what public funding supported or is planned to support such courses in each year. [86912]

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Bill Rammell: Data on the particular courses offered by colleges are not held centrally. However, the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) holds information on which FE providers have at least one LSC-funded learner taking a British Sign Language course for 2003/04 (336 providers in total) and 2004/05 (312 providers). A list of these FE providers will be placed in the House of Commons Library. Full year figures for 2005/06 are not yet available as the academic year which spans 1 August to 31 July has not finished, but an initial list based on enrolments at 1 October 2005 will also be provided in the House Library. Full-year information for 2005/06 is likely to be available in December 2006.

FE college planning data for 2006/07 or 2007/08 at the level of individual courses are not required by the Learning and Skills Council. The Learning and Skills Council plans provision with FE providers at a higher and more aggregated level i.e. Full level 2 achievements, etc.

In 2004-05 the LSC funded 641,000 learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities at a cost of around £1.5 billion. Continuing investment in this provision remains a priority, which was confirmed in our 2006-07 Grant Letter to the LSC and the LSC has in turn made clear in its strategic planning guidance the priority it attaches to this provision.

Speech and Language Development

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what guidance is available to children's trusts on joint working between agencies responsible for supporting children with communication disabilities; [86773]

(2) what professional support is available to assist early years practitioners to assist children with communication disabilities; [86774]

(3) what assessment the Department has made of the long-term impact for children with a speech and language disability; [86776]

(4) what steps he has taken to improve parental awareness of Government support for children with communication disabilities; [86777]

(5) what assessment his Department has made of the merits of implementing a national unitary framework for special educational needs. [86778]

Mr. Dhanda: The Joint Planning and Commissioning Framework for Children, Young People, and Maternity Services, published in March 2006, aims to help local partners to put in place a unified planning and commissioning system which will put improved outcomes at the centre of their thinking, will create a clear picture of what children and young people need, will make the best use of resources, and will join up services so that children and young people with multiple needs experience a seamless service.

To assist the process of joint working, the Department for Education and Skills and the Department of Health have commissioned a study of good practice in the provision of speech and language therapy services to children and young people with special educational needs in the age range 0 to 19. A
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research team from Christ Church College Canterbury is carrying out this study and the fieldwork is currently under way.

The Department recognises that early identification of need, early intervention and early co-ordinated support are key in improving outcomes for children with communication difficulties. As part of a major new £250 million investment in improving the quality of the early years work force, the Department has identified training to support practitioners working in private, voluntary and independent sector settings in meeting the needs of disabled children and their families as one of four priority areas. This is new money and complements the training resources already available to local authorities through the General Sure Start Grant. The Department has also funded the development in partnership with 45 partnership areas of a wide range of practical resources and training materials through the Early Support Programme.

The Department is supporting a longitudinal study by the university of Warwick looking into the learning needs of a group of children with specific language and communication difficulties, the characteristics of the current provision made for them and its impact, their aspirations for the future and the ways in which services can best support them. The results of the study are due to be published in autumn 2006.

Parental awareness of speech and language difficulties is of course very important. In 2005 the Department published a detailed and well received information booklet for parents on speech and language difficulties under the Early Support Programme. This resource was produced in close collaboration with specialist organisations in the voluntary sector and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. It explains how children normally develop communication, language and speech, how adults can help in this, the difficulties that can arise and how to seek help from professionals.

In the report of their inquiry into special educational needs published on 6 July 2006, the Education and Skills Select Committee make recommendations concerning the possible shape and nature of a national framework on SEN. We are considering the Select Committee's report very carefully and will respond in due course.

Annette Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what advisory support services (a) are provided by his Department and (b) the Department funds the voluntary and community sector which offer information and support to children identified as having communication disabilities; [87151]

(2) what assessment he has made of the merits of implementing a national delivery model for schools and other educational settings to support children's speech and language development; [87152]

(3) what recent assessment his Department has made of the level of speech and language skills in England; and if he will make a statement. [87153]

Mr. Dhanda: The Department does not itself provide advisory support services for children with communication disabilities. We have however published a detailed information booklet for parents on speech and language difficulties under our Early Support
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Programme and we continue to look for opportunities to work in collaboration with relevant voluntary sector organisations. We have, for example, given grants for particular projects to the Association For All Speech Impaired Children (AFASIC), I CAN, the Aiding Communication in Education Centres and the Selective Mutism Information and Research Association (SMIRA).

The Primary and Secondary National Strategies provide a range of support and guidance to schools and childcare settings on the teaching of English and the development of speaking and listening skills, including frameworks to help teachers meet the requirements of the National Curriculum. The primary framework for teaching literacy is currently being revised, and we are developing a statutory framework for care and learning for children aged between birth and five—the Early Years Foundation Stage. Both of these documents will emphasise the importance of supporting children’s development of speaking and listening skills from an early age. We have also rolled out a national training programme—Communicating Matters—for practitioners in early years settings, dealing specifically with children’s language acquisition. This training, which relates closely to the curriculum guidance for the Foundation Stage, includes a module focused on support for children with additional needs.

Speech and language skills are assessed by teachers on an ongoing basis in all key stages including the Foundation stage. Speaking and listening is an explicit element of the overall subject level for English and it is reported within the overall subject level for English at the end of each key stage; it is not reported separately. In the Foundation Stage, it is reported within communication, language and literacy in the Foundation Stage Profile.

The Department has also indirectly assessed levels of speech and language development in Sure Start Local Programme areas to monitor progress towards its targets in this area. This has been collected using the Sure Start Language Measure (SSLM), a parental report tool used to measure change in the language skills of two year old children in Sure Start Communities. SSLM data collected by Sure Start local programmes has shown that between 2001-02 and 2004-05 the proportion of children in Sure Start areas with a high word count score at age two and whose parents were not worried about their development rose from 70 per cent. to 74 per cent.

Student Finance

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many and what percentage of graduates were paying back income-contingent student loans in each year for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. [84697]

Bill Rammell: Borrowers enter repayment status in the April after they leave their course as they are, in principle, eligible to repay their loans. However, borrowers only make repayments when they are earning over £15,000 and those earning less are not required to make any repayments.

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The following table shows the number in repayment status and the numbers who made a repayment in each financial year. Full data is not yet available for more recent financial years.

Financial year
2003-04 2002-03 2001-02 2000-01

Total in repayment status





Total who made a repayment(1)





Percentage making a repayment





(1 )Figures include those who made a repayment but who are not in repayment status.
Numbers are rounded to the nearest 100.

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