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23 Oct 2006 : Column 1594W—continued

Unauthorised absence is absence without leave from a teacher or other authorised representative of the school. This includes all unexplained or unjustified absences, such as lateness, holidays during term time not authorised by the school, absence where reason is not yet established and truancy.

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills pursuant to the Answer of 6 March 2006, Official Report, column 1235W, to the hon. Member for South-West Hertfordshire (Mr. Gauke), on truancy, how much was spent for local authorities to share effective practice; what the nature of the events was; whom the advisers were; how much each adviser was paid; what percentage change in unauthorised absence figures occurred in each quarter since their appointment; how many electronic registration systems were purchased; and what the (a) type, (b) unit cost, (c) supplier and (d) monitoring arrangement was in each local authority area. [95349]

Jim Knight: The £0.2 million expenditure mentioned in the previous reply on events for local authorities includes termly meetings of local authority attendance leaders in each English region. These meetings are organised and facilitated by the National Strategies’ Assistant Regional Advisors for Attendance. The purpose of each meeting is to present current developments and to share effective practice on attendance management between local authorities. A separate conference was held on 21 September 2005 for selected local authorities on improving school attendance.

The eight attendance advisers who were seconded to my Department from local authorities were: Ron Collinson; Sandra Fletcher; Richard Harvey; Ken Johnson; Linda Rundle; Hilary Shaw; John Smail; and Ingvar Spencer. Their costs ranged between £32,000 and £71,000 and reflected their local authority salary. This was paid pro-rata as some of the advisers only worked for the Department on a part-time basis. Each received an amount for travel and subsistence and, in one case, for administrative support.

The current Capita National Strategies Assistant Regional Advisors for Attendance team is made up of: Senior Regional Attendance Advisor: Sue Bainbridge; Current Assistant Regional Advisors for Attendance: Margaret Bleet; Heather Clapp; Chris Gabbett (from January 2007); Jean Gunning; Kenneth Hart; Colin Logan; Linda Rundle; Peter Walker; and Paul Wright. The previous Assistant Regional Advisors for Attendance were: Trevor Folley; Pippa Jackson; and Sam Penn.

The salary scale for the Senior Regional Attendance Advisor is £59,963-£63,456. The salary scale for the Assistant Regional Advisors for Attendance is £51,984-£55,339.

My Department does not collect pupil absence figures on a quarterly basis.

£11.25 million was made available to fund electronic registration systems in around 530 secondary schools with high levels of unauthorised absence. Schools selected the system and the provider that best suited their needs. The following table shows the total amounts by supplier in grants awarded to schools.

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Supplier Total grants awarded (£)





Easy Trace






















The effectiveness of the e-registration funding was evaluated by the Centre for Educational Development, Appraisal and Research at the University of Warwick. Their report was published in May 2006 and a copy has been placed in the Library.

Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what his most recent estimate is of the level of persistent unauthorised absence in (a) primary and (b) secondary schools in (i) rural and (ii) non-rural areas in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement. [94505]

Jim Knight: The information required to answer the question is not yet available.

The Department started to collect pupil level absence data for the first time from secondary schools in January 2006. Detailed absence statistics for 2005-06 will be available in a statistical first release provisionally scheduled for publication in February 2007.

University Research Assessment Exercise

Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment has been made of the cost effectiveness of individual researchers in the University Research Assessment Exercise. [95790]

Bill Rammell: I made clear to my hon. Friend in my answer of 20 July 2006, Official Report, column 649W, that the Government do not believe that the bureaucratic burden that the research assessment exercise places on individual scholars is cost efficient. The main purpose of the consultation exercise on the reform of research assessment and funding that ended on 13 October is to identify future arrangements that permit this burden to be reduced significantly.

University Research Councils

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what funding his Department provides to university research councils; and what guidelines his Department has issued to university research councils on the use of their funds. [93949]

Jim Fitzpatrick: I have been asked to reply.

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The Department provides funding to university research through the Research Councils. The Research Councils were allocated £2.6 billion by the Department in 2006-07.

DTI provides funding under the Science and Technology Act 1965 to seven of the Research Councils: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (which does not directly give grants to universities), Economic and Social Research Council, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Medical Research Council, Natural Environment Research Council and Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council. The Arts and Humanities Research Council receives funding from DTI under the Higher Education Act 2004. The eight Research Councils are incorporated by Royal Charter.

A Management Statement for each Council sets out the framework within which it will operate. A Financial Memorandum sets out the financial framework within which each Research Council is required to operate. Copies have been placed in the House of Commons Library.

Video Games

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what studies his Department has (a) commissioned and (b) assessed regarding the use of video games as an educational tool in school. [93483]

Jim Knight: In 2005 the Department commissioned a review of existing research into the role of electronic games in learning (Kirriemuir 2005, 2005b).

In 2006 the Department commissioned the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA) to produce a publication that gave an overview of the current use of games in learning, the impact of such approaches on learning and importantly the needs of the teacher in this context. The publication released by ELSPA on 4 October 2006, “Unlimited Learning: Computer and video games in the learning landscape”, offers a snapshot of what is happening across education and, importantly, offers an evidence base from which informed decisions can be taken by industry and education alike.

Young Asylum Seekers

Mr. Vaizey: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what his Department’s policy is on the education of unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people; and if he will make a statement; [92714]

(2) how much his Department spent on the education of unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people in (a) Oxfordshire and (b) England in each of the last three years. [92715]

Jim Knight: All children and young people should be able to achieve their potential, whatever their ethnic and cultural background and whichever school they attend.

All unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) of compulsory school age receive the same

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educational entitlement as citizen children. All unaccompanied minors are cared for by the local authorities and therefore have the same entitlement as all looked-after children. Unaccompanied asylum seekers aged 16-18 are eligible for courses funded by the Learning and Skills Council.

The Department has issued a guide to good practice for local authorities and schools “Aiming High: Guidance on Supporting the Education of Asylum Seeking and Refugee children”. It explores the role of local authorities and schools and offers practical suggestions for the provision of good quality education for these vulnerable children. The guidance can be found on our website at:

The Department does not collect information centrally on expenditure on the education of UASC in school or further education. Local authorities can spend their Dedicated Schools Grant on the education of these children pre-16, and this can include resources targeted through the local funding formula to schools with children who have additional educational needs or special educational needs. As aforementioned, UASC aged 16-18 are eligible for courses funded by the Learning and Skills Council.

The education of UASC is also supported by the Government through a number of specific grants. My Department provides funding to local authorities to support provision for bilingual learners and pupils from minority ethnic groups at risk of underachieving, through the Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant (EMAG). This is a ring-fenced grant allocated to local authorities and distributed on a needs based formula. £173.6 million will be paid to local authorities for the period 2006-07.

Children’s Services Grant includes £42 million in 2006-07 for vulnerable children which is intended to secure improved access to education for vulnerable children, in particular: to provide high quality education for those unable to attend school or whose circumstances make it difficult for them to do so, such as school age mothers, Gypsy, Traveller and Roma children, asylum seekers and young carers; and to support attendance, integration or reintegration into school.

The Department also provides funding to local authorities towards the cost of supporting UASC care leavers (aged 18 and over) through the UASC Leaving Care Grant. This funding is over and above mainstream funding and can be used towards general costs of supporting UASC care leavers, including education costs.


Departmental Travel

David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how much has been spent by his Department on (a) chartering aircraft and (b) non-scheduled air travel in each of the last five years. [96226]

Mr. Hain: Nil.

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Ministerial Visits

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales pursuant to the answer of 17 October 2006, Official Report, column 1118W, on ministerial visits, on how many of the 97 days which he spent in Wales on official business he stayed overnight. [96301]

Mr. Hain: The Wales Office only keeps records of those dates on which it was necessary to pay for accommodation out of public funds in furtherance of my ministerial duties. The Wales Office paid for hotel accommodation on five occasions. There is no public record of those occasions on which I stayed in my own private accommodation.

Minister for Women

Forced Marriages

Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what role she is playing in discussions on new legislation to proscribe forced marriage. [95656]

Meg Munn: As a member of the Inter-departmental Ministerial Group on Domestic Violence, I am actively involved in discussions with ministerial colleagues relating to this issue, and we all acknowledge the importance of taking appropriate steps to tackle forced marriage.

A consultation was held from September to December 2005 on whether to create a specific criminal offence of forcing someone into marriage. We have considered fully the pros and cons of a specific offence before deciding whether or not to legislate, and Baroness Scotland announced the Government's decision not to introduce specific legislation on June 7 2006. Respondents feared that legislation would drive the problem further underground and increase the risk of forced marriage victims being taken overseas and held there.

We have not ruled out the possibility of developing new legislation in relation to forced marriage in the future, but believe that a specific offence should only be created if there are gaps in existing legislation which cannot be filled. However, in order to tackle the issue more effectively, several recommendations for non-legislative activity will be taken forward. The Forced Marriage Unit is now pursuing the recommendations for non-legislative measures, including increasing training to professionals and more outreach work, increasing work with statutory agencies to implement guidelines, and making better use of existing legislation, civil remedies and the family courts.

There are many existing criminal offences which may be committed during a forced marriage, such as kidnap, false imprisonment, assault, rape and in some cases murder. The Government support forced marriage victims who choose to make prosecutions and will continue to do so.

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Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Agency Budgets

Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what change in the budget during 2006-07 has been requested of the (a) Veterinary Laboratories Agency, (b) Pesticides Safety Directorate, (c) Veterinary Medicines Directorate and (d) Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science; and what the likely staffing implications of such a change are in each case. [92689]

Barry Gardiner: Each of these bodies is required to cover its full economic costs within a permitted tolerance through charging for its services to Defra and other public and private sector customers. As such Defra does not set specific cost budgets in the same way as for other delivery bodies such as non-departmental public bodies. Rather it enters into negotiated contracts for services, some of which are demand led. Defra regularly reviews the expected levels of demand for these services and signals to agencies where throughput is lower than originally planned. The staffing implications of such changes are the responsibility of the agency’s own accounting officer taking into account all of their business.

So far during 2006-07 the only changes to the level of Defra’s forecast business with these agencies was as follows:

Animal Exports

Gwyn Prosser: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the (a) place of departure, (b) final destination and (c) total journey time from the place of departure to the final destination was of each of the consignments of calves exported from Dover on 11 October; and if he will make a statement. [95758]

Mr. Bradshaw: On 11 October, 14 consignments of calves were exported from Dover. Two consignments came from Wales, two came from the West Country, five came from the North and five came from the Midlands. Eight consignments went to Belgium, two went to France and four went to Spain.

The duration of the journeys cannot be verified until the transporters return their route plans. They are required to do so 15 days after completion of each journey.

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