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28 Nov 2006 : Column 502Wcontinued
Beverley Hughes: The information sharing index will aid more effective prevention and early intervention as a tool to support practitioners to improve outcomes for children, and is therefore a key element of the Every Child Matters programme.
On 8 December 2005, the Government announced their intention to implement a national information sharing index across all 150 local authorities in England by the end of 2008. The Government are committing substantial resources to implement the indexone-off implementation costs will total £224 million over the next three years, and £41 million per year thereafter to cover operating costs, most of which will pay for the additional staff needed to ensure the on-going security, accuracy and audit of the index. My Department has made provision to fund both set-up and operating costs, so that the costs to local authorities will not result in a pressure on the council tax.
We have now entered the detailed design and pre-deployment phase of the index. To support this, details of the £12 million index local authority funding for 2006-07 were announced in April 2006. In October, a further funding allocation, totalling £29.8 million, was announced, covering the period 2007-08. This funding is being made available to enable local authorities to undertake necessary work in respect of readiness assessment and local pre-deployment work to prepare for the national implementation of the index. We have also developed an implementation toolkit to provide practical support for local authorities during this phase.
Additional funding of £4.14 million is being provided in the 2007-08 allocation to the first wave of 17 early adopter local authorities, based in the North West.
Earlier this year, we conducted data matching trials under the Information Sharing Index (England) Regulations 2006. The trials were intended to provide an early indication of the expected level of data matching for the full national Index. Samples of basic identifying information were supplied from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Department of Health (DH), the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) and nine local authorities. The results were in line with expectations and support the strategy underpinning the index business case of using data from a number of existing national and local sources.
Currently, we are consulting on draft affirmative resolution regulations to be made under section 12 of the Children Act 2004, which will govern the operation of the index. Consultation closes on 14 December. Subject to the will of Parliament, we expect the regulations to be in force by spring 2007. Also in spring 2007 we will publish for public consultation, statutory guidance, which will support operators and users of the index users in exercising their statutory duties in relation to the index.
From late spring or early summer of 2007, we will have created initial records for each child in England, drawn from key national data sources;
The first index release, which will include those initial records, will be deployed to the first wave of early adopter local authorities by the summer of 2007.
The index will then be rolled out progressively so that, by the end of 2008, it will be available in all local authorities in England.
There have been some inaccurate and misleading press articles following the publication of the Foundation for Policy Information Research report Childrens DatabasesSafety and Privacy. Their findings are based largely on personal views rather than firm evidence and, in some cases, relate to information that is over six months old. The report also contains numerous factual inaccuracies that were either not checked with me or my Department. The information sharing index will contain only the basic details of every child, end details, for example a GP or social worker, who are in contact with them. It will not contain case information or any subjective judgment about a child or their parents. It will not hold information about vaccinations, fruit and vegetable consumption or educational attainment. To say that it can be used to predict the future outcome for a child is nonsense.
The index is being developed in response to a key recommendation of Lord Laming following his inquiry in to the tragic death of Victoria Climbié. It is being developed in consultation with childrens work force practitioners and will enable them to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively by providing them with contact details for other services working with the same child. Security is a key concern and access to the index will be tightly controlled and audited.
Our over-riding goal is to improve the outcomes for children, young people and families. The information sharing index will be a vital part of delivering early intervention for children who need additional services and effective safeguarding for children at risk of harm.
Mr. David Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps his Department is taking to encourage more women to pursue higher and further education courses in computer science. 
Phil Hope: Since June 2005, the Computer Clubs for Girls initiative has sought to counteract negative perceptions of information technology among girls and encourage more of them to progress into careers in this area. The initiative, which was created by e-skills UK, the Sector Skills Council for Information Technology and Telecoms with support from the Department and the South East Regional Development Agency, currently has more than 3,500 schools and over 52,000 girls registered.
Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans he has to establish regional training centres for the training of school dinner ladies; and who will run such centres. 
The Department recently announced plans to set up a network of regional training schools for school cooks, supported by £2 million capital funding, to improve their cookery skills. Experts on cooking dishes that meet the new standards will train, support and mentor school cooks, including
supporting them in their own school. We have asked the School Food Trust to lead the implementation of this proposal.
Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how local authorities will store data gathered for the public service agreement targets set out in Every Child Matters. 
Beverley Hughes: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to him on 25 July 2006, Official Report, column 1440W.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills when he expects to publish his Departments gender equality scheme. 
Mr. Dhanda: In line with the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (Public Authorities) (Statutory Duties) Order 2006 (No. 2930), laid on 10 November 2006, we expect to publish my Departments Gender Equality Scheme by 30 April 2007.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps he is taking to ensure that private organisations contracted to work (a) in his Department and (b) for non-departmental public bodies and executive agencies for which his Department is responsible are aware of their duties under gender equality legislation when exercising public functions on behalf of public bodies. 
Mr. Dhanda: To assist us in meeting our general gender equality duty obligations, where contractors provide goods, works or services on our behalf, like other contracting out public authorities we will refer to the Equal Opportunities Commission's (HOC) Code of Practice of the Gender Equality Duty and any further EOC guidance when available.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans he has to carry out gender impact assessments of his Department's major policy developments and new legislation. 
Mr. Dhanda: From April 2007, the Department will carry out gender impact assessments of major policy developments and new legislation in line with the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (Public Authorities)(Statutory Duties) Order 2006 (No. 2930). We shall refer to Equal Opportunities Commission's (EOC) Code of Practice on the Gender Equality Duty and their specific guidance when available.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps he is taking to ensure that (a) his Department and (b) the non-departmental public bodies and executive agencies for which he is responsible are taking steps to meet the requirements of the forthcoming duty on public bodies (i) to end unlawful discrimination and harassment and (ii) to promote equality between women and men. 
Mr. Dhanda: In order to ensure better performance on the general gender equality duty, which will require public authorities to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and harassment and promote equality of opportunity between women and men, my Department will be taking the steps outlined in the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (Public Authorities) (Statutory Duties) Order 2006 (No. 2930) which should come into force on 6 April 2007.
Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills whether there will be a national skills academy in one of the five Olympic boroughs; and if he will make a statement. 
Phil Hope: The National Skills Academy for Construction is due to open its doors later this year following a launch on 27 November at its first site to open201 Bishopsgate and Broadgate, near Liverpool street, London. The National Skills Academy for Construction will have many sites, one of which will be in Greenwich. Other academies launching this autumn are in manufacturing and in financial services.
All national skills academies will operate on a national basis and in provide employers with hands on involvement in design and delivery of skills training, and a real say over strategy, standards and management.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what representations he has received on the application of the code of practice on the provision of free nursery education places for three and four year olds for nurseries in England; and if he will make a statement. 
Beverley Hughes: In the last six months, ministerial colleagues and I have held a number of meetings with representatives of private, voluntary and independent childcare providers. These meetings have been opportunities to celebrate the progress that we are making together towards the delivery of our 10-year childcare strategy commitments and to discuss issues of concern. Ministers and officials have also received a range of correspondence from providers including on the code of practice.
Some private sector providers have suggested that the funding they receive from local authorities to fund delivery of the free entitlement does not cover their costs and expressed concern that, in their view, the code of practice prevents, for the first time, the charging of top-up fees for hours covered by the free entitlement. In responding, we have been clear that we believe the £3 billion per year that the Government put into early years through the dedicated schools grant is sufficient to fund the free entitlement and that local authorities have discretion over the use they make of funding from the DSG including the rates at which they fund early education in all types of setting. They are encouraged to fund early years provision equitably across settings in accordance with local circumstances. We have also emphasised that the position on top-up fees has not changed and that previous iterations of the code of
practice have made this clear. The Government remain committed to a universal free early learning entitlement that benefits all children regardless of their parents' income or ability to pay.
We conducted a full public consultation on the 2006 code of practice from June to October 2005, to which 585 responses were received; the majority were from private providers who were generally content with the proposed extension to 38 weeks. None expressed concern about the requirement to ensure that the entitlement is entirely free at the point of delivery. A summary of the responses is available at:
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what representations he has received on the proposed amendments to the code of practice on the provision of free nursery education places for three and four-year-olds. 
Beverley Hughes: Since the Code of Practice came into force in April, ministerial colleagues and I have received a number of representations about the details of arrangements for increasing the free entitlement from 33 to 38 weeks and about top up fees, which some providers wrongly believe the Code of Practice ruled out for the first time.
The single substantive change to the delivery of the free early education entitlement set out in the 2006 Code of Practice was its extension from 33 to 38 weeks. Following the consultation we made clear our recognition that not all providers would be able to extend their provision to 38 weeks and that, at the relevant local authoritys discretion, they could be funded for the provision they actually delivered. In addition, all local authorities have received additional funding to support the extension to the free entitlement to 38 weeks.
The Code of Practice simply restated the existing position on top up fees: that the entitlement should be free at the point of delivery and that providers should not add any additional charges for the hours covered by free entitlement funding.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment he has made of the extent to which nursery education is free at the point of delivery. 
Beverley Hughes: The entitlement is, and must remain free at the point of delivery. This principle is not new, and has been made clear in successive versions of the relevant Code of Practice since 2003. The 2006 Code simply sets it out again explicitly. It confirms that parents should not be required to pay any fee for the free entitlement, either directly or indirectly as a condition of accessing the free place.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will list the 20 Pathfinders that have been identified to pilot the code of practice on the provision of free nursery education places for three and four-year-olds. 
All local authorities are delivering the free early education entitlement in accordance with
the code of practice on the provision of free nursery education places for three and four-year-olds, which will remain in force until 2008-09. The following 20 Pathfinder local authorities have been selected to pilot the roll-out of the extended free entitlement to 15 hours in a more flexible way from April 2007.
Telford and Wrekin
Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many prisoners have gained a public qualification as a result of study engaged in while in prison in each of the last five years. 
Phil Hope: The information is not available in the form requested because the prison service education data is not linked to individual prisoners. With the introduction of the Learning and Skills Council-led delivery arrangements for offender learning in England from 31 July, data on individual achievement by offenders will increasingly become available for adults, young offenders and juveniles in custody, and on those serving sentences in the community.
Paul Holmes: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what proportion of the prison population achieved a basic skills qualification in each of the last five years. 
Phil Hope: The information requested is not collected centrally. However, Prison Service Annual Report data shows basic skills qualifications achieved as:
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