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Education and Skills

Adoption: Catholic Church

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, pursuant to the statement of 21 February 2007, Official Report, column 131WH, in which the Minister referred to negotiations taking place between the Scottish Executive and Westminster, what discussions he has had on the question of exemption from the Sexual Orientation Regulations for Catholic voluntary adoption agencies in (a) Scotland and (b) England and Wales. [125003]

Mr. Dhanda: Departmental officials have attended a number of meetings at which this issue was discussed. In addition, I spoke at the meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Adoption and Fostering on 1 November 2006, and at the Westminster Hall debate on “The Future of the Voluntary Adoption Sector” on 21 February 2007, where the issue of the Sexual Orientation Regulations was raised.

The Prime Minister announced on 29 January 2007 that there can be no exemption for faith-based adoption agencies from the Sexual Orientation Regulations. However, he made clear that, in the interests of children, there will be a transition period for existing adoption agencies until the end of 2008. The Prime Minister also announced that during this period there will be a statutory duty for these agencies to refer on to other agencies those whom, because of their sexual orientation, they are unwilling to assess as prospective adopters.

The Scottish Executive and Westminster continue to be in touch with one another about how the transition period will work in practice in Scotland. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government is responsible for taking forward the regulations underpinning the Equality Act 2006.

Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service

Kelvin Hopkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what steps he is taking to improve front-line services provided by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service; [123378]

(2) if he will publish the business case for the recommendations contained in the report “Organising for Quality” produced by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service; [123385]

(3) what he expects the effect of the recommendations contained in “Organising for Quality” to be upon the budget of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service in each of the next two financial years; [123389]

(4) if he will increase the staff capacity in the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service for services in (a) public and (b) private law; [123398]

(5) on what evidential basis he expects the recommendations contained in the report of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service “Organising for Quality” to improve services for children and families. [123415]


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Mr. Dhanda: These are matters for the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS). Anthony Douglas, the Chief Executive, has written to my hon. Friend with this information and a copy of his reply has been placed in the House Library.

Letter from Anthony Douglas, dated 2 March 2007:

Class Sizes and Co-education

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what recent research his Department is undertaking into (a) class sizes and (b) co-education. [120500]


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Jim Knight: The Department has commissioned and published research to assess the effect of class size on educational attainment and classroom processes (“Pupil adult ratio differences and educational progress over reception and key stage 1”. DfES Research Series RR335; “The effects of class size on attainment and classroom processes in English Primary Schools (Years 4 to 6) 2000-03”. DfES Research Series RR605).

While the Department has not commissioned research that directly relates to co-education issues, it has investigated interventions, including teaching in single-sex classes, aimed at “Raising Boy’s Achievement” (DfES Research Series RR636).

No current research on either topic is underway.

Degrees

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what percentage of people of working age in (a) Eastbourne, (b) East Sussex and (c) England hold a qualification (i) at degree level, (ii) at degree level equivalent and (iii) above degree level. [125641]

Bill Rammell: Table 1 shows the percentage of people of working age in Eastbourne, East Sussex and England who hold a first degree, another HE level qualification and a postgraduate level qualification, from the 2005/06 Annual Population Survey.

Table 1
Percentage
Eastbourne East Sussex England

First degree

5

10

12

Other higher education level qualification

12

12

9

Postgraduate and equivalent

6

7

6


Departmental IT

Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what mechanisms his Department has in place to ensure that new large-scale computer systems (a) meet performance targets and (b) do not exceed the budgets allocated to them. [105798]

Mr. Dhanda: The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) adopts a number of measures to ensure that its new large-scale computer systems meet performance targets and do not exceed allocated budgets.

Routinely, DfES projects that are enabled by information and communications technology (ICT) adopt the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) PRINCE2 project management methodology. PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments Version 2) is an ICT-enabled project management standard used extensively by UK Government Departments and widely recognised and used in other sectors. It provides a flexible and adaptable project management framework that aims to ensure that system delivery risks are identified and managed appropriately, and that objectives and benefits are achieved within budget, within time and to the required quality and performance standards.


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Furthermore, within DfES, ICT projects are routinely subjected to OGC Gateway‚"Ę Reviews. The Gateway process examines a project at critical stages in its lifecycle to provide assurance that it can progress successfully to the next stage. The process is based on techniques that aim to achieve more effective delivery of benefits and more predictable costs and outcomes. More information on PRINCE2 and Gateway can be found on the OGC website http://www.ogc.gov.uk

To complement the methodology and process, DfES and its ICT system development partners adopt a variety of tools and methods to ensure new IT system performance targets are met which include benchmarking, performance testing, iterative development techniques and user acceptance testing.

In addition, DfES has dedicated in-house teams which provide an assurance and support role for departmental ICT-enabled projects.

Departments: Consultants

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills which external consultants were used by (a) his Department and (b) each of its agencies in relation to private finance initiatives in 2005-06; and what the (i) nature and (ii) cost of the work was in each case. [123011]

Mr. Dhanda: This information could be collected only at disproportionate cost.

EU Integration

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what policy developments there have been in his area of responsibility that responded to EU decisions recommendations and communications in each of the last three years as referred to in the answer of 5 July 2006, Official Report, column 1125W, on EU integration. [121587]

Bill Rammell: National policies are developed in line with national priorities, and take account of a number of factors, which may include EU decisions, recommendations and communications, as well as the exchange of best practice. EU competence in education and training is limited to supporting and supplementing the actions of member states, and fully respects the responsibility of member states for the content and organisation of education and training.

Departments: Languages

Mr. MacShane: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will make knowledge of a foreign language a condition for appointment to senior civil service grades in his Department. [125537]

Mr. Dhanda: The Secretary of State has no plans to ask the permanent secretary of his Department to consider such a change. The Professional Skills for Government framework sets out the skills and expertise needed in senior civil service jobs across Government, and allows the flexibility to specify foreign language skills where that is relevant in appointing to a particular post.


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Education Maintenance Allowance

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) how many people in (a) Eastbourne and (b) East Sussex have received an educational maintenance allowance; [125444]

(2) how many young people in Eastbourne received an educational maintenance allowance in each year since the introduction of the allowance. [125465]

Phil Hope: This is a matter for the Learning and Skills Council, who operate the education maintenance allowance (EMA) for the DfES and hold the information about take-up and payments made under the scheme. Mark Haysom, the Council’s Chief Executive, will write to the hon. Gentleman with the information requested and a copy of his reply will be placed in the Library.

Energy Use

Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how much energy consumed by his Department is acquired from renewable sources. [106146]

Mr. Dhanda: In the Department’s energy return as part of the last published report on Sustainable Development in Government for 2004-05, DfES HQ buildings reported 16 per cent. of energy consumed is acquired from renewable sources.

English Language

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what measures his Department is taking to ensure that those least able to pay can access training in English for Speakers of Other Languages. [125201]

Phil Hope: Those least able to pay for an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) course will be eligible for full fee remission if they are in receipt of jobseekers allowance or an income related benefit including working tax credit.

Support for those wishing to access ESOL courses is provided by local colleges and training providers. The local Learning and Skills Council will be able to provide details of local provision.

A Race Equality Impact Assessment is currently being conducted to consider further the impact of proposed changes to eligibility for ESOL courses and this will be published shortly.

Family Courts: Manpower

Annette Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans he has to recruit and retain an experienced workforce in children and family court advisory and support services. [122547]

Mr. Dhanda: This is a matter for the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS). Anthony Douglas, the Chief Executive, has written to the hon. Lady with this information and a copy of his reply will be placed in the House Library.


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Letter from Anthony Douglas, dated 2 March 2007:


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