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Ms Dari Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what assessment he has made of the level of professional training available to social workers working in (a) fostering and (b) adoption services. 
Kevin Brennan: The Government engaged widely with stakeholders and service users to understand how best to improve the capacity and training of social workers in the Options for Excellence Review (2006). Building on these findings DCSF is investing over £63 million between 2008 and 2011 in this area and announced in the Children's Plan (2007) commitments to improve support and training for all social workers working with children and families. This includes:
piloting a newly qualified social work status offering guaranteed induction and support; building a professional development framework setting out the standards expected of all social workers at each point of their career including those working in specialist areas, such as adoption and fostering;
investing in additional support to social work supervisors; and enhancing initial social work training so that it better equips social workers with the practical skills and knowledge to work with children and families across all areas, including adoption and fostering.
The General Social Care Council (GSCC) requires all qualified social workers to undertake at least 15 days of professional development in a three-year period as a condition of their registration. In October 2007 GSCC introduced a new post-qualifying award for social workers specialising in children and families services to better equip them with the specialist skills
needed in this area. The award has a focus on social workers' competence in assessing, planning, using professional judgment and managing risks to meet the needs of children and young people including in the areas of foster care and adoption.
Mr. Goodwill: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what assessment has been made of the feasibility of introducing Criminal Records Bureau checks for private tutors or music teachers who work unsupervised with children. 
Individuals such as private tutors will be able to make an application to register with the ISA. In order to register with the ISA all relevant information on the individual will be assessed. This will include criminal information and soft information which is assessed as part of the current Criminal Records Bureau disclosure process. The ISA will make the decision whether the individual should be barred as a risk of harm to children or whether to make them ISA registered.
For the first time, the scheme will allow parents to check that a self-employed person they use, such as a private music tutor, is ISA registered and therefore not barred as a risk or harm to children. This is an improvement on the current system, where private employers such as parents are unable to check whether a tutor they use to work with their child is on a barred list. Moreover, the ISA will continuously monitor new, relevant information on the individual from criminal convictions and referrals and will notify employers, including parents, if an individual ceases to be ISA registered.
Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (1) what the most common reasons for absence were of those students identified by dedicated local pupil tracking officers as missing from education for a period longer than 10 days in the latest period for which figures are available; 
(2) how many students were identified by dedicated local pupil tracking officers as missing from education for a period of more than 10 days in the latest period for which figures are available. 
The information requested by my hon. Friend is not available. The statutory duty for local authorities to identify children missing from education commenced in February 2007 and local authorities have been implementing systems over the past year that should enable collection of local level data. However, national information is not available regarding periods of, and reasons for, absence from
education as reliable information cannot be produced using current methods of collection. My Department will consider how to collect appropriate information in the future.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what steps the Government have taken to raise the aspirations of school children to aim for further or higher education since 1997. 
Improving progression towards further and higher education and encouraging young people to continue learning for longer is vital to improve the life chances of young people and meet our economic needs. The total number of 16 to 18-year-olds in education and training increased by 15,500 to 1,547,000 at end 2006, the highest number ever. The 14-19 reformsoutlined in the 14-19 Education and Skills Implementation Plan (2005) and Raising Expectations: staying in education and training post-16 (March 2007) are designed to encourage more young people to continue learning for longer and to gain the qualifications they need to progress to further and higher education.
Last month the Government published World Class Apprenticeships: Unlocking Talent, Building Skills for All. It set out a wide range of steps which will improve apprenticeships for the future and ensure that an apprenticeship place is available for all qualified young people by 2013. This will play a major part in raising the participation age in learning to age 18.
We also aim to increase participation in higher education (HE) towards 50 per cent. of those aged 18 to 30, with growth of at least 1 percentage point every two years to 2010/11. In November 2006 the then Department for Education and Skills published Widening participation in higher education. It showed the policies being pursued in four areasraising educational attainment, raising aspirations, improving applications and admissions, and measuring performancewhich individually and collectively help to encourage and enable people from a wider range of backgrounds to go on to HE. Since the publication of Widening participation in higher education my Department has announced that the successful Aimhigher initiative will continue for another three years in its efforts to raise young people's attainment and aspirations and improve their progression. The Government have also launched nine regionally-based excellence hubsuniversity partnerships which are delivering a national programme of outreach opportunities for gifted and talented learners, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The Government are convinced that there is much to be gained by encouraging stronger partnerships between schools and universities and wants every secondary school to have a university partner. To that end, last year the Department for Children, Schools and Families and my Department jointly published Academies, Trusts and Higher Education: prospectus which sets out one way in which universities can work more closely with schools to create a better understanding of HE, encourage a wider range of applicants and ensure young people are properly equipped to make the most of HE.
Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families how many staff aged between 16 and 18 were employed by his Department and its predecessor (a) directly and (b) through an employment agency in each of the last 10 years; what proportion of these were given time off work to undertake some form of training; and what proportion were provided with some form of training (i) wholly and (ii) partially funded by his Department. 
|Number of 16 to 18-years-olds employed|
Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what percentage of people aged under 18 and not in education, employment or training there were in each English region in the latest period for which figures are available. 
Beverley Hughes: The Department's estimate of the number of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) cannot be disaggregated to regional level. However, we can estimate the number of young people NEET using figures drawn from the client management systems maintained by Connexions services. The following table shows the number and proportion of young people aged under 18 NEET in each Government office region at the end of December 2007 based on Connexions data.
The figures relate to 16 and 17-year-olds known to Connexions and are not directly comparable with statistics on 16 and 17-year-olds NEET published annually by the Department of Children, Schools and Families. This is because the Connexions NEET measure excludes those on gap years, or in custody and young people who attended independent schools or were at school outside England may also be excluded.
In addition, the Department's statistics relate to the young person's academic age, rather than calendar age.
|Number and proportion of 16 to 17-year-olds not in education, employment or training at the end of December 2007|
Ann Coffey: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the Youth Opportunity Fund and Youth Capital Fund, with particular reference to hard-to-reach and disadvantaged children and young people who are not involved in formal organisations. 
Beverley Hughes: The Youth Opportunity and Capital Funds (YOF and YCF) were established in April 2006 as complementary, universal funds operating under a single management framework. The funds demonstrate how innovative and creative young people can be when they are truly empowered, delivering a wide range of high quality projects and activities.
Interim findings from the independent evaluation of the funds were published in July 2007: Research report number DCSF-RR004 is available on the DCSF's website. The research found that the funds were meeting their objective to give young people a voice through consultation and control over resources. Local authorities had involved young people in the design and development of the funds, with young people involved as decision-makers.
Overall, around 570,000 young people have benefited directly from the funds. In addition, management information shows that over a third of the young people involved as decision makers or project leaders were from traditionally disadvantaged groups. The guidance for the funds is clear that particular care should be taken to encourage those groups who face barriers to participation. This includes young people from low income families, young disabled people, young care leavers, looked after young people, young offenders, young carers, young refugees, young lesbians and gay men, young black and minority ethnic people, travellers and those in rural areas.
On the basis of this evidence it was agreed in comprehensive spending review 2007 that the funds should continue until at least 2011, at the current rates of funding with an additional £25 million of new investment being made available in the most disadvantaged communities.