Previous Section Index Home Page

17 Mar 2008 : Column 901W—continued

Danny Alexander: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many tax credit cases were referred to the Adjudicator's Office in each quarter since 2003. [194496]

Jane Kennedy: I refer the hon. Member to the Adjudicator's annual report for 2007 which is available at:

Welfare Tax Credits: Overpayments

Danny Alexander: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the value of tax credit overpayments was in each month since April 2003; how many overpayments were written off in each of those months; at what cost in each quarter during that period; and what the average amount of overpayment written off in each of those quarters was. [194480]

Jane Kennedy: Tax credit over and underpayments are established after renewal at finalisation. Information relating to overpayments is therefore accounted for on a tax year basis.

Information on the number of awards with an overpayment of tax credits, including value, in 2003-04, 2004-05 and 2005-06 is produced in the HMRC publications “Child and Working Tax Credits Statistics. Finalised Annual Awards. Supplement on Payments In.” for each relevant year. These publications are available on the HMRC website at:

The amount of tax credit overpayments written off up to 5 April 2007 and the cost of managing and paying child and working tax credits are shown in note 8.2 and 3 of the Trust Statement to the HM Revenue and Customs Accounts for 2005-06 and 2006-07. These reports are available at:

Danny Alexander: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) how many instances of recovery of overpayments or excess payments have been disputed by tax credit recipients in each year since 2003; [194483]

(2) how many TC846 forms have been received by HM Revenue and Customs in each year since 2003; [194484]

(3) how many tax credit overpayment cases were reviewed at the request of the recipient in each quarter since April 2003; and what proportion of these reviews
17 Mar 2008 : Column 902W
led to (a) some and (b) all of the overpayment being written off; [194494]

(4) how many times the Tax Credit Office wrote off an overpayment in each year since 2003 because (a) of official error where it was reasonable for the recipient to think the award was correct and (b) it would have caused hardship to have recovered (i) all and (ii) part of the overpayment. [194501]

Jane Kennedy: Customers can ask HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to reconsider a decision to ask them to repay their overpaid tax credits by writing to the Department or by completing a form (TC846) that is provided for that purpose. HMRC do not separately count the number of requests made specifically using the TC846.

Overpayments were only identified after April 2004 when HMRC started finalising awards for 2003-04. The Department began considering disputed overpayments in June 2004.

For the numbers of disputes received and written off either in part or in full up to and including August 2006, I refer the hon. Member to the answer my predecessor gave him on 10 October 2006, Official Report, column 736W. Figures for each quarter ended 30 September 2006 to 31 December 2007 inclusive are shown as follows:

Quarter ending Number of disputes received (around)

30 September 2006


31 December 2006


31 March 2007


30 June 2007


30 September 2007


31 December 2007


Quarter ending Number written off either in whole or in part (around)

30 September 2006


31 December 2006


31 March 2007


30 June 2007


30 September 2007


31 December 2007


Note: The figures for overpayments written off do not directly relate to those disputes that were received in the same period. TCO does not separately record whether an overpayment is written off in part or in full.

For the most recent information about the number of overpayments written off in cases of hardship, I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Julia Goldsworthy) on 13 December 2007, Official Report, column 825W.

Working Tax Credit: Foreigners

Mr. Holloway: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the number of foreign nationals who are not allowed recourse to public funds but who are receiving working tax credits. [194108]

17 Mar 2008 : Column 903W

Jane Kennedy: The information requested is not available. Persons whose right to enter or remain in the UK restricts them from accessing public funds are not generally entitled to tax credits. This follows long standing Government policy.

Children, Schools and Families

LEAs: Performance

14. Ms Keeble: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what steps he is taking to monitor the performance of local education authorities in discharging their functions. [194077]

Jim Knight: The performance of local authorities in the delivery of services for children and young people is assessed annually by Ofsted. They also undertake with other inspectorates a programme of Joint Area Reviews of services provided by all partners in an area. Government Offices and associated field forces, and the National Strategies in respect of standards of attainment, provide ongoing differentiated support and challenge to local authorities.

Early Intervention

15. Mr. Allen: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what discussions he had on his visit to Seagrave Primary School in Nottingham on the role of the social and emotional aspects of the learning programme as part of an early intervention strategy in deprived areas. [194078]

Ed Balls: I acknowledged the importance of social and emotional learning for all young children. The Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) programme is a universal programme from which all children and young people can potentially benefit, and it can be of particular benefit when they have a significant lack of social and emotional skills.


18. Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families if he will make a statement on the future of the AS-level qualification. [194081]

Jim Knight: A-levels are long-established and valued qualifications. We will review, in 2013, the evidence and experience following the introduction of all 17 of the new Diplomas to see how the overall range of qualifications meets the needs of young people and supports their progression into further study and employment. We will consider the future of A levels, including AS levels, in the light of this evidence.

Standards of Attainment

20. Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what recent assessment he has made of levels of educational attainment in schools in Northamptonshire and England against international benchmarks. [194083]

17 Mar 2008 : Column 904W

Jim Knight: There have been significant improvements in educational achievement at Key Stages 2 and 3. Schools in Northamptonshire have improved broadly in line with national average.

We cannot make direct comparisons of schools in an international context. Recent PIRLS and PISA studies found that children and young people in England performed above the international average in reading in primary and science in secondary and around the international average for mathematics and reading in secondary.

Team Sports

21. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what steps he is taking to encourage team sports in schools. [194084]

Kevin Brennan: We are firmly in favour of competitive school sport. Increasing the quality and amount of competitive school sport is a key aim of the Government’s PE and Sport strategy. The 2006/07 School Sport Survey showed that:

We are introducing a National School Sport Week and, from January 2009, a national network of Competition Managers, covering every school in the country, will be in place.

Admissions Process

22. David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what assessment he has made of the performance of the schools admissions system in the East Midlands; and if he will make a statement. [194085]

Jim Knight: As part of our recent analysis of published admission arrangements for 2008 in three local authorities to assess the level of compliance with the School Admissions Code, we looked at the arrangements for Northamptonshire. We have written to the local authority, and to the governing bodies of voluntary aided and foundation schools who appear not to have complied with the Code or the law, to ask them to verify what we have found. When this process is complete we will make a further statement.

IT Projects

23. Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families how much his Department has spent on IT projects in 2007-08. [194086]

Kevin Brennan: Subject to final outcomes, the Department expects to spend £98 million on IT projects in the 2007-08 financial year. This figure includes a wide range of investments in both the Department’s internal systems and major IT-enabled policy initiatives. For example, the Department takes the cross-government lead on implementing ContactPoint, which has a budget of £76 million for this period.

17 Mar 2008 : Column 905W

Building Schools for the Future

24. Dr. Pugh: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what the timetable is for the Building Schools for the Future programme; and if he will make a statement. [194087]

Jim Knight: Building Schools for the Future aims that by 2020 all secondary schools in England will be refurbished or rebuilt, in 15 waves of investment. So far, we have launched six waves, and we have given all local authorities a broad indication of the order of their projects. This information is in the House Library. We intend to consult on the management of waves seven to 15 this year.

Binge Drinking

Margaret Moran: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what plans he has to provide information on the effects of binge drinking to school pupils; and if he will make a statement. [194073]

Kevin Brennan: We are committed to reducing substance misuse and related harm among young people, including that associated with binge drinking and alcohol misuse. Alcohol education is delivered alongside drugs education, and DCSF guidance is clear that pupils' education about alcohol and its effects should start in primary school, before drinking patterns become established, and should be revisited as pupils' understanding and experience increases. Government are communicating information about risks associated with drinking to young people through the “Know Your Limits” and FRANK campaigns.

Part-Time Jobs: Schoolchildren

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what estimate he has made of the number of schoolchildren working 20 or more hours a week in part-time jobs. [194079]

Kevin Brennan: The Department does not collect this information for children of compulsory school age, nor do we have a reliable estimate. The law prohibits such children from working more than 12 hours a week during term time. There are other legal restrictions on child employment; for example, concerning the number of hours each day and the types of occupation in which children may be employed. Employers who contravene the rules may be fined.


Michael Gove: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families how many expressions of interest for an academy have been received by his Department since the academies programme began; and how many have been approved. [192391]

Jim Knight: From March 2000 to the end of February 2008, 179 expressions of interest had been approved. A further three academy proposals have won competitions for proposed new and replacement schools.

17 Mar 2008 : Column 906W

At any particular time a range of discussions on potential academy projects will be going on between the Office of the Schools Commissioner, local authorities and potential sponsors. Most of these will lead to formal expressions of interest, but others will not be taken forward as academy projects.

Academies: Teaching Methods

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what proportion of academic lessons are set by ability. [173245]

Jim Knight: Our current data—which are taken from Ofsted inspection reports—do not enable us to count or estimate how many lessons in England are set by ability.

Ofsted collects data on the use of streaming and setting in lessons observed during inspection. Before September 2005, inspectors were usually informed about how classes were organised by means of pre-inspection documentation, discussion with head teachers or teachers' schemes of work or lesson plans. Under the inspection arrangements at that time, all full-time teachers were observed by inspectors. Since September 2005, the recording of class organisation has been based either on discussions with the head teacher or teacher or by reference to the lesson plan at the time of observation. A much smaller number of lessons are observed than would have been seen under the previous inspection framework; therefore, lessons seen may not represent pupil grouping in the school as a whole.

Prior to 2003-04 lessons were recorded as being setted, streamed, mixed ability or otherwise organised. For clarity, setting is the term used to describe the organisation of pupils in classes on the basis of their prior attainment in the particular subject being taught. The term banding, which is very similar to streaming, is used when the decision as to which pupils are included or not in a class is based on the prior attainment in a range of subjects.

From 2003-04 the distinction between streaming and setting was removed and instead data recorded on whether the class was mixed ability or setted/streamed.

The data here described for each year between 1996-97 and 2006-07 were included in the answer given in August 2007 to the hon. Gentleman’s parliamentary question number 153953. HMCI Christine Gilbert also wrote to him in February of this year to inform him that there was an error in the figures given for 2005-06 and 2006-07, and the correct figures for the two years were included in that letter.

Next Section Index Home Page