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Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families how much his Department and its agencies spent on first class travel in the last 12 months for which figures are available, broken down by staff grade. 
Kevin Brennan: The spend for the Department for Children, Schools and Families and its agencies on first class travel for the period 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2007 for rail travel is £6,297,690 and for air £29,641.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families pursuant to the Answer of 20 March 2008, Official Report, column 141W, on the education maintenance allowance, if he will investigate whether households are shrinking their incomes in order to claim education maintenance allowances. 
The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) has no evidence to suggest that
any household has chosen to reduce their income in order that their children become eligible for education maintenance allowance (EMA). Where people have made choices which have reduced income, such as moving from full time to part time work, it seems unlikely that such choices would have been made solely on the basis that their child may, in the following financial year, be able to claim EMA for up to one year. Parents are entitled to make decisions about their lifestyle and career, and it is not for the administrators of the EMA scheme to challenge those personal choices.
For EMA purposes, the majority of successful applicants have their household income assessed on the basis of a tax credit award notice (TCAN) awarded by Her Majestys Revenue and Customs (HMRC) or through a benefits check verified with the Department for Work and Pensions. Both Departments make detailed investigations to assess the evidence presented for establishing income for tax and benefit purposes. Our strategy for protecting the EMA scheme against potential abuse through the incomplete or false declaration of household income includes a data sharing protocol with both of those Departments. We currently investigate evidence we assess as high risk. We plan to strengthen this by building on our data sharing protocol to verify all EMA income assessments.
Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (1) what post-occupancy evaluation has been conducted on new schools built under Building Schools for the Future and the Academies Programmes; 
Jim Knight: Schools in Building Schools for the Future (BSF) are required to complete a post occupancy evaluation as part of the design quality indicator for schools process. This was put in place for local authorities joining the programme as pathfinders and in the subsequent waves. Post occupancy evaluation typically takes place after the building has been through a cycle of one summer and one winter and so the first evaluations are expected to take place towards the end of 2008.
The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment assessed the design quality of 12 completed academy buildings on behalf of the National Audit Office. The Commission used a tool based on the design quality indicator for schools, which in its full version will be used to measure the quality of all schools in BSF. Future academies, delivered through BSF will be subject to the requirements of that programme.
I announced on 17 March that we would be making funding available to local authorities to train nearly 80,000 schoolchildren to the Bikeability standard in 2008/09. This is in addition to the 46,000 children for whom we have already funded training via local authorities and School Sports Partnerships. We do not collect or hold data on the number of schools associated with these 126,000 children.
These figures do not include Bikeability-standard training paid for directly by local authorities, schools or other organisations. Estimates are that local authorities fund some form of cycle training for around 200,000 children a year. We do not collect information on how many of these children are trained to the Bikeability standard. We do know that some of the local authorities who will receive funding in 2008/09 are paying for Bikeability standard training to 29,000 more children from their own resources, in addition to the 80,000 funded by the Government. Other local authorities provide Bikeability standard training as part of their normal programme without DFT grant. For example York city council provide training to around 2,500 children to different Bikeability levels, including 1,200 to Level 2.
Sir Paul Beresford: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what recent research his Department has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on the combustibility of plastic foam composite panels used in the building of schools. 
Jim Knight [holding answer 25 March 2008]: The Department commissioned the Fire and Safety Unit at the Building Research Establishment to write Building Bulletin 100, Fire safety design for schools. This was published in 2007. BB100 is quoted as the compliance document for schools in Approved Document B (Fire Safety) 2006 edition, in support of the building regulations.
Appendix B of BB100: Fire behaviour of insulating core panels covers composite plastic foam insulated panels and gives design recommendations for their use in schools. This guidance is based on research that BRE carried out for the Home Office in 1996-97 on the fire hazards of this type of construction and the findings are valid for many building types, including schools.
Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what plans he has to encourage schools to collaborate in the delivery of the 14 to 19 curriculum; and if he will make a statement. 
We offer a range of support to support stronger collaboration. We have a well-established and successful programme of Learning Visits sharing good practice on collaborating to deliver 14-19 reforms; 142 local authorities have attended at least one Learning
Visit. Three of our strongest 14-19 areas have been awarded beacon council status, and are being used to disseminate good practice, including bespoke consultancy support to those areas that need more intensive support. We also share good practice via the departmental website and publications, including specific work on developing collaborative arrangements and planning 14-19 provision locally. In addition, we are looking to strengthen 14-19 partnerships by introducing legislation about local cooperation on 14-19 education in the Education and Skills Bill now before Parliament. The legislation provides the opportunity to signal the importance of collaboration between local partners.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families which schools will be offering a new diploma course in September 2008; what estimate he has made of the number of pupils who will be enrolling on such courses; and if he will make a statement. 
Jim Knight: In the early years of diploma delivery, we have made it our priority that all learners doing diplomas should have a good experience. To this end, we instituted a rigorous Gateway process, designed to ensure that only consortiums which were well placed to deliver from 2008 were allowed to do so. Only around 20 per cent. of applications were approved to teach diplomas in 2008 through this process, with 144 consortiums across the country involved in delivery.
Since then, we have been supporting these consortiums in a range of ways, and training teachers to teach diplomas. At the time of making Gateway applications, the consortiums approved to deliver from 2008 estimated that around 39,000 young people could be taking diplomas, In a number of cases, we have encouraged consortiums to keep student numbers lower than their initial projections in the first year, as new arrangements are introduced, in order to ensure that the quality of the experience for young people is extremely high. Therefore, we would anticipate that learner numbers in these areas should be lower than initial consortiums projections. However, young people are making choices at present for September and, particularly post-16, will continue to do so for some months. We are therefore unable to provide an accurate national figure for learner numbers in September at this point.
Recent announcements of the results of the second Diploma Gateway show a significant increase in the quality of applications to deliver diplomas, leading to a substantial increase in the number of consortiums approved to deliver diplomas in 2009 against the same rigorous criteria. By September 2009, we anticipate
that some 335 consortiums will be offering diplomas to around 100,000 young people.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families how many (a) academies, (b) grammar schools and (c) independent schools he estimates will offer the full range of diplomas from (i) September 2008 and (ii) September 2009; and if he will make a statement. 
Jim Knight: Applications for the first consortia were received in December 2006 when there were only 46 open academies. In March 2007, 18 academies were in consortia approved for the delivery of one or more of the five diplomas in the first phase, from September 2008.
There are currently 83 academies open. 58 academies are partners in consortia that have been approved for the delivery of one or more of the 10 diplomas to be available from September 2009 (14 of which are also partners in the consortia approved for delivery of diplomas from September 2008).
16 selective schools were partners in consortia approved for the delivery of one or more the first five diplomas from September 2008, and 81 have been approved for the delivery of diplomas from September 2009 (12 of these are also partners in consortia for delivery from September 2008).
At this relatively early stage, very few consortia have gained approval to deliver the full range of diplomas (i.e. all of the available lines of learning) and it is doubtful that any single school will at this stage be actively involved in teaching across the full range.
Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families pursuant to the answer of 6 February 2008, Official Report, column 1142W, on truancy, how many pupils have had a recorded unauthorised half-day absence while in year (a) nine, (b) 10 and (c) 11. 
|All secondary schools( 1) : absence in national curriculum year groups 9, 10 and 11: 2005/06, England|
|Number of enrolments who missed at least one session due to( 2)||Percentage of enrolments who missed at least one session due to( 2, 3)|
|National curriculum year group||Number of pupils of compulsory school age( 4)||Number of enrolments( 5)||Authorised absence||Unauthorised absence||Overall absence||Authorised absence||Unauthorised absence||Overall absence|
|(1) Includes middle schools as deemed. Includes city technology colleges and academies.|
(2 )One session relates to half a school day.
(3 )The number of enrolments who had at least one session of absence expressed as a percentage of the total number of enrolments in same national curriculum year group.
(4 )Pupil numbers are as at January 2006. Includes pupils aged five to 15 with sole and dual (main) registration. Excludes boarders.
(5 )Number of pupil enrolments in schools between 1 September 2005 and 27 May 2006. Includes pupils on the school roll for at least one session who are aged between five and 15, excluding boarders. Some pupils may be counted more than once (if they moved schools during the year or are registered at more than one school).
Pupil numbers have been rounded to the nearest 10.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what estimate he has made of the returns to the economy of people gaining (a) level 1 and (b) level 2 vocational qualifications; and if he will make a statement. 
Historically, vocational qualifications at level 2 have been associated with improvement in earnings where those qualifications were obtained in the workplace rather than in college, and for people who have no or low qualifications rather than those who are already qualified to level 2 or better, for example through having good GCSEs. Thus the skills strategy has emphasised the acquisition of vocational qualifications in the workplace and has prioritised funding toward those with low or no previous qualifications. There is also clear evidence that higher level qualifications provide substantial benefits but that those with low or no qualification face barriers to learning; so the skills strategy has also aimed to get people up to at least level 2, from where they will both be incentivised to continue in learning because of the substantial average earnings gain to be had, and because the personal barriers to further learning are likely to be lessened.
The latest evidence on the economic benefits for level 2 vocational qualifications was published in autumn last year(1). It changes this picture in that level 2 vocational qualifications give higher average earnings gain than previous studies have shown, and for a wider group of people. In many cases the gains seem to be better than the equivalent academic or general qualifications. Earnings improvements for young people up to the age of 25 who gained such qualifications experienced on average at least a 12 per cent. improvement in earnings, and for some qualifications much more. People with such qualifications also experienced substantial improvements in employment chances. The benefits continue to be larger for those with no or low prior qualifications than for those already qualified.(1)
That report also provided for the first time detailed evidence on level 2 vocational qualifications gained as adults (over the age of 25). The earnings differential is slightly lower than when acquired by young people, but they are still substantial, on average at least an 11 per cent. improvement in earnings. The exception in that study was the National Vocational Qualification at level 2 (NVQ2), which was associated with a lower improvement in earnings when acquired by adults. There are thought to be two reasons. First, there is a data difficulty, in that there are a relatively large proportion of adults in this country without qualifications. Many will have skills at around level 2, so a simple comparison of those with and without such qualifications does not reveal the true improvement in earnings for an individual who increases their skill level through gaining such a qualification. A further research study that will report later this year is using a different, longitudinal, approach and will identify more clearly the scale of benefit from gaining qualifications. Second, in the early years after NVQs were introduced, they were used extensively in government programmes for the unemployed, and hence they are disproportionately held by adults who have lower employability. As time goes on, and NVQs are used by the workforce more generally, the benefits are expected to become more apparent.
There is much less evidence on level 1 vocational qualifications. Recent evidence does show substantial positive improvements in employment chances for individuals who were low-achievers at school though(2).
(1) Jenkins et al (2007): The Returns to Qualifications in England, Updating the Evidence Base on Level 2 and Level 3 Vocational Qualifications. CEE Discussion Paper no. 89.
(2) The Impact of Vocational Qualifications on the Labour Market Outcomes of Low-Achieving School-Leavers, Steven McIntosh, CEP Discussion Paper No 621, March 2004
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