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Children, Schools and Families

Children: Communication Skills

Mr. MacDougall: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what steps he is taking to ensure the effective development of speech and language skills in children; and if he will make a statement. [218459]

Kevin Brennan: The Government recognise that speech and language skills are vital to all areas of a child’s development. Together with the Department of Health we are taking a number of steps to ensure all children get the right support to develop these skills, including targeted or specialist support for children and young people with speech, language and communication difficulties.

On 8 July we welcomed the final report of the Bercow Review of services for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN). We support fully the report’s call for action to raise the profile of speech, language and communications across Government, local agencies and wider society and to improve services for children and young people with SLCN. We will publish a plan for implementation of the recommendations made by the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) in the autumn. We have already asked Sir Jim Rose to examine how schools can better focus on speech, language and communication as part of his review of the primary curriculum.

Alongside our response to the recommendations in the Bercow Report, on 8 July the Government announced a new £40 million early language programme, Every Child a Talker, which aims to improve the understanding of early language development among the early years workforce. It will provide practitioners with training and materials to enable them to support children’s speaking and listening skills more effectively and free up time for practitioners to spend working with parents to enrich the home environment and networking with each other to share good practice. This will complement the materials delivered through the Inclusion Development Programme, which is focusing in its first year on SLCN, along with dyslexia.

Sure Start Children’s Centres (SSCC) play a key role in the positive promotion of children’s speech and language development. In our Children’s Centre Practice Guidance (December 2006) we said that speech, language and communication should be a priority for SSCCs in developing their services and that all staff should have the skills and understanding required for high-quality, responsive interaction with children.

In addition, the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), being introduced from September this year, recognises the importance of supporting and extending children’s learning and competence in communicating, speaking and listening and providing opportunities for children to use these skills in a range of situations and for different purposes. One of the key roles for practitioners within the EYFS is to identify and respond to any particular difficulties in children’s language development at an early stage.

Early identification of SLCN is further promoted through the Child Health Promotion Programme (CHPP), led by the Department of Health. CHHP is the early
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intervention and prevention public health programme that lies at the heart of all universal services for children and families. It highlights a child’s speech and language development as one of eight priority topics for health and development reviews of children.

Children: Disabled

Annette Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what guidance his Department issues to local authorities (a) on the status of a disabled child whilst in short-term respite care and (b) on the transportation of such children between school and (i) the family home and (ii) the place providing respite care. [218177]

Kevin Brennan: The White Paper “Care Matters: Time for Change” set out a commitment to issue statutory guidance (within the revised Children Act 1989 guidance) specifically on the issues of short break care to clarify the applicable regulations for different settings and arrangements. The guidance will set out the circumstances in which it would be expected that the child would be looked after.

In 2004, the Department published ‘Home to School travel for pupils requiring special arrangements’ and following the Education and Inspections Act 2006, which extended entitlement to free transport for low income families, published its ‘Home to School Travel and Transport Guidance’ in May 2007. This guidance covers local authority duties and powers relating to sustainable school travel, and the provision of school travel arrangements for children and young people.

Guidance to local authorities and PCTs on short break delivery will be issued very shortly and addresses transport to such provision.

Donors: Health Education

Kali Mountford: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what plans he has to make materials available to schools and colleges for 16 to 18-year-olds on registering for bone marrow donation; and when he expects these materials to be included in the national curriculum. [218358]

Jim Knight: There is a variety of opportunities for young people to learn about bone marrow donation within the curriculum through PSHE, citizenship and science. In science, young people explore how health is affected by diet, drugs, disease and medical treatments and they are also given opportunities to use real life examples when finding out about science. Through PSHE and citizenship, young people are encouraged to make real choices and decisions and take informed action.

The Department is working closely with NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) to improve the accessibility and emphasise the curriculum opportunities on their ‘Give and Let Live’ website. The site will be re-launched in September 2008, and includes facts and information on bone marrow donation. The Secretary of State for Health and Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families will write jointly to schools and colleges in September, highlighting how donation can be taught within the curriculum and referring to the revised Give and Let Live resource.

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Education: Assessments

Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (1) what arrangements his Department has agreed with examination boards in England on the timely marking of GCSE and A level papers in 2008; and on what dates he expects schools to release (a) GCSE and (b) A-level results to those sitting such examinations; [218254]

(2) what representations he has received from examination boards on progress in marking 2008 GCSE and A-level papers; and if he will make a statement. [218353]

Jim Knight: The independent regulator, Ofqual, is responsible for monitoring the processes that are in place with awarding bodies for the timely marking of GCSE and A-level papers. It has regular discussions with awarding bodies about progress. It is Ofqual's assessment that awarding bodies are on course to release A-level results to candidates on 14 August and GCSE results on 21 August as planned.

Pre-school Education

Mrs. Maria Miller: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families pursuant to the answer of 24 June 2008, Official Report, column 280W, on pre-school education, which local authorities have childminding networks delivering the free entitlement. [218176]

Beverley Hughes: Figures from the 2008 Early Years Census show that 73 local authorities have childminding networks delivering the free entitlement offer. They are:

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Secondary Education: Stoke on Trent

Paul Farrelly: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what submissions his Department has received from Stoke-on-Trent City Council in respect of its preferred option for the reorganisation of the city's secondary schools; what response his Department has made to the latest submission; and if he will place in the Library a copy of the relevant correspondence. [218250]

Jim Knight: Stoke-on-Trent city council has not made a formal submission to the Department in respect of its current plans to reorganise the city's secondary schools through Building Schools for the Future (BSF).

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The council has been reviewing its plans for secondary schools, following the decision to place its Children and Young People's Services under Government intervention in 2006, and we have been discussing these plans with it. We have asked the council to set out its vision for transforming secondary education through a ‘Strategy for Change’ for BSF. This strategy should explain how it proposes to raise secondary school standards and aspirations and address falling pupil numbers in the city. We expect this to be submitted to the Department shortly.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Batteries: Waste Disposal

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the number and proportion of discarded portable household batteries which have been (a) recycled in the UK, (b) sent to landfill and (c) exported for recycling in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement. [217779]

Joan Ruddock [holding answer 10 July 2008]: Most of the 25-30,000 tonnes of portable batteries that are placed on the market each year are currently sent to landfill. At present only about 600 tonnes are collected for recycling. The EU batteries directive sets targets that 25 per cent. of portable batteries placed on the market should be collected by 2012 and 45 per cent. by 2016.

Of the 600 tonnes of batteries collected some types are recycled in the UK (e.g. button cells) though some of the more common types (e.g. alkaline) are exported to other EU countries for recycling since at present there are no such facilities in the UK.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress has been made towards establishing a compliance system for the recycling of household batteries to ensure producer responsibility. [217780]

Joan Ruddock [holding answer 10 July 2008]: The consultation on a producer responsibility scheme for household, industrial and automotive car batteries closed in March. 113 responses were received. We published a Government response to the consultation on 1 July and are now preparing draft regulations. We will consult stakeholders on these regulations in the autumn.


Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department has taken to develop and promote sustainability criteria for the production of agrofuels. [217331]

Mr. Woolas: DEFRA is working closely with the Department for Transport, the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and other domestic and international partners to ensure that policies incentivise the use of the most sustainable biomass fuels for heat and power generation and transport biofuels, with strong safeguards against unsustainable production.

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The UK is playing a full part in current EU negotiations on sustainability requirements for both the renewable energy and fuel quality directives. We are pressing for robust sustainability standards for all biomass fuels. Domestically, the renewable transport fuel obligation is designed to encourage the use of only the right sort of transport biofuels. Fuel suppliers have to report on the carbon savings of their biofuels and their wider environmental impacts. We are taking forward the key findings of the Gallagher review which looked at the indirect effects of biofuels on land use change and the consequences for greenhouse gas savings, and the effects on food prices.

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