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Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families with reference to the answer of 12 January 2009, Official Report, column 10W, on education maintenance allowance, if he will publish the daily processing statistics on the education maintenance allowance which his Department has received from the Learning and Skills Council since September 2008. 
Jim Knight: I have regularly written to update the Select Committee on the delivery of the education maintenance allowance (EMA). Those updates have been copied to the hon. Member and copies placed in the Libraries. In the most recent update, dated 28 January, I reported that as of 23 January over 520,000 young people had received EMA payments in this academic year. This is over 1,000 more than at this time last year.
As I also reported in my letter of 28 January, the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) and Capita are confident that they have accurate data on the numbers of EMA learners enrolled and those in payment. However, they have advised that the data on the number of applicants may include double counting. The LSC has therefore commissioned Capita to carry out a data-matching exercise to eliminate duplicates.
Given the possibility that the data on applicant numbers may be inaccurate, it would not be helpful or in the public interest to publish the daily statistical reports that the Department received from the LSC between September 2008 and January 2009. The key figure is the number receiving payment, which I have regularly provided.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families how many applications for education maintenance allowance were lost between 1 August 2008 and 31 December 2008; and if he will make a statement. 
Jim Knight: This is a matter for the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) who operate the education maintenance allowance (EMA) for the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF). Mark Haysom the LSC's chief executive, will write to the hon. Member with the information requested and a copy of his reply will be placed in the both Libraries.
Jim Knight: The Department has undertaken investigative research in a small number of primary schools to look at good practice in preparing pupils for key stage 2 national curriculum tests. The findings will be considered by the Expert Group on Assessment as part of their wider research into the future of testing. The group is due to report in March 2009.
To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what mechanisms his Department uses to assess the relevance of
qualifications offered in schools and colleges to the requirements of employers. 
Jim Knight: Qualifications taken by young people must equip them with the right knowledge and skills for employment, and we already involve employers directly in the design and delivery of many 14-19 qualifications. The extent to which qualifications meet employers requirements is considered as part of the accreditation process, and at the point of consideration for public funding.
Employers are closely involved in the development of both Diplomas and Apprenticeships. Sector Skills Councils and individual employers play key roles in each of the Diploma Development Partnerships to ensure that the new qualifications respond to the needs of different sectors. Apprenticeship frameworks meet the needs of employers through Sector Skills Councils working with employers in their sector to assess the suitability of qualifications in designing a framework.
This year the Department has made £500,000 available to Sector Skills Councils to assess sector skills needs in the 14-19 age range, and to incorporate those assessments into their Sector Qualifications Strategies. These Strategies will provide evidence for determining the types of 14-19 qualifications which are eligible for public funding.
Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what research his Department has commissioned on pupils and parents views of testing in schools in the last two years. 
Jim Knight: A number of recent surveys have found that most parents agree that national testing enables them to compare one schools performance against another, and that the performance of each school in tests and exams should be published and publicly available.
We have recently announced significant changes to the testing and accountability regime, and established an expert group on assessment to make recommendations to the Secretary of State on a wide range of assessment issues. The group is seeking the views of a wide range of stakeholders, including parents, to inform its thinking.
The independent evaluation of single level tests within the Making Good Progress pilot includes consideration of pupils experience of testing. The interim report (Evaluation of the Making Good Progress, Research Report DCSF-RR065) sets out that the majority of interviewees who commented on pupils test experiences, considered that pupils were generally not stressed by the tests involved, because they were pitched at the right level.
Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families with reference to the written ministerial statement of 10 January 2008, Official Report, column 15WS, on the Families at Risk review, which recommendations from the report (a) have and (b) have not been implemented. 
The Government Departments responsible for implementing the Families at Risk Reviews recommendations are the Department of Work and
Pensions, the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice, HM Treasury, the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills, Communities and Local Government, the Department of Health and the Department of Children, Schools and Families. Reports on progress will be issued in due course.
Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what factors he has identified as the primary causes of the disparity between children from different ethnic groups in GCSE attainment. 
Jim Knight: The analyses from the latest national statistics on survey responses to the Youth Cohort Study (YCS) and the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE) released on 26 June 2008 exemplify the multi-faceted nature of the influences on GCSE attainment and outcomes. They show that personal characteristics including ethnicity, first language, socio-economic background, attitudes and behaviours all have strong relationships with attainment and participation outcomes. However it is noteworthy that GCSE attainment by black and other minority ethnic groups has improved over the last five years more rapidly than that of the whole cohort, so that most remaining gaps have narrowed.
Michael Gove: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families how many pupils in (a) all schools, (b) independent schools and (c) comprehensive schools achieved a grade C or higher in A level mathematics in 2008. 
Sarah McCarthy-Fry [h olding answer 26 January 2009]: In 2008, 17,643 pupils in comprehensive schools, 11,622 pupils in independent schools and 36,317 pupils in all schools achieved an A-C grade in GCE A level Mathematics. The all schools figure includes pupils in selective, modern and other maintained schools. Other maintained schools includes community and foundation special schools, hospital schools and pupil referral units.
Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families how many complaints his Department received concerning the quality of marking of Key Stage 2 national curriculum tests in each of the last five years. 
Jim Knight: Information on the volume of queries received from schools about the quality of marking of the National Curriculum tests, during the period 2004 to 2007 can be provided only at disproportionate cost. Since 1 January 2008, the Department's Public Communications Unit has responded to 1,016 letters and e-mails about the quality of marking of the National Curriculum tests across both key stages 2 and 3.
Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what assessment was made of the previous record of ETS Global BV before granting it the key stage tests marking contract. 
Jim Knight: Decisions relating to the national curriculum test operations contract are the responsibility of the qualifications and curriculum authority (QCA). The award of the contract to ETS was investigated by Lord Sutherland as part of his Inquiry into the 2008 test delivery difficulties. Lord Sutherland concluded that the procurement process was sound but that QCA should have undertaken more detailed referencing of contractors prior to awarding the contract to ETS. Lord Sutherlands report is available at:
Mrs. Maria Miller: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families how many (a) private, (b) voluntary and (c) independent nurseries have (i) opened and (ii) closed permanently in each of the last four quarters. 
Beverley Hughes: Information is not available in the form requested. The available information on the number and percentage of child care providers that have opened and closed in each of the last four quarters is shown in the following table:
|Number and percentage of child care providers in England that have opened and close( 1) in each of the last four quarters|
|Full Day Care|
|Position as at each quarter||Number||Rate (percentage)|
|(1 )Figures are rounded to the nearest 10 if under 100, and to the nearest 100 if over 100.|
Due to changes in legislation as at 1 September 2008 new categories have been introduced for the collection of child care data and the current categories have ceased to exist. The latest Ofsted figures for a full quarter were published in June 2008.
Mrs. Maria Miller: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (1) whether early years settings must have no exemptions from the Early Years Foundation Stage to receive funding for the free entitlement for nursery education; and if he will make a statement; 
Beverley Hughes: Local authorities are responsible for determining which providers in their area should be funded to deliver the free entitlement. Local authorities have discretion whether to fund providers where there is an exemption in place. An exemption will not automatically make providers ineligible for funding.
It is estimated that most applications for exemptions will be dealt with within 12 weeks. There is no automatic right to an exemption and each application will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. The length of time to process an individual application will vary depending on the nature and complexity of the exemption sought. In cases where an application is declined, settings are free to submit a fresh application.
Mrs. Maria Miller: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what assessment he has made of the effects of the extension in free entitlement to nursery care on the children who receive it. 
We are rolling out the extension in a staged approach. Twenty pathfinder local authorities have been delivering the extended flexible entitlement since April 2007, assessing the demand for different patterns of provision, and exploring ways of working that enable greater flexibility in a diverse childcare market. An additional 14 local authorities began delivery in September 2008. The extended offer will be available to the 25 per cent. most deprived children in every local authority from September 2009, and will be universal entitlement from September 2010.
The Department has commissioned external research to evaluate the demand for and deliverability of the extended flexible entitlement in Pathfinder local authorities and its impact on parents. The research will be published in the spring.
We already know from research that high quality early learning makes a real difference to childrens development with lasting effects throughout primary school and that the free entitlement for three and four-year-olds allows parents to access child care as a route to work and training, lifting more children out of poverty.
Mrs. Maria Miller: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what estimate his Department has made of the average number of vacant places in (a) children's centres nurseries, (b) maintained nurseries and (c) private, voluntary and independent nurseries in (i) England, (ii) each region, (iii) the 10 per cent. most deprived local authority areas and (iv) the 10 per cent. least deprived local authority areas in each year since 1997. 
Beverley Hughes: The Childcare and Early Years Providers Survey collects information vacant places for children at childcare and early years providers. Table 1 shows the average number of vacant places per setting in England, by type of provision. Data for previous years are not available.
|Table 1: Average number of vacant places per setting|
|(1) Signifies cases where data are not available, either because the question was not asked, or the provider type was not surveyed in that year|
Full day care in children's centres are a sub-group of all full day care providers and are also included in the all full day care figures.
Table 2 shows the average number of vacant places per setting in each region, by type of provision. Data for previous years are not available. Data for nursery schools is not available due to small sub-sample sizes for this provider type at the regional level.
|Table 2: Average number of vacant places per setting, by region|
|Full day care||Full day care in childrens centres|
|(1). Full day care in children's centres are a sub-group of all full day care providers and are also included in the all full day care figures.|
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