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Regional Assemblies

Lord Fearn asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): The costs of establishing elected assemblies will vary from region to region, mainly because of the different sizes of their electorates. But we expect these to be around £30 million for each region. This estimate includes all costs necessary to establish an assembly, including the cost of local government reviews, referendums and the first elections.

Rough Sleepers: Westminster Cathedral Piazza

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Rooker: The Government do not set targets to reduce rough sleeping in specific areas such as the piazza in front of Westminster Cathedral. Westminster City Council has the responsibility for addressing rough sleeping in the local authority and the wider daytime street activity issues that the piazza experiences, such as street drinking.

The Government's Homelessness Directorate funds voluntary and statutory agencies to help, on a daily basis, those sleeping rough on the piazza.

Across the authority there has been nearly a 45 per cent reduction in numbers of people sleeping rough from 1998 levels. The last full street count in March this year found 133 people sleeping out, across Westminster. More recent, informal evening surveys have found that this figure has reduced still further.

South Somerset District Council Local Plan

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Rooker: South Somerset District Council is now required to consider the inspector's report and decide what action to take on each of the recommendations. Although authorities will wish to accept the inspector's recommendations in most cases, it is not obliged to do so. If the council proposes modifications they will be published and interested parties will have six weeks to make objections or representations.

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I cannot comment further on the inspector's report since it is for the council to decide how to respond. The First Secretary of State is also able to register objections to any proposed modifications.

Child Abuse

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the replies by the Baroness Ashton of Upholland (HL Deb, 1 July, col. 876), under what circumstances something that has been proved to be false can be considered also to be accurate.[HL3878]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland) . Well-kept records provide an essential underpinning to good child protection practice. Practice experience has shown that families can be more effectively safeguarded when records into past inquiries into one-off (or patterns of) unfounded, false or malicious allegations of child abuse are retained. Should a fresh referral be made at some point in the future, it would be untenable for an agency with child protection responsibilities to deny that there had been any previous history. Agencies that work for the protection of children must be able to record their decisions without fear that these records may be destroyed whenever concerns about a child are ultimately unfounded.

A-Level Statistics

Lord Quirk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    With respect to each of the following in England and Wales:

    (a) comprehensive schools;

    (b) secondary modern schools;

    (c) grammar schools;

    (d) independent schools;

    (e) sixth-form colleges; and

    (f) further education colleges

    what is the percentage (and what is the total number) of students gaining three A grades at A level. [HL3895]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: The number and percentage of 16 to 18 year-old A-level candidates achieving (a) three and (b) four or more A grades at GCE/VCE A level in 2001–02 in England:

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Grade As at A level
Number of candidates achieving Percentage of candidates achieving
Type of institution34 or more3 or more34 or more3 or moreA level candidates
Sixth Form Colleges1,7489502,6983.9%2.1%6.1%44,473
Other FE Sector6152558701.2%0.5%1.7%52,493

The equivalent figures for Wales are a matter for the Welsh Assembly.

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History Teaching

Lord Luke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have plans for a review of the teaching of history in schools; and, if so, with what purpose.[HL3991]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: History is a statutory subject for all pupils aged five to 14. The latest Ofsted evidence on the teaching of history states that pupils' achievements in primary school have improved steadily, and in secondary schools there has been a particular improvement at key stage 3 over the last reported year. The Government have no plans, therefore, to review the content of the national curriculum for history, although we will be asking QCA to produce guidance, including possible additional units for DfES/QCA schemes of work, for primary and secondary history teachers to further improve children's understanding of key aspects, individuals and events in British history and their ability to more firmly relate these to a broad chronological framework. We are concerned, however, at reports that pupils are duplicating the study of particular periods of history at GCSE and beyond thus producing a narrowing of the curriculum. We will ask QCA for advice on whether the GCSE criteria for history should be reviewed, as part of an overall review of the coherence of 14 to 19 history provisions. QCA's new GCSE history hybrid pilot project is already exploring ways of broadening the history curriculum 14 to 16.

Science Teaching: Fieldwork

Baroness Blatch asked the Secretary of State for Education and Skills:

    What recent representations they have received from the Field Studies Council about the inclusion of fieldwork in the GSCE and A-level curricula; and what response they have made to any such representations; and[HL4007]

    What provision is made for fieldwork within the curricula for (a) science GCSE and (b) biology A level; and whether in each case that provision is optional or compulsory; and [HL4008]

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    Whether the proposed National and Regional Centres for Excellence in Science Teaching will be required to provide in service training opportunities to enable practising teachers to develop their skills in out of classroom teaching in biology and other science disciplines.[HL4010]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: At each key stage, pupils are taught about life processes and living things, and to use first-hand experience and varying information sources to assist with scientific investigation. The science curriculum emphasises the need to learn about living things in their environment. At both GCSE and A-level, the use of fieldwork in the delivery of the curriculum is encouraged but not compulsory as it is for each school or college to decide how best to teach its students.

A number of letters have been received by Ministers in the department from the members of the executive committee of the Field Studies Council in recent months, particularly following the publication of its joint report with the British Ecological Society Teaching Biology outside the classroom. Is it heading for extinction? The responses point out that at both GCSE and A-level, the use of fieldwork in the delivery of the curriculum is encouraged but not compulsory as it is for each school or college to decide how best to teach its students.

Our major initiative "Growing Schools" is a project to develop and disseminate best practice in the use of the outdoor classroom in a number of curriculum subjects, and in particular biology and geography. I am pleased to say that Tony Thomas, Chief Executive of the Field Studies Council, has therefore kindly agreed to sit on the Advisory Group for "Growing Schools".

Our £51 million partnership with the Wellcome Trust to establish a network of science learning centres will provide continuing professional development for primary science coordinators and secondary science teachers and technicians. We anticipate that, over time, the centres will help teachers to develop their skills in out of classroom teaching.

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