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Consumer Champions

Tony Wright: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if she will list the consumer champions in each Government Department; by what process they were recruited; and what qualifications were required for these posts. [144462]

Mr. Ian McCartney: Consumer champions are existing members of the senior management of Departments and agencies, and are designated by the Departments and agencies concerned, carrying out their role in addition to their other work. They have responsibility for ensuring that consumers' views are translated into practical improvements to public services; and ensure that the changes made to public services have real meaning and impact and that they are part of a long-term strategy of improvement. The most important qualifications for the post are a commitment to this process, and an organisational position that enables them to see it is put into effect.

The departmental consumer champions are listed on the internet at www.cabinet-office.gov.uk./servicefirst/ consumerfocus/champions/htm.

I have placed copies of this list in the Libraries of the House.

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EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT

Nursery Education

12. Siobhain McDonagh: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the progress he is making towards providing free nursery education for three and four-year-olds. [143470]

Ms Hodge: All four-year-olds have been able to access a free early education place since 1998. By 2004 we will provide a free place for every three-year-old.

This is the first Government ever to have specifically funded free nursery education for three-year-olds. By 2004 we will have doubled our spending on nursery education from £1 billion to £2 billion.

Act of Worship

13. Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what recent representations he has received from local education authorities about the future of the collective act of worship in schools. [143471]

Jacqui Smith: We have received only seven such representations. They asked for changes to be made to the arrangements for collective worship in schools.

We are committed to the existing arrangements, which promote pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. Ofsted inspections and the role of SACREs underpin our commitment.

Specialist Schools

14. Dr. Iddon: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what assessment he has made of the impact of specialist schools on improving standards. [143472]

Ms Estelle Morris: Specialist schools report to us about progress on their development plans and we monitor performance in public examinations. We also commissioned research by the London School of Economics and Leeds University. All these sources of information suggest that specialist schools are having a significant impact on improving standards.

Wired-up Communities Pilot

15. Dr. Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the wired-up communities pilot. [143473]

Mr. Wills: The Wired-up Communities pilot will test how we can most effectively provide access to the internet and ICT to all homes in some of England's most deprived communities. It is one of the Government's range of initiatives to tackle the digital divide.

The first pilot project began in Kensington, Liverpool, last autumn. l will announce further pilot projects, to be run in partnership with the private sector, shortly.

Employment Agencies

16. Angela Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what representations he has received on the matter of employment agencies advertising at job centres. [143474]

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Ms Jowell: No representations have been received on this matter within the past year. However, the Employment Service works closely with private employment agencies to offer the widest possible selection of jobs to its jobseekers. The Employment Service has recently, in partnership with the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, issued a joint good practice document highlighting how public and private employment services can work together for the benefit of jobseekers.

Teachers' Pay

17. Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on performance-related pay for teachers. [143475]

Ms Estelle Morris: The performance threshold assessment system was formally reinstated on 22 November and will lead to a £2,000 pay increase for successful applicants.

Learning and Skills Councils

18. Mr. Beith: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement about the allocation of funds to Learning and Skills Councils in the north-east of England. [143477]

Mr. Wicks: The increased resources this Government have made available for education and training has meant that the Learning and Skills Council will receive a 9 per cent. real terms increase in its budget for 2001-2002. People in the north-east stand to benefit fully from their share of these increased resources, including through any allocations made to the four Local Learning and Skills Councils serving the region.

Teacher Numbers

19. Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the recruitment and retention of teachers. [143478]

Ms Estelle Morris: Overall, there were 6,900 more teachers in post in January 2000 than January 1998 and 5,400 more than January 1997. A survey carried out by my Department in September 2000 suggested that the secondary school figure for that month was about the same as in January that year. This year has seen the first rise in the number of people entering teacher training since 1992.

20. Mr. Leigh: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the recruitment of teachers in shortage subjects. [143479]

Ms Estelle Morris: Compared to 1998, before we introduced Golden Hellos, recruitment so far this year to initial teacher training courses is up 5 per cent. for science and 15 per cent. for maths. Incentives for modern languages and technology were introduced from September 2000. Recruitment so far this year is up on last, by 9 per cent. for technology and 11 per cent. for modern languages. A further 397 people have started secondary training in these four subjects through the Graduate Teacher Programme.

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21. Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on how many persons were recruited for initial teacher training for secondary school maths teaching in (a) 1996-97 and (b) 2000-01 including recruitment under the Graduate Teacher Programme. [143480]

Ms Estelle Morris: Recruitment to secondary initial teacher training in maths declined steadily between 1994-95 and the introduction of Golden Hellos. The figure for 1996-97 was 1,650. So far this year, 1,360 people have started training in maths, including through the Graduate Teacher Programme, which we introduced in January 1998. Between 1994-95 and 1997-98, recruitment to secondary teacher training courses in maths fell by 25 per cent. Since 1998-99 it has risen by 14 per cent. There will be a further intake to the Graduate Teacher Programme in the summer term.

22. Mr. Sayeed: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the numbers of newly qualified teachers joining the teaching profession. [143481]

Ms Estelle Morris: Around 70 per cent. of newly qualified teachers in England, in both 1997 and 1998, were in service in the maintained sector in England and Wales the March following qualification. Others were in service in further or higher education institutions or the independent sector. Some newly qualified teachers take a gap period before taking up teaching posts. By five years after qualification, some 80 per cent. of teachers have at some stage worked in the maintained sector.

Schools Funding

23. Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the system of allocating funds directly to schools. [143482]

Ms Estelle Morris: School Standards Grant for maintained schools is payable through local education authorities, which must pass the relevant sums on to schools on a pre-determined timetable so that schools receive the funding in a lump sum during the summer term. In 2001-02 the typical primary school will receive £20,000, and the typical secondary school £60,000.

University for Industry

24. Mrs. Betty Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what progress he has made in setting up the university for industry. [143483]

35. Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the development of the university for industry. [143494]

Mr. Wicks: A great deal of progress has been made. Using the brand name learndirect, Ufi Ltd. has moved from its development phase to the national roll out of operations, marked by an event on 25 October 2000.

There are now over 770 learndirect centres operating nationally in a wide range of settings. Ufi Ltd. plan that around 1,000 learndirect centres will be in place by spring 2001. Learndirect currently offers over 440 course titles focusing on its initial priorities of basic skills, Information Technology skills at all levels and business skills for small and medium-sized enterprises. Currently over 70 per cent. of learndirect learning materials are available on line.

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The learndirect information and advice service, which includes the learndirect telephone helpline (0800 100 900) and is available on the website www.learndirect.co.uk, gives access to a wide range of impartial and accurate information on learning opportunities. The helpline has taken over 2.3 million calls since its launch in February 1998, and the website has taken 780,000 hits requesting information on learning opportunities since its launch in May 2000.


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