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Teacher Vacancies and Recruitment

25. Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what assessment he has made of teacher shortages in Buckinghamshire schools. [147932]

Ms Estelle Morris: The latest figures available show that there were 55 vacancies in maintained nursery, primary, secondary and special schools in Buckinghamshire in January 2000. My Department has received no reports from Buckinghamshire local education authority that would call into question the ability of any school in the county to offer a full timetable to date.

31. Mr. Brazier: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what recent meetings he has had with parents of schoolchildren to discuss the number of vacancies in the teaching profession. [147938]

Mr. Syms: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what recent meetings he has had with teachers to discuss teacher recruitment. [147926]

Ms Estelle Morris: I refer the hon. Members to the reply that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State gave earlier today to the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs. Laing), Official Report columns 1054-55.

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the number of vacancies in the teaching profession at the latest date for which figures are available. [147927]

Ms Estelle Morris: The latest comprehensive figures published by my Department, based on a census of English local authorities taken in January 2000, showed 1,420 vacancies for full-time posts in maintained nursery and primary schools, 1,250 vacancies for full-time posts in secondary schools and 240 vacancies for full-time posts in special schools. The results from two sample surveys of schools in England, undertaken by my Department in the first week of this term, published on 2 February, estimate that there were between 600 and 1,100 vacancies for full-time posts in nursery and primary schools and between 1,300 and 1,600 vacancies for full-time posts in secondary schools.

New Deal for Disabled People

28. Laura Moffatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what progress has been made in developing a national New Deal for Disabled People. [147935]

32. Ms Ryan: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what progress has been made in developing a national New Deal for Disabled People. [147939]

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Ms Hodge: The New Deal for Disabled People is being extended nationally. Building on the lessons of the pilot phase, the extension will see the creation of a network of job brokers who will work closely with both employers and clients to match vacancies against the skills and potential of individuals. An invitation to tender was issued on 27 November and the evaluation of bids from organisations wishing to become job brokers is due to commence shortly. Announcement of successful bidders is planned for early April with the service due to get under way from July 2001.

Class Sizes (Secondary Schools)

29. Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what the average class size is for secondary schools in England. [147936]

Ms Estelle Morris: The size of the average secondary class in January 1997 was 21.7. The most recent available figure, for January 2000, was 22--around five fewer pupils on average than for primaries. The slight rise is nothing new. The figure was below 20 in 1989, and rose consistently throughout the 90s. The rate of growth has in fact slowed since 1997 as a result of additional Government investment.

We are delivering our infant class size pledge, including in Lancashire. In the authority in September 2000, just 16 per cent. of pupils were in infant classes of 31 or over. The figure in January 1997 was over 42 per cent.

Coalfield Communities (Economic Activity)

30. Mr. Alan W. Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on initiatives he has taken to improve economic activity rates in former coalfield communities. [147937]

Ms Jowell: We now have action teams for jobs in many of our coalfield areas suffering with the lowest employment rates; Easington Wansbeck, Sunderland, Tyneside, Rotherham and Bamsley and Doncaster are all covered by action teams and there are some early success stories--for example, of the 138 contacts made in Easington, 60 of these have resulted in jobs. In Doncaster, the employment zone offers tailored support to help former mine workers back into work. The New Deal covers all areas of the country including former coalfield areas. By the end of November, it had helped over 269,000 young people off benefit and into work. The new Learning and Skills Council will target support for those people who have been victims of industrial and economic change, and provide the skills and training that people need to find sustainable employment. Matters relating to Wales should be addressed to the Welsh Assembly.

GCSE Courses

33. Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what plans he has to increase the modularisation of GCSE courses. [147940]

Mr. Wicks: We have no plans to increase the modularisation of GCSE courses.

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Child Care (Labour Market)

34. Caroline Flint: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what impact the expansion in child care and early years services has had on the labour market. [147941]

Ms Hodge: Since 1997 there has been an unprecedented expansion of child care places. By September 2000 more than 546,000 children had been helped through the creation of new child care places. Even after regard has been given to places closing when childminders or playgroup workers move on, this still represents new places for 343,000 children.

It has also led to a large expansion in the number of people working in child care and related occupations in the UK--122,000 since autumn 1997. This is the second fastest growing occupational groups in the UK Labour market, showing how the national child care strategy is producing opportunities for work as well as opportunities for children.

Employment Zones

35. Ms Rosie Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the establishment of employment zones. [147942]

Ms Jowell: The 15 employment zones have got off to a very encouraging start and the numbers of people getting and keeping work are exceeding expectations. Individual needs are being met through personal job accounts and strong local leadership. We will in due course evaluate and spread the good practice which emerges.

Disability Rights Commission

Mr. Hopkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what assessment has been made of the performance of the Disability Rights Commission. [147915]

Ms Hodge: I have regular meetings with the chairman and chief executive of the Disability Rights Commission to review performance. The commission has got off to an excellent start. It is receiving over 1,000 calls a week on its helpline. The Government have asked it to tackle a range of policy issues and it is making good progress in raising public awareness of both the DRC itself and disability issues.

British Academy

Mr. Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what plans he has for the provision of grant-in-aid to the British Academy. [149832]

Mr. Wicks: Subject to Parliament's approval of the Main Supply Estimates, we intend to allocate to the British Academy a maximum of £36,441,000 for the financial year 2001-02. The level of grant for 2001-02 reflects the outcome of the Government's Spending Review. It takes into account the arrangements for the payment of grant through the academy of the arts and Humanities Research Board for postgraduate awards and

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for those in certain professional and vocational subjects. The grant for 2001-02 fully takes into account the uprating needed to increase maintenance grants for doctoral students. The Arts and Humanities Research Board should increase these grants to a minimum of £7,500 in 2001-02, in line with the Secretary of State's commitment last summer that arts and humanities stipends would be raised in line with those for science, with a minimum level of £9,000 by 2003-04. The grant also includes the additional £750,000 for the British School at Rome.

Rural Schools

Mr. Hesford: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the Government's support for rural schools. [148391]

Ms Estelle Morris: The Government support rural schools. The White Paper "Our Countryside: The Future--A Fair Deal for Rural England", published in November last year, reinforced our commitment to continue a presumption against the closure of rural schools, invest to improve facilities, and connect all rural schools to the internet by 2002. As a result of our policies, only two rural schools have been approved for closure since August 1999, against a historical average of 30 such closures a year. Many rural schools are also small schools and benefit from the administrative support fund for small schools and the small schools support fund. From April 2001, these standards fund grants will be merged into a single small schools fund worth £80 million.


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