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Learning and Skills Councils

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the readiness of the Learning and Skills Council for the assumption of its responsibilities in April. [150456]

Mr. Wicks [holding answer 15 February 2001]: Good progress is being made with the establishment of the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), which is on track to assume its responsibilities from 1 April 2001. We are grateful to the support that staff in Training and Enterprise Councils and the Further Education Funding Council are giving with this process. At national level, all members of the National Council, and Adult and Young People's Learning Committees have been appointed; the council has met three times, the Young People's Learning Committee will meet on 15 February and the Adult Learning Committee will meet on 5 March. All 47 local LSCs have in place local chairs, local boards and executive directors and most local councils have met on at least one occasion. The process for appointing staff is well under way. The matching of staff with transfer rights to posts is on track. Some resulting vacancies have been advertised already and others will follow. Contracts have been concluded with IT suppliers and the first part of the IT systems that the LSC will need has been installed in every local LSC.

In November, we published "The Learning and Skills Council Remit Letter", which set out the Government's vision for the LSC and the priorities for its first corporate plan. The LSC plans to begin consultation on this corporate plan in March.

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many representatives of schools with sixth forms sit on local Learning and Skills Councils. [151243]

Mr. Wicks: Eleven head teachers of schools with sixth forms have so far been appointed as council members to the local Learning and Skills Councils. Action is also in hand in a further six areas to fill local council member vacancies specifically left for school heads. In addition, further experience of schools matters will be brought by the 29 local council members appointed from a local education authority (LEA) background (typically directors of education), by the six local executive directors who have previous LEA officer or head teacher experience, and by a number of local council members who are school governors.

In April 2002, the LSC assumes responsibility for school sixth form funding, and in recognition of this we will encourage the LSC to appoint further school heads as vacancies arise on local councils.

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Employment and Youth Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what the outcome was of the Employment and Youth Council held in Brussels on 12 February; and if he will make a statement. [150525]

Mr. Wicks: Nicol Stephen MSP, Minister for Higher Education, represented the UK at the Council of EU Education Ministers in Brussels on 12 February.

Education Ministers adopted a report on the concrete future objectives of education and training systems, which will be presented to the Stockholm European Council on 23 and 24 March. The report will also be submitted to the European Parliament for information. There will be a discussion about the work programme arising from the report at the next Education Council meeting in May.

There was a discussion on strategies for lifelong learning, which included consideration of the Commission's memorandum on lifelong learning and the implementation of the lifelong learning aspects of the 2001 employment guidelines. It was noted that member states were currently in the process of undertaking national consultations on the memorandum on lifelong learning and that the Commission will draw up an action plan, based on the responses from member states, for discussion by the Council on 29 November.

Ministers received reports from the Commission on: the evaluation report on the first phase of the Community action programme, Leonardo da Vinci; progress on the European Year of Languages 2001; and the opening of the third phase of the trans-European co-operation scheme for higher education (Tempus III) to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The Presidency also provided information on the informal conference of Ministers of Education and Research, which will take place in Uppsala on 1-3 March.

Burma

Mr. Hunter: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what steps he has taken in response to the recent ILO resolution condemning the Burmese regime for its use of forced labour. [150586]

Ms Jowell: We have written to national employer and worker groups, asking them to draw their members' attention to the ILO resolution; and have discussed how best to give effect to its recommendations with other EU member states and the European Commission. The European Union has already taken a number of measures in response to the abuses of human rights including the practice of forced labour in Burma. The situation is being closely monitored and, should the authorities in Burma fail to take the necessary steps to effectively end the practice of forced labour, the EU stands ready to take further measures. We will shortly be writing to the Director General of the ILO setting out the Government's position.

Computers for Teachers

Mr. Truswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what plans he has to continue the Computers for Teachers initiative in (a) primary and (b) secondary schools. [150709]

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Mr. Wills: The first phase of the Computers for Teachers initiative was very successful with nearly 28,000 teachers now owning a computer as a result of the scheme. Phase 2 of the scheme is currently under way and is focused on Key Stage 3 maths teachers. This scheme is part of an on-going commitment and although not all teachers will benefit from this phase, there will be similar opportunities for other teachers in the future. We are committed to continually exploring ways of widening teachers' access to computers and will continue to seek resources to do so.

Mr. Truswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what assessment he has made of the impact of the Computers for Teachers initiative. [150708]

Mr. Wills: The first phase of the Computers for Teachers initiative was very successful with nearly 28,000 teachers now owning a computer as a result of the scheme. Informal feedback from teachers has confirmed earlier research and indicates that key benefits of personal ownership of a computer are:






The second phase of the scheme is currently under way and we are currently setting up an external evaluation covering both phases of the scheme. The results of this evaluation will be made available in due course.

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement about the availability of the Computers for Teachers initiative. [151359]

Mr. Wills: The first phase of the Computers for Teachers initiative was very successful with nearly 28,000 teachers now owning a computer as a result of the scheme. Phase 2 of the Computers for Teachers scheme was launched on 10 January 2001. The second phase of the initiative is focused on Key Stage 3 mathematics teachers who teach in the maintained secondary sector (including non-maintained special schools) in England. The decision to focus funds available in this phase on mathematics at Key Stage 3 reflects the Government's drive to improve standards at Key Stage 3. This scheme is part of an ongoing commitment and although not all teachers will benefit from this phase, there will be similar opportunities for other teachers in the future. We are committed to continually exploring ways of widening teachers' access to computers and will continue to seek resources to do so.

Learning Mentors

Mr. Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what plans he has to fund Learning Mentors in all secondary schools. [150711]

Ms Estelle Morris: Learning Mentors are school staff who work with pupils to help them overcome barriers to learning such as bullying, truancy or disaffection.

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Learning Mentors help raise standards by re-engaging pupils with learning, and by freeing up teachers to concentrate on teaching. Learning Mentors are currently being introduced in secondary schools through the Government's Excellence in Cities programme, and through new Excellence Clusters. These two policies aim to raise standards in city schools and in other deprived and low-performing schools. By the end of the next school year, nearly a third of all secondary schools will have learning mentors as a result of these policies. Last year, Excellence in Cities schools saw an increase of 2.3 per cent. in the proportion of students getting five good GCSEs, compared to a 1.3 per cent. improvement in other schools.

An estimated 1,500 Learning Mentors will be working in secondary schools by the end of this school year, in addition to some 900 in primary schools. This will rise to over 2,300 in secondary schools by the beginning of 2004. Learning Mentors are popular with head teachers, with parents and with pupils. The formal evaluation has just begun, but we have already seen dramatic changes in attitude, behaviour, school attendance and motivation in some individual pupils who have worked with a Learning Mentor.

We announced in the "Schools: Building on Success" Green Paper on 12 February that a further four Excellence Clusters would begin in September 2001 and that more areas would be included over the next three years. This will bring the benefits of Learning Mentors to more schools in the primary and secondary sectors.

Schools and LEAs outside the areas covered by Excellence in Cities and Excellence Clusters may fund Learning Mentors from the extra money that they receive to reduce truancy and exclusion. In addition, the Connexions Service will bring in a universal service for all young people aged 13-19, including individualised support from Personal Advisers for those young people who need it most, wherever they live. Over time, the full Connexions Service will be delivered to young people aged 13-19 in a variety of settings, including in secondary schools.


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