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Truancy

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the average level of fine imposed on parents for allowing their child to truant. [158842]

Jacqui Smith [holding answer 26 April 2001]: Absence from school for no good reason is a serious matter. That is why we have introduced a range of measures designed to reduce the level of truancy. This includes a higher penalty for parents convicted of school attendance offences, which came into force on 1 March 2001.

Parents convicted of school attendance offences can, as before, face a fine of up to £1,000 per parent per child. However under the new higher penalty for persistent and aggravated truancy, they could be fined a maximum fine of £2,500 per parent per child.

While full details on the average level of fine imposed on parents convicted of school attendance offences are not collated centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost, we do know that fines were often as low as £20 under the previous fines regime. Under the new arrangements, however, magistrates will be able to impose a higher level of fine, typically £100-£200, that matches the seriousness of the offence. In addition, if prosecuted under the higher penalty, parents will have to turn up in court and face the consequences of their action. If they do not do so, they face arrest.

Value Added Tables

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what representations he has received with regard to the introduction of value added tables; and what plans he has to introduce value added tables. [158848]

Jacqui Smith [holding answer 26 April 2001]: We have received a number of representations about the use of value added measures in school performance tables. Their introduction is supported in principle by the head teacher associations and overwhelmingly by those who have responded to past consultation exercises.

We are committed to supplementing the information already published in school performance tables with value added measures showing how far schools help their pupils to progress between the stages of their education. We will do this as soon as we have the necessary information about individual pupil performance and have tested successfully the processes involved.

We intend to run a pilot this year on the calculation and presentation of value added measures from Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3 and from Key Stage 3 to GCSE/GNVQ and to publish those measures for all schools in the secondary tables in 2002. We will then publish a value added measure for primary schools in 2003 after piloting in 2002. Following the introduction of "Qualifying for Success" reforms, introduction of value added in the 16-18 tables will necessarily have to wait at least until the first full set of results under the new framework has been awarded.

30 Apr 2001 : Column: 480W

Connexions

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many staff are employed by the Connexions Service National Unit; and what is its planned yearly running costs. [158997]

Mr. Wicks [holding answer 26 April 2001]: The Connexions National Unit now has responsibility for a number of different policy strands. As at 1 April 2001 95 (Full Time Equivalent) staff are employed, developing core activities and services for Connexions. A further 65 are included in the National Unit who are employed in the administration of programmes related to Connexions, for example Millennium Volunteers, the Neighbourhood Support Fund, New Start and the Learning Gateway. The National Unit's running cost budget for the year 1 April 2001 to 31 March 2002 is £6.4 million. This includes the running cost budget for the administration of the programmes referred to.

Employment Zones

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the number of people who have found jobs through the Employment Zones. [159003]

Ms Jowell [holding answer 26 April 2001]: The latest figures available show that from April 2000 to the end of March 2001 the contractors running the Employment Zones had claimed for 8,057 people into jobs. This is an under-representation of the actual number of jobs achieved as the figure does not include those jobs for which contractors have yet to provide the necessary evidence.

East Ravendale School

Shona McIsaac: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the outside toilets for children and staff at East Ravendale School, North-East Lincolnshire. [159354]

Jacqui Smith: I have asked officials within the Department to prepare a report on the particular problems faced by East Ravendale School for discussion when I meet my hon. Friend, the head teacher and Chair of Governors of the school and the Leader of North-East Lincolnshire Council, on Thursday 3 May.

CHURCH COMMISSIONERS

Church Repairs

30. Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, what estimate he has made of the total cost of repairs to the Church of England's places of worship likely to take place in the 12 months from 1 April 2001. [158169]

Mr. Stuart Bell: The Churches Main Committee--an ecumenical body--recently commissioned a study of the cost of repairs and maintenance to the buildings of several of the main Christian denominations. This indicated that in 1999 the cost of repairs to the Church of England's 16,250 parish churches and cathedrals was in the region of £29 million, with maintenance adding a further £11 million.

30 Apr 2001 : Column: 481W

Tenant Farmers

34. Mr. Robathan: To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, what his policy is for assisting farmers who are tenants of the Church Commissioners. [158173]

Mr. Stuart Bell: The Commissioners are acutely aware of the problems facing their farm tenants, including the severe effects of Foot and Mouth disease. Cases of hardship are considered individually and the Commissioners try to be as helpful as possible.

Circumstances vary, but rent review settlements have typically seen reductions of an average of some 12 per cent.

Churches (Alternative Uses)

35. Mr. Fabricant: To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, what advice the Commission gives churches on their use for purposes other than worship. [158174]

Mr. Stuart Bell: The Church Commissioners' primary responsibility is the management of their assets to support the Church of England's nation-wide ministry. Advice is provided to parishes on the care, use and development of churches by the Council for the Care of Churches and at local level by the 43 Diocesan Advisory Committees for the Care of Churches.

Unlisted Places of Worship

36. Miss McIntosh: To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, if he will extend his commitment to help listed places of worship via the proposed grant scheme to unlisted places of worship. [158175]

Mr. Stuart Bell: My right hon. Friend the Chancellor has given priority to listed places of worship because of the specially costly burden borne by congregations who strive to care properly for their historic buildings.

But I shall continue to remind him of the concern, expressed by the Churches Main Committee among others, as to the burden of VAT on places of worship that are unlisted, in the hope that it may in time prove possible to extend relief to them also.

CULTURE, MEDIA AND SPORT

Creative Industries

10. Mr. Fitzpatrick: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what his assessment is of the contribution of creative industries to the cultural and economic performance of the UK. [158146]

Janet Anderson: The creative industries in the UK generate revenues of around £112.5 billion and employ some 1.3 million people. Exports contribute around £10.3 billion to the balance of trade, and the industries account for over 5 per cent. of GDP. In 1997-98, output grew by 16 per cent., compared with under 6 per cent. for the economy as a whole.

30 Apr 2001 : Column: 482W

23. Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if he will make a statement about his Department's support for the UK's creative industries. [158162]

Janet Anderson: We published in March a new Creative Industries Mapping Document which estimates the industries generate around £112.5 billion in revenue, contribute some £10.2 billion in export earnings, employ 1.3 million people, and account for over 5 per cent. of GDP.

My Department has sought to co-ordinate efforts across Government in support of the creative industries. Through the efforts of the Creative Industries Task Force, we have investigated generic issues which impact on the creative industries, and recommend changes in areas such as skills and training, finance for creative ventures, intellectual property rights and export promotion. These changes have resulted in better careers guidance on the creative industries; more efforts at regional level to provide appropriate finance for creative businesses; improved information services on intellectual property for creators, users and the general public; and a more streamlined and focused range of support for exporters.


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