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Early Years Excellence

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, (1) pursuant to her answer of 12 November 2001, Official Report, column 539W, what criteria were used in deciding which new early excellence centres should be designated; [16600]

Mr. Timms [holding answer 20 November 2001]: Criteria and detailed requirements for joining the Early Excellence Centre (EEC) programme are set out in guidance issued by the Department. Guidance issued in

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February provided the framework for designations made so far this year. Additional guidance was issued on 5 October. The core activities of the programme which all centres are expected to deliver, or have well advanced and convincing plans to develop, remain unchanged and are as follows:

Decisions on designations also take into account links with other Government programmes, geographical coverage, support of key partners, especially the local Early Years and Childcare Development Partnership (EYCDP), and commitment to multi-agency working.

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The Department received 135 expressions of interest following the issue of the February guidance and 14 new centres were announced on 1 October. Officials are continuing to work closely with a further nine centres in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset, Wigan, Peterborough, Norfolk, Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Bury, on the basis of expressions of interest received in response to the February guidance. A further 93 expressions of interest in joining the programme have been received since additional guidance was issued in October.

Somerford Infant School's expression of interest in the EEC programme was submitted in response to the guidance issued in February. It was closely linked to emerging local proposals for the development of a Neighbourhood Nursery, but did not meet the requirements set out in the guidance for joint Neighbourhood Nursery/Early Excellence Centre schemes. Neither did it provide sufficient coverage of the core activities or relate them sufficiently well to the wider strategy of the EYCDP.

The Department wrote to the school inviting it to develop its plans further. I have placed a copy of that letter in the Library. The additional guidance issued in October indicates that those invited to do further development work should submit a fresh expression of interest taking into account feedback received. The guidance included full contact details for relevant officials at the Department and encouraged partners to make contact with them for further information.

The Department has not received a further expression of interest from Somerford Infant School. To continue to develop its interest in the programme the school should contact officials at the Department who will be most willing to discuss it with them.

Fast-Track Teacher Recruitment

Mr. Willis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills which company was awarded the contract to run the Fast-Track Teacher Recruitment Scheme; what the cost and duration of the contract is; what the agreed recruitment targets for each year of the contract were; how the company was chosen; and what the criteria are for success and best value. [16698]

Mr. Timms: Following a competitive tender exercise the contract for assessing Fast-Track applicants was let to a consortium headed by Interactive Skills on 2 October 2000. The cost of the contract in Financial Year 2000–01 was £2,375,081. The contract covers a three-year period, with an option for a two-year extension. Selection is done against standards and not to quota. Main criteria for success are delivery to time and within budget of: (i) a high quality multi-stage selection process which will successfully identify those applicants who meet the competencies and values laid down in the Education (School Teachers' Pay and Conditions) (No.7) Order 2001; (ii) relevant application brochures, website, forms and guidance to a high professional standard; (iii) a cycle of continuous review and improvement in efficiency and effectiveness of the activities of the consortium.

Mr. Willis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the total cost was for each existing fast-track student of recruiting them to the Fast-Track Teacher Recruitment scheme; and what the total cost was for students recruited through the programme. [16697]

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Mr. Timms: The Department for Education and Skills spent £4.6 million on the Fast-Track Programme in the last financial year 2000–01, the first year of its existence. This long-term investment supported (i) a national recruitment campaign which raised public awareness of the programme, established a credible presence at the upper end of the highly competitive graduate recruitment market, and attracted 1,574 applications; (ii) the design, development and implementation of a very high quality assessment and selection process which resulted in the offer of 135 places in the first round to potential future leaders of the profession; and (iii) the initial cost of setting-up enhanced Fast-Track Initial Teacher Training.

Online Centres

Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) how many UK online centres in each constituency are to be funded by level 3 Capital Modernisation Fund; [10757]

John Healey: A table showing the UK online centres to be funded by the third phase of the Capital Modernisation Fund by constituency has been placed in the Library.

The total of UK online centres funded by the third phase will produce a further 1,116 centres across England, covering 63 per cent. of constituencies throughout England.


Attendance Allowance

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what discussions he has held with the Scottish Executive concerning continued payment of attendance allowance to those recipients who will become eligible for free personal care in Scotland from April 2002. [9742]

Maria Eagle: My right hon. Friend discussed this matter with the Scottish First Minister on a number of occasions.

ONE Pilot Scheme

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the number of cases of violence against staff working in the ONE pilot offices. [14039]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: From June 1999 to date, there were five cases of physical assault on members of our staff.

Child Support Agency

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many payments by absent parents have been written off as irrecoverable in the last 12 months; what the average and upper decile value of such payments are; and how many payments are in the upper decile. [14360]

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Malcolm Wicks: The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for the Chief Executive, Mr. Doug Smith. He will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Doug Smith to Mr. Andrew Turner, dated 20 November 2001:

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