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Capital Expenditure

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what mechanism she operates to record approvals given to local education authorities for capital expenditure; [19941]

John Healey [holding answer 3 December 2001]: The Government have, as far as possible, moved away from centrally directed, bureaucratic bidding processes. We have moved towards needs related formulaic allocations to schools and local education authorities (LEAs) based on pupil numbers and survey-based assessments of building needs. It is the Government's view that, on balance and with the right safeguards, detailed decisions about capital priorities across a local area are best taken by LEAs working with their schools. In line with this, Asset Management Plans (AMPs) have been introduced by LEAs, giving them a clear and systematic view of the needs of their schools estate, based on surveys of all school buildings. LEAs and schools then prioritise these needs in a rigorous, consultative and transparent way against the formulaic capital support provided to them. This means that most detailed information on how schools capital is invested is held by LEAs and schools.

Central Government retains some central support for capital funded through bid based initiatives such as the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) and the Targeted Capital Fund (TCF). Guidance on submitting PFI and TCF bids is sent to LEAs annually in the "Guide for the Schools Capital Allocation Round and PFI Credits" document, copies of which are lodged in the Library, together with copies of announcements of allocations to LEAs and schools made by the Department. Details of announcements of major capital allocations are also sent to each Member of Parliament.

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Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many schools will have been allocated money in the period from May 1997 to March 2002 for repairs. [19944]

John Healey [holding answer 3 December 2001]: Every maintained school in England has been allocated money for repairs in this period. This Government made available £1.3 billion of New Deal for Schools capital from the Windfall Tax from 1997–98 until 2001–02, to help address the backlog of urgent repairs in schools that we inherited after years of under-funding. 17,000 schools are benefiting from this investment.

In 2000–01, Devolved formula capital for schools was introduced, giving, for the first time, every school in England a capital budget to enable them to address directly the needs of their buildings. This funding is nearly £300 million this year and will rise to £600 million by 2003–04, when a typical primary school will receive almost £20,000 a year, and a typical secondary school will receive almost £66,000 a year.

In addition to this, many schools are benefiting from repairs and improvements supported by formulaic capital allocations by central Government to local education authorities.

New Schools

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, pursuant to her answer of 27 November 2001, Official Report, column 773W, on new schools, what the value was of capital expenditure on (a) expanding new schools, (b) replacing schools and (c) repairing schools in (i) 1997, (ii) 1998, (iii) 1999, (iv) 2000 and (v) 2001. [19946]

John Healey [holding answer 3 December 2001]: We do not hold information in the form requested. Much capital support is allocated to local education authorities and schools on a formulaic basis, so that records on how it is allocated to specific categories of spend will be held locally.

"All Our Futures"

Mr. Willis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what progress has been made in implementing "All our Futures: Creativity, Culture, Education". [19953]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The report of the National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education "All our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education", published in 1999, contained 59 detailed recommendations. Since then we have made considerable progress in addressing the report's recommendations.

The last national curriculum review introduced greater flexibility, which allowed teachers the freedom to incorporate more creativity into their planning and teaching. As a result of the review, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has established two projects, one on Creativity and one on the Arts, to produce guidance for schools on how to promote pupils' creativity and how the Arts can contribute to pupils' creative and cultural development.

This year, the Department's White Paper "Schools: achieving success" reinforced our commitment that all pupils should have access to a broad and balanced

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education which includes opportunities for creativity and self-expression. This includes our proposals to support schools to provide "education with character" and our commitment that there should be more opportunities for children to learn music, PE, sports and a modern foreign language. We are also supporting the continued development of Creative Partnerships between schools and arts organisations.

Rural White Paper

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) of 27 November 2001, Official Report, columns 859–60W, on the rural White Paper, how many child care places were (a) taken up and (b) remained vacant in (i) Cornwall, (ii) Devon, (iii) Durham and (iv) Lincolnshire in 2000–01; and what plans she has to extend the child care places scheme to other rural counties. [20030]

Margaret Hodge [holding answer 3 December 2001]: The Department for Education and Skills has responsibility for the development of child care places in England through the National Childcare Strategy. The strategy is carried forward at a local level by Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships (EYDCPs) that have been established in every local education authority area in England. All rural areas are covered.

We do not currently hold information on the take-up of places. EYDCPs are now gathering this information and will be submitting it to the Department in spring 2002 along with their Implementation Plans for 2002–03.

We are making £22 million available from April 2002 to support the delivery of Sure Start type services aimed at young children and families in rural areas and small pockets of disadvantage. This will build on neighbourhood nurseries and bring child care, health and family support services to a further 7,500 children in England. Thirty-four local authority areas have been invited to develop these smaller scale programmes. A list of the areas and associated guidance has been placed in the Library.

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) of 27 November 2001, Official Report, columns 859–60W, on the rural White Paper, which schools have received support from the Small Schools Fund. [20034]

Mr. Timms [holding answer 3 December 2001]: The Small Schools Fund is allocated to LEAs on a formula basis. Levels of funding are determined by the number of primary and special schools in the authority that have 200 or fewer pupils; and the number of secondary schools that have 600 or fewer pupils. The fund is worth £80 million per year in total. LEAs may set lower (but not higher) thresholds for allocation at local level.

Grandparent Mentoring

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what involvement her Department had in the proposal by Age Concern England to develop its transage action grandparent mentoring project in 2000–01. [20553]

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Mr. Timms: None. The Department contributed towards the cost of a feasibility study in 1997–98 and made a further contribution to a pilot programme in 1998–99. No further requests for funding were received.

School Buses (Safety)

Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps the Government are taking to increase the safety of school buses; and what guidelines are given to schools with regard to bus and minibus safety in schools. [20634]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: From 1 October this year, all new buses, coaches and minibuses have to be fitted with seat belts. This change will make all bus and minibus travel in new vehicles safer.

Home to school transport is the responsibility of local education authorities. They must monitor the condition of vehicles used for transporting pupils from home to school, and report any safety defects to the Vehicle Inspectorate. Schools are responsible for arranging travel on educational visits, and we published good practice guidance in 1998 that advised that it is not normally appropriate to use buses without seat belts on long journeys. Supplementary advice on educational visits will be made available later this school term.

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