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Pre-schools

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many pre-schools have closed since 1997 in (a) England and (b) the Buckingham constituency. [17841]

Margaret Hodge: The Department collects information on playgroups and pre-schools defined in terms of the sessional care that they provide for children aged mainly between three and five. It does not collect information on pre-schools separately from playgroups.

Information for England and Buckinghamshire Local Authority area is shown in the table.

Number of playgroups and pre-schools

19972001
England(21)15,80014,000
Buckinghamshire LA area(22)290200

(21) Figures have been rounded to the nearest 100.

(22) Figures have been rounded to the nearest 10.


Figures for 2001 for England and Government Office Region were published in Statistical Bulletin 08/01 "Children's Day Care Facilities as at 31 March 2001", which is available at www.dfes.gov.uk/statistics/ and from the Library.

Mr. Flight: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many pre-schools have closed since 1997 in (a) England and (b) Arundel and South Downs. [18330]

Margaret Hodge: The Department collects information on playgroups and pre-schools defined in terms of the sessional care that they provide for children aged mainly between three and five. It does not collect information on pre-schools separately from playgroups.

The available information for England and West Sussex Local Authority area is shown in the table.

Number of playgroups and pre-schools

19972001
England(23)15,80014,000
West Sussex LA area(24)350300

(23) Figures have been rounded to the nearest 100.

(24) Figures have been rounded to the nearest 10.

Note:

Local Authorities provided the data.

Figures for 2001 for England and Government Office Region were published in Statistical Bulletin 08/01 "Children's Day Care Facilities as at 31 March 2001", which is available at www.dfes.gov.uk/statistics/ and from the Library.


11 Dec 2001 : Column: 812W

Nursery Places

Mr. Reed: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what guidance her Department has given to (a) local education authorities and (b) Early Years Development Partnerships on the distribution of funding for nursery places for three-year-olds on the basis of postcodes; and if she will make a statement. [18501]

Margaret Hodge: The responsibility for setting criteria for the distribution of nursery education places at a local level rests with the Local Education Authority in conjunction with the Early Years Development and Childcare Partnership, within the strategic framework set by the Department requiring the most socially disadvantaged to be targeted first.

Our strategic framework does not prohibit Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships from allocating nursery education places for three-year-olds by postcode area if they believe that to be the most appropriate method of targeting social disadvantage for their area.

Mr. Reed: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what percentage of three-year-olds in Leicestershire will receive free nursery places in 2001–02; and what is the national average. [18503]

Margaret Hodge: The current national average for the take up of nursery education places for three-year-olds is 62 per cent. We are well on the way to meeting our stated target of 66 per cent. by March 2002.

The Department does not hold comprehensive local data on the percentage of three-year-olds receiving a free place in 2001–2002 for Leicestershire or other individual local authorities.

Individual Learning Accounts

Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills when ILA providers will receive funding for learners booked into the system before the programme was shut down. [19549]

John Healey: Officials are setting up, as a matter of priority, arrangements to validate outstanding payments and claims for payment from learning providers so that the majority of providers, who have acted honestly throughout, can be paid as quickly as possible. We will pay for learning that has already taken place and for learning that is already booked, providing we are satisfied that eligible learning is undertaken, in accordance with the rules of the programme.

Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what arrangements are in place for students who have started ILA courses but were not booked into the system before the programme was shut down. [19551]

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John Healey: Courses that were not booked onto the ILA system before the programme was shut down will not benefit from an ILA discount. However, officials are setting up, as a matter of priority, arrangements to validate outstanding payments and claims for payment from learning providers so that the majority of providers, who have acted honestly throughout, can be paid as quickly as possible. We will pay for learning that has already taken place and for learning that is already booked on the ILA Centre's system, providing we are satisfied that eligible learning is undertaken, in accordance with the rules of the programme.

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills when she expects to launch a successor to Individual Learning Accounts. [20419]

John Healey: The Government remain committed to support those who find a lack of money a barrier to returning to education, learning or training and we are developing future plans, which build on the successful elements of the ILA programme.

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, pursuant to her oral statement of 6 November 2001, Official Report, column 122–32, what arrangements she has made to enable people who already hold individual learning accounts to use them. [20676]

John Healey [holding answer 4 December 2001]: Officials are setting up, as a matter of priority, arrangements to validate outstanding payments and claims for payment from learning providers so that the majority of providers, who have acted honestly throughout, can be paid as quickly as possible. We will pay for eligible learning that has already taken place and for learning that is already booked on the ILA Centre's system, providing we are satisfied that eligible learning is undertaken, in accordance with the rules of the programme. Learning which was not booked onto the ILA system before the programme was shut down on 23 November will not benefit from an ILA discount. The programme is now closed to the further booking of learning by learning providers.

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills under what powers she shut down the individual learning account programme on 23 November without notice to individual learning account (a) holders and (b) providers. [20678]

John Healey [holding answer 4 December 2001]: Section 104 of the Learning and Skills Act 2000 and the Regulations made under that section allow the Secretary of State a wide discretion as to how, and whether, to operate an individual learning account scheme. The powers allow the Secretary of State to begin such a scheme, to change it or to close it down.

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what is her estimate of the number of holders of individual learning accounts who had not used them by 23 November; and what arrangements are being made to enable these accounts to be used. [20679]

John Healey [holding answer 4 December 2001]: As at 17 November, there were 1,235,190 individual learning account holders who had not used their accounts.

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The closure of the programme on 23 November was as a result of evidence of serious potential fraud and theft involving individual learning accounts, which are being investigated by the police. All eligible learning booked onto the system before 6.30 pm on 23 November will be honoured, subject to new validation arrangements. It will only be after we have been able to complete our validation of claims and bookings from learning providers that I shall be in a position to provide an updated figure of ILA holders who have not used their accounts.

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what financial advice is being provided by her Department to firms which have suffered loss as a result of the closure of the individual learning account programme. [20680]

John Healey [holding answer 4 December 2001]: It is not expected nor appropriate for the Department to offer financial advice to any firm which has suffered a loss as a result of the closure of the individual learning account programme. Similarly, the Department did not offer financial advice to any provider at the point when they became registered with the ILA Centre.

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many people were employed in the individual learning account centre on 23 November; how many are employed; and whether the closure of the programme will result in redundancies in her Department. [20681]

John Healey [holding answer 4 December 2001]: The number of staff in place at the individual learning account centre fluctuates in response to demand and to the extent to which people make use of the range of services. The ILA centre has a flexible workforce to meet these demands, with many working part-time or in a pattern of shifts. The precise number of staff is a matter for Capita Business Services Ltd. who perform this service under contract to the Department. The contract with Capita is output based and fees paid are reliant on certain key operational indicators being met.

I do not anticipate any redundancies within the Department relating to the closure of the ILA programme. These staff are fully occupied with residual issues resulting from the wind down of the present ILA programme, and development of a successor programme or programmes.

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what compensation is being offered to holders of individual learning accounts who had intended to use them on or before 7 December 2001 but had not used them by 23 November. [20683]

John Healey [holding answer 4 December 2001]: There are no plans to offer compensation to individual learning account holders who had intended to use them on or before 7 December 2001 but had not used them by 23 November.

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many letters were sent out to holders of individual learning accounts to advise them that the accounts must be used on or before 7 December; and what warning was given to the recipients of the letters that the date, 7 December, had been changed to 23 November. [20684]

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John Healey [holding answer 4 December 2001]: Between 29 October and 5 November every one of more than 2.5 million individual learning account holders was sent a letter about the withdrawal of the programme on 7 December. Because of the need to take immediate action it was not possible to notify account holders prior to the decision to shut down the programme on 23 November. The shutdown meant that the ILA account holders database was not available to us. However, we issued a press statement on 23 November and provided notification of the shut down on both the Department and Capita websites which we updated as new information became available. We were also able to resume the operation, on a limited basis of the ILA helpline for account holders on 27 November.

Mr. Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what guidance is given to those students whose applications for individual learning accounts had been submitted prior to the deadline of 7 December. [20999]

John Healey: On 26 October the Individual Learning Account Centre stopped accepting applications to open new accounts. Between 29 October and 5 November every one of more than 2.5 million Individual Learning Account holders was sent a letter about the withdrawal of the programme on 7 December. Notices were placed in nine national newspapers on 26 and 27 October and the ILA helpline advised account holders on their individual circumstances.

Because of the need to take immediate action it was not possible to notify account holders prior to the decision to shut down the programme on 23 November. However, we issued a press statement on 23 November and provided notification of the shut down on both the Department and Capita websites which we updated as new information became available. The ILA helpline for account holders also resumed operation, on a limited basis, on 27 November.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment she has made of the impact on (a) learning provider companies and (b) applicants of her decision to close the individual learning account scheme earlier than the published date of 7 December. [21306]

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John Healey: Because of the need to take immediate action it was not possible to notify account holders or ILA registered learning providers prior to the decision to shut down the programme on 23 November. I do recognise the impact this decision will have on learners and learning providers and I am taking steps to keep them informed about developments.


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