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Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how much was spent in total by local education authorities on transport for special needs pupils in the latest year for which figures are available. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: Provisional figures for 200001, the latest year for which figures are available, show that £245.2 million was spent by local education authorities on transport for pupils with special education needs.
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John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the funding allocations for special educational needs (a) in the east midlands and (b) in Nottinghamshire are in 200203; and what the average is in England. 
Mr. Timms: Local education authorities' budget statements contain information about the notional allocations made to schools for pupils with special educational needs and the funding retained centrally by the authority. The Department is in the process of collecting data relating to the 200203 financial year. I shall write to my hon. Friend when the information is to hand.
Margaret Hodge: General further education colleges and sixth form colleges are independent corporations and determine their own staff pay and allowance policies. The allowances will, therefore, vary from college to college and the Government have no plans to change this.
While there is not any specific funding for upgrading playgrounds, the Government's capital investment in schools in England has risen from £683 million in 199798 to £3 billion in the current year (200203), and will rise to £3.5 billion next year (200304). Local education authorities and schools may draw on this funding for projects which improve playground safety.
The figures for three and four-year-olds in schools and private and voluntary providers were published in Statistical Bulletin 11/01 "Provision for children under five years of age in EnglandJanuary 2001" which is available at www.dfes.gov.uk/statistics/ and from the Library.
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(11) Head count of children aged three and four at 31 December in the previous calendar year, rounded to the nearest 100.
(12) Numbers of three and four-year-olds may include some two-year-olds.
(13) Number attending provider expressed as a percentage of three and four-year-old population.
(14) This information is not available for 2001 due to the transition to new methods of data collection.
Mr. Timms: We welcome the report, it shows that National Grid for Learning (NGfL) and New Opportunities Fund (NOF) initiatives along with sustained standards fund spending is making a real impact on both standards of teaching and the willingness of teachers to embrace ICT. We particularly welcome the report's confirmation that Government funding of ICT resources through the NGfL continues to make an important contribution to the development of the ICT curriculum and the use of new technologies in schools, and the recognition that this is beginning to impact on teaching and learning.
The report acknowledges that the existence of the NOF programme has raised the profile of ICT training in many schools and it has helped teachers to improve their ICT skills significantly. However, we recognise that the report also raises concerns that this has not had as widespread an effect on classroom practice as intended, or as might reasonably be expected at this stage of the programme. We will be working with NOF and the Teacher Training Agency to ensure that the concerns are addressed and that we establish the most effective support for teachers who are crucial to the successful implementation of the overall programme. We also note, however, that the report recognises the excellent take up of this training and we look forward to increased evidence of impact as more schools complete their training.
The report highlights personal access as one of the strongest influences toward successful training and classroom usage. We have provided over 50,000 teachers with PCs through various Government initiatives over the past few years, of which around 32,000 have been supplied via the Computers for Teachers Scheme. The current £100 million Laptops for Teachers scheme will supply a further 100,000 teachers with computers from September 2002. Our Curriculum Online project will enable online access to digital learning materials that are easily accessible to teachers and which they can use to support the teaching across the curriculum.
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Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what information she has collated about the presence of protection rackets in secondary schools involving teenage pupils. 
Mr. Timms: Teachers' pensions, in common with all other public service pensions, are increased in line with the retail prices index. Increases are confirmed in the annual Pensions (Increase) Review Orders: the increase for the financial year 200203, as specified in the 2002 order, is 1.7 per cent. The order confirming the increase for 200304 will be published next spring.
Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many teachers applied for medically-supported retirement for the Teachers' Pension Scheme in each of the last three years; and what the average time to reach a decision on these applications was. 
Mr. Timms: The numbers of applications for ill health retirement by members of the Teachers' Pension Scheme (which covers schools, FE and some HE and independent establishments) in each of the last three years were:
The scheme administrator and the contracted medical advisers work to agreed service levels for actioning cases at the different stages in the process. The target is to process applications within 25 working days (cumulative). Current performance reports show that the target is
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achieved in 98 per cent. of cases. Periods during which cases are in abeyance pending receipt of additional information to enable a decision to be reached (most frequently further medical reports) are not included in the 25 day target.
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