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After-school Clubs

21. Mr. Gareth Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what action she is taking to improve the regulation of after-school clubs. [64416]

Margaret Hodge: Last year we transferred responsibility for the registration and inspection of under 8s child care, including after-school clubs, from local authorities to the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted). At the same time we introduced National Standards and there is a specific set of criteria covering out of school care. A national scheme will bring improvements to the regulation of after-school clubs, not least a more consistent approach across England. Earlier this year we consulted on proposals for a scheme for certifying child care providers' suitability to look after older children, and we will be looking carefully at the results of that consultation as these proposals are taken forward.

Adult Literacy and Numeracy

22. Mr. Clapham: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what measures she is taking to increase basic literacy and numeracy skills for adults. [64417]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The Government are fully committed to improving the literacy, language and numeracy skills of adults. The Prime Minister launched Skills for Life, the national strategy for improving adult literacy and numeracy in England in March 2001. Since then, we have introduced a new national teaching and learning infrastructure of standards, curricula, teacher training and national tests in literacy and numeracy nationally to help increase standards and learner achievement. There have been three bursts of national promotion activity to increase demand for basic skills provision. These have led to over 100,000 calls to the national information hotline. Demand is also being stimulated among employers with a toolkit of advice and materials to ensure low skilled employees have opportunities to improve their skills. We have completed a series of pilots to test innovative pedagogical approaches and financial incentives for learners and employers. A new national research and development centre, led by the London University's Institute of Education, has begun investigating best practice in the UK and internationally. Our target is that 750,000 adults improve their literacy and numeracy by 2004. Between April 2001 and January 2002, more than 124,000 adults were helped to gain literacy and numeracy qualifications.

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Child Care

24. Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans there are to improve the provision of child care places for the under-fives. [64419]

Margaret Hodge: 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 and are tasked with providing and supporting good quality, affordable child care in their respective areas.

More than 175,000 new pre-school child care places 1 have been created since 1997 and EYDCPs have plans to create approx. 140,000 new pre-school places over the next two years.

Many of these places will be created through the Neighbourhood Nurseries programme, a key component of the Government's wider Neighbourhood Childcare Initiative. Launched in January 2001, the initiative aims to create 45,000 new nursery places for children from birth to school age and 25,000 childminding places in the most disadvantaged areas of England.

Since September 1998 all four-year-olds have had access to a free part time early education place for the three terms before they become of compulsory school age.

In addition, we have also increased the number of three-year-olds accessing a free early education place from 34 per cent. in January 1997 to more than 66 per cent. in March 2002. From September 2004 all three-year-olds will have access to a free early education place.

School Discipline

25. Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what recent assessment she has made on the impact of disciplinary problems on standards in schools. [64420]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: In his annual report for 2000–01 Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools reported that standards of behaviour were unsatisfactory in one secondary school in 12 and one primary school in 50. He added that unsatisfactory behaviour in some secondary schools had undermined efforts to raise standards, and that such behaviour and negative attitudes towards work were significant problems in half of the secondary schools making poor progress in raising attainment.

We have provided extensive support to schools to tackle disruptive behaviour and help improve standards, including funding for over 1,050 Learning Support Units, guidance on discipline and exclusion policies, and guidance on developing effective anti-bullying strategies. In addition, the £66 million made available through this year's Budget will fund a programme of focused support for schools in the 34 LEAs facing the toughest challenges of behaviour and criminality.

We will also extend the availability of Parenting Orders, so that these can cover parents of pupils excluded for violence or persistent serious disruption.

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27. Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will make a statement on the long-term social and economic costs of truancy, particularly in communities of high deprivation. [64422]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: The Government are fully aware of the consequences of truancy, especially of its links with educational underachievement, unemployment, homelessness and in particular crime.

We are continuing to tackle this issue through a number of initiatives. These include nationally co-ordinated truancy sweeps and the investment of £66 million in the Behaviour Improvement Programme which is being funded in those local education authorities identified as having high truancy and high crime rates.

It is important that parents and local communities are encouraged to see the importance of regular attendance and share responsibility for preventing truancy.

30. Mr. Illsley: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what action she proposes to reduce the level of truanting taking place with parental consent. [64425]

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Mr. Stephen Twigg: We have introduced a higher penalty for those parents who know that their child is not attending school and taken no reasonable steps to secure their attendance. We are examining ways in which the Government can support the prosecution process by sharing information and guidance.

Magistrates can now impose Parenting Orders as a means of underlining parents' responsibility for their children's behaviour and providing parents with structured help and support.

We have also introduced truancy sweeps which can help to identify parents who are not taking their child's attendance seriously. These send the strong message to parents and the wider community that children should be in school.

Mr. Willis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what percentage of children of secondary age were absent from school due to (a) authorised and (b) unauthorised absence in each of the years 1996–97 to 2001–02 in (i) foundation, (ii) voluntary aided, (iii) voluntary controlled, (iv) community, (v) specialist, (vi) city technology college and (vii) grammar schools. [65400]

Mr. Stephen Twigg [holding answer 1 July 2002]: The information requested is shown in the table.

Percentage of half days missed due to (a) authorised and (b) unauthorised absence in secondary schools in England

(a) Authorised absences
(i) Foundation7.
(ii) Voluntary aided7.
(iii) Voluntary controlled7.
(iv) Community8.
(v) Specialist7.47.37.7
(vi) City technology colleges6.
(vii) Grammar schools4.
(b) Unauthorised absences
(i) Foundation0.
(ii) Voluntary aided0.
(iii) Voluntary controlled0.
(iv) Community1.
(v) Specialist0.90.90.9
(vi) City technology colleges0.
(vii) Grammar schools0.


Information for 2001–02 is not yet available.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what her estimate is of the change in (a) school truancy and (b) school exclusions between 1998 and 2002; and if she will make a statement. [66284]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: The information requested for schools in England is as follows:

(a) School truancy1997–952000–01
Percentage of half days missed due to unauthorised absence0.70.7

(b) Permanent exclusions from school1997–982000–01(2)
Primary schools(3)1,5391,460
Secondary schools(3)10,1877,410
Special schools(4)572340

(2) Provisional estimate

(3) Maintained

(4) Maintained and non-maintained

The truancy and exclusion data are collected by academic year therefore the latest figures available are for 2000–01.

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