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Mr. Ivan Lewis: Individual Government Departments are responsible for taking decisions on the goods and services they acquire, whether through the Private Finance Initiative or other procurement routes, taking into account the Government's policy of seeking value for money for the taxpayer. As regards PFI contracts, the public sector
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as a whole has signed hundreds of deals covering the delivery of a range of services, including hospitals, police stations, transport and schools. Many hundreds of firms covering a range of activities will be involved in the delivery of contracted services. In my Department Arthur Anderson has not been used as an adviser on any PFI contracts.
Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment she has made of the supplemental submission to the School Teachers' Review Body from the six teaching organisations in England issued in December 2001; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Timms: It is for the School Teachers' Review Body (STRB) to consider evidence submitted to it and their assessment will inform their recommendations to my right hon. Friend. The STRB's main report for 200203 was published in January and my right hon. Friend is now consulting key stakeholders, including teaching unions, on proposed changes to teachers' pay and conditions of service before any changes are implemented. The STRB is currently undertaking a special remit on teacher work load and is expected to report in April.
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Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will allow head teachers and teachers a three-month sabbatical once they have completed 10 years continuous service; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Timms: No. However a sabbatical scheme for experienced teachers with five years or more experience in challenging schools (defined as having 50 per cent. or more free school meals) was introduced in September 2001. Sabbaticals last for a period of up to six weeks, and can be used flexibly. The sabbatical scheme will run for an initial three year period and will then be reviewed.
Mr. Timms: We have no plans at present to introduce such a scheme. However, we do recognise that the cost of housing in London is one of the drivers behind teachers' decisions about their future. That is why, as part of the Government's £250 million Starter Homes Initiative, more than 1,600 London teachers will receive assistance to purchase homes in areas of high price or demand. We are also working closely with the Department for Transport, London and the Regions, the NHS, Home Office and the Housing Corporation, to develop a long-term strategy that will provide affordable housing for key workers.
Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what further action she is taking to reduce the level of student performance evaluation work required by teachers; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Timms: Performance evaluation helps to ensure that pupils and students are getting a good education. Coursework assessment is a long standing feature of examinations and can be a valuable way of assessing achievement that cannot readily be demonstrated in an examination. The Government are not planning any changes to coursework limits.
Mr. Timms: Retaining good teachers within the profession is key to continuing to raise standards in schools. Our research has consistently shown that work load is a significant factor in influencing teachers to leave the profession. That is why we have asked the School Teachers' Review Body to consider the findings of the recent PricewaterhouseCooper's study that we commissioned into reducing teachers' work loads. The STRB will report to us by the end of April this year and we have already announced the piloting of 30 school work force pathfinders to test out innovative solutions to reducing work load and bureaucracy in schools. In addition, we made almost £20 million available in 200102 directly to schools in London to fund local recruitment and retention initiatives. In recognition of the problems that London teachers continue to face, we have recently announced a further, increased, figure of more than £22 million for 200203. The cost of housing in London is also a key driver behind teachers' decisions about their future. That is why, as part of the
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Government's £250 million Starter Homes Initiative, more than 1,600 London teachers will receive assistance to purchase homes in areas of high price or demand. We have also announced our proposal to accept the STRB's recently announced recommendations, including a further above inflation pay increase of 3.5 per cent. for all teachers and that good, experienced, teachers should in future be able to receive a £2,148 pay increase on crossing the threshold after five years instead of seven. London allowances, other than the inner London Supplement, will also be increased by 3.5 per cent. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State set out our longer term proposals for all teachers and teaching in a pamphlet, "Professionalism and Trust", published in November 2001.
Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills for what reason Surrey has been allocated less money from the Recruitment and Retention Fund than other LEAs in the South East. 
Mr. Timms: The criteria used for deciding allocation of funding was made on the basis of regional vacancy rates, using data supplied annually by LEAs on form 618G. These were averaged out over the last three years for which validated data were availablei.e. ending with the data for January 2001to avoid the allocation being over-influenced by a one-off peak in vacancies in a single year. In order to make any sort of accurate assessment of need we had to work from a reliable and statistically valid baseline. That is what the form 618G provided us with. We used the same criteria for the 200001 allocations and we had always indicated that we would seek a consistent approach in both years.
Mr. Timms: Performance pay points are awarded at the discretion of governing bodies of individual schools. My Department sent guidance on teachers' pay to schools in England and Wales in September. This included advice on school salary policies and awarding performance pay points.
Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what recent assessment she has made of the levels of student debt on leaving university; and if she will make a statement. 
Margaret Hodge: The most recent assessment made in a Departmental survey, in the Student Income and Expenditure Survey for 199899, was an average of £2,528 anticipated debt. That survey was conducted before the present system of student support was fully implemented. The most recent evidence, from the UNITE/MORI poll conducted in the autumn of 2001, suggests that higher education students currently owe on average £4,203 and expect to owe £8,133 on graduating. This has to be considered in the context of graduates currently earning around 35 per cent. more than the national average and potentially around £400,000 more over their working lives.
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Margaret Hodge: Our current review of student finance is considering both the student debt issue, particularly in relation to the lower socio-economic groups, and the relative contributions of students, parents and the Government to student support. We shall make an announcement on the outcome of the review and will consult with all interested parties.
Margaret Hodge: Our review of student finance is considering the relative contributions of students, parents and the Government to student support. We shall make an announcement on the outcome of the review and will consult with all interested parties.
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