The chalkface candidates

The four main political parties have a total of 58 candidates standing for election from an educational background. Twelve are serving teachers, 20 are former teachers, including Raymond Robertson, the Education Minister, while three did not go beyond teacher training.

Eleven MPs, eight of them Labour, are former teachers and the SNP boasts more current teachers (six) than any other party. The Scottish Socialist Alliance and the Referendum Party have one apiece.

Maire Whitehead, the only serving headteacher, who is contesting Glasgow Cathcart for the SNP, says education has not featured strongly on the doorsteps although there is concern about overcrowding at the 2, 000-pupil Holyrood Secondary.

Mrs Whitehead takes time off from St Mirin's primary in the city "as and when required". She fought Hamilton against George Robertson, the Shadow Scottish Secretary, in 1992 and predicts she will come "close on the heels" of John Maxton, the sitting Labour MP who was a lecturer at the former Hamilton College of Education.

Elizabeth Smith, a modern studies and economics teacher at George Watson's College who is standing for the Conservatives in Edinburgh South where Labour had a majority of 4,176 at the last election, says education is one of the top three issues with health and devolution.

"The importance of diversity and choice in education, which the other parties would remove through their opposition to assisted places and nursery vouchers, is very much part of my own agenda," Miss Smith says. She believes that "one or two parents are violently against vouchers but they are out of step with the majority".

Malcolm Savidge, a maths teacher at Kincorth Academy in Aberdeen, is Labour's candidate in Aberdeen North and the teacher least likely to be returning to the classroom. He is defending a 9,237 majority inherited from Bob Hughes, the long-serving Labour MP. Boundary changes have brought an influx of mainly Liberal voters but he has a respectable notional majority of 4,237.

Mr Savidge, one of seven members of the Educational Institute of Scotland known to be standing, says education is one of his doorstep issues along with health and "the need for a change of government. " There had been "very positive responses" to Labour's plans for cutting class sizes and providing pre-schooling for four-year-olds and later three-year-olds.

Neil Wallace, principal English teacher at Annan Academy, who is fighting Dumfries for the Liberal Democrats for the second time, is placing his hopes on the 53 per cent who told his canvassers last weekend that they remain undecided.

Mr Wallace hopes to capitalise on what he says is the popularity of the party's pledge to increase spending on education with 1p on income tax. "Quite genuinely I haven't had any hint of opposition to the policy, so long as people know where the money is going. The results of the underspending of the past is seen as an undervaluing of education. "

Presiding over a Higher English class of 30 pupils before taking to the campaign trail full-time on Wednesday, Mr Wallace says he is making a particular issue of class sizes in secondary schools.

Tom Dunsmore, a science teacher at Beath High in Cowdenbeath, is the standard-bearer for the Referendum Party in Dunfermline East, held with a majority of 17, 444 by Gordon Brown, the Shadow Chancellor. Relations with Europe are the single most important electoral issue, Mr Dunsmore says. Local authority spending cuts are a consequence of getting Britain ready to meet the convergence criteria for the single European currency, he adds.

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