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Checklist for action

Fiona Hyslop hits the ground running with plans to deliver early priorities in the next session.

NURSERY TEACHERS, early intervention and smaller class sizes will be the priorities for the new education ministers, and a new slant could be given to leadership and A Curriculum for Excellence.

Fiona Hyslop, the new cabinet secretary for education and lifelong learning, said she would be holding authorities to account in their delivery of the previous executive's class-size reduction targets.

She has also asked for an early report from the workforce planning team in the Scottish Executive Education Department because, while in opposition, she was sceptical about their capability and ability to deliver the target of 53,000 teachers by 2007, and class-size reductions to a maximum of 25 in P1 and 20 in S1-2 in English and maths.

"Our agenda is to drive down class sizes across the board," she said on her first ministerial outing - to the Avenue End Primary campus, incorporating Kincardine Nursery school and Croftcroighn School in Glasgow's east end.

The SNP manifesto commitment was to reduce class sizes to a maximum of 18 in P1-3 and to give headteachers discretion to decide on the most appropriate class sizes for later years, within national guidelines.

Maureen Watt, the minister responsible for schools and skills, said: "If we can reduce class sizes, then discipline problems become more manageable."

Ms Hyslop made it clear she and her ministerial team want to deliver early priorities in the next school session. She said meetings are being sought with teachers' unions.

However, she hoped to reassure teachers that they would not be hit with a raft of new initiatives. "We value the contribution that teachers are making. I am conscious that there are some very productive initiatives and programmes going on.

"We might want to give a different slant to leadership and A Curriculum for Excellence, but we want to build on it. It will not be a case of 'out with the old and in with the new'. I have as much a list of what I want to keep as what I want to change," she said.

Adam Ingram, the Minister for Children and Early Years, said: "Our aim is for every child to have access to a nursery teacher, particularly starting in the deprived areas."

Earlier this week, Sir Muir Russell, convener of Universities Scotland and principal of Glasgow University, lobbied First Minister Alex Salmond for higher education to remain in the same department as enterprise, in his letter of congratulation. But the SNP administration has stuck to its manifesto commitment of linking all sectors of education.

Ms Hyslop sought to allay university sector fears that they might lose out financially to schools and colleges, saying the administration would work in a more integrated way. "Instead of having one minister arguing the case for universities, they will have five and the First Minister."

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