Critics wait in the wings

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* Brian Adam, the SNP's spokesman, said it was not at all clear what ministers planned in their Schools for Ambition programme but it would not help choice and diversity in Scotland's small towns and rural areas.

* Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, welcomed any new investment for schools operating under particularly difficult circumstances. "However, we must be vigilant and ensure that such schools are not viewed negatively as a result of this. There should be no stigma attaching to schools which are operating in especially challenging circumstances as this would be devastating to staff and pupil morale," Mr Smith said.

* Ewan Aitken, the local authorities' education spokesman, said councils were already committed to raising the bar on quality. "We also understand the need to provide specific support for some schools and will be seeking early discussions with the Executive on how the schools will be selected."

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