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Editor's comment

As I wrote in this column last week, the minority SNP Government continues to select its education decisions carefully and cleverly. Political opposition to reducing student costs, cutting class sizes, increasing pre-school hours and giving probationers a greater chance of landing a permanent job would be hard to muster. Such opposition as has emerged has the smack of sour grapes and pernicketiness about it.

As revealed in last week's TESS, Fiona Hyslop, education minister, announced on Wednesday her own form of early intervention in cutting class sizes for infants and giving parents more pre-school hours for their children. She wisely avoided giving the hostages to fortune that so often imprisoned her predecessors, and has not attached highly specific targets to the measures. It is, after all, not a comfortable experience to be hoist by your own PR.

While the jury may be out on the efficacy and practicality of the class size moves, it has clearly become an issue politicians cannot ignore; it is now as much about teachers' working conditions as it is about any benefits for learning.

But, in an unexpected part of this week's announcement, Ms Hyslop was right to move quickly to assert some control over prospects for probationers.

Continued publicity over the lack of jobs after the training year is damaging and will, if not checked, take the sheen off what is one of the universally lauded elements of the teachers' agreement. This would be particularly regrettable since, as our interviews with probationers show (p 12-13), many have emerged with tremendous enthusiasm. This is one ball the Government cannot afford to drop.

Ms Hyslop's report card is looking good so far - but we will, of course, subject it to continuous assessment.

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