Editor's comment

Neil Munro

So it's all over for another year. Local authority budgets have been "fixed". Council tax has been frozen. And predictions of gloom have been overstated, for now at least (p4). Education Secretary Michael Russell will doubtless take comfort from the fact he can claim some political credit for achieving a more "realistic" deal on class sizes, and face down his opponents' jibes. But, if policies are reduced to the lowest common denominator - such as striving for 20 per cent of children in P1-3 classes with 18 pupils or fewer - the chances of implementing them are that much greater (p1).

A question arising from The TESS council budget survey is whether we can claim to have national standards in key areas of education, or a postcode lottery depending on which political party holds local sway. Although it is notable that Mr Russell has succeeded in mobilising councillors from all parties behind his class-size deal, the most enthusiastic are those where the SNP forms part of the administration - Dundee, East Ayrshire, Edinburgh, Renfrewshire, West Lothian. There will be some areas where younger pupils will have a free meal and, in others, just breakfast. And some children will have access to 570 nursery hours a year, while 475 hours is the norm elsewhere. No doubt, this is the price we pay for having "local" authorities.

Councils might breathe sighs of relief that they have managed a damage- limitation exercise and protected "frontline services". But, as the Educational Institute of Scotland survey reports today, this is not the way teachers will see it as teaching jobs disappear and money is removed from school budgets - just as they are wrestling with a whole new ball game in curriculum and assessment. Alas, savings which were rejected as unpalatable in this budget round look as if they will be back on the table in 2011 and 2012.

Neil Munro editor of the year (business and professional magazine).

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Neil Munro

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