Literacy bids hit by election

The Scottish Office has clamped down on plans to develop early intervention schemes in primary schools because of the election, forcing councils to delay bids for a share of the Government's Pounds 3 million annual literacy drive. Schemes are unlikely to go ahead at the start of the new session in August.

Elizabeth Maginnis, education convener in Edinburgh and the local authorities' education spokeswoman, said councils were now unable to submit innovative plans due to election rules. She was "disappointed" that improving reading for primary pupils had temporarily dropped off the agenda.

Mrs Maginnis was instrumental in persuading ministers to produce the fund following a highly successful early intervention scheme in north Edinburgh four primaries. "I hope the incoming government will more vigorously tackle this issue after May 2," she said.

Mrs Maginnis said of the Pounds 300,000 maximum that has been allowed: "It is not going to be enough to make a very significant difference but it is better than nothing and we want it. It will obviously go further in a smaller authority than a large authority."

The Government will fund 100 per cent of costs in the first year but only two-thirds of costs in the second and third years.

In the capital, the initiative in the four primaries in the Pilton area, focused on the use of nursery assistants as aids to primary teachers, at a cost of Pounds 250,000.

South Ayrshire yesterday (Thursday) backed plans to develop primary intervention projects, despite expressing doubts about the Government's insistence on assessing children as they enter primary 1. Mike McCabe, the council's director of educational services, cautioned that early assessment could become "a self-fulfilling prophecy" if incorrectly handled.

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