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Ministers stump up for extra classrooms

The Scottish Executive's schools fund has been boosted by pound;60 million, bringing the total available for local authorities to spend over the next three years on refurbishment, rebuilding and information technology to pound;304 million.

Peter Peacock, Education Minister, linked the new money to the Executive's commitment to cutting class sizes at early stages of primary and secondary education, saying it would help provide the extra classrooms in schools required to fulfil his target.

During a visit to Edinburgh's East Craigs primary, Mr Peacock said: "Our historic commitment to cut class sizes means that in some schools more classrooms will be needed - this substantial extra amount of cash will help councils plan and deliver the permanent classrooms we need.

"Councils will also be able to make real progress in removing outdated temporary classrooms and adding the extra space we need to meet our commitment to reduce class sizes in P1 and English and maths in S1-S2 by 2007."

Most of the cash for the schools fund was allocated under the most recent three-year comprehensive spending review, which also set aside cash to train new teachers, meet increased salaries for teachers, and pay for extra teacher training places at universities.

Mr Peacock said: "This is recognition that we have got some parts of Scotland which require extra classrooms. East Craigs primary is a good example - it is very tight for space."

Janice MacInnes, headteacher at the school, said that an extension with an extra six classrooms was due for completion by next year. However, she hoped that the new funding might be used for internal restructuring.

This week's announcement is a recognition by the Executive that, while it has committed pound;2 billion to major school building projects funded through public private partnerships (PPPs), smaller refurbishments are necessary.

The money is being shared among local authorities under the Executive's standard distribution formula. Allocations range from Glasgow's Pounds 10-pound;11 million each year for three years to Orkney's pound;600,000 a year over the same period.

Colin Dalrymple, general secretary of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, said it was heartening to know there was consistent application of funding for the "very real problems we have had with the school estate".

Mr Dalrymple hoped the money would be linked to the flexibility Mr Peacock is expected to offer headteachers and authorities to vary class size limits in P1 and S1-S2.

An inflexible limit of 25 pupils in all P1 classes and 20 in S1-S2 English and maths classes had the potential to create problems for timetabling in secondary schools and for management time in primaries, Mr Dalrymple said.

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