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New community 'catalyst' starts a chain reaction

West Lothian and the Western Isles are joining West Dunbartonshire in giving all schools new community school status. In a significant advance for the initiative, which aims to provide a range of services under one roof in the hope of raising attainment, the Scottish Executive announced last week that it had agreed to fund the plans along with bids from 13 other authorities.

It is now becoming clear that new community schools, which had their origins in the United States as "full-service schools", are the Executive's "big idea". The concept was first publicly endorsed by Douglas Osler, senior chief inspector of schools, under the previous Conservative administration.

New community schools now enjoy the enthusiastic backing of Jack McConnell, the Education Minister, who said last week he hoped the pound;26 million pilot programme "will act as a catalyst for wider change in years to come".

But Mr McConnell added: "Progress will only be achieved if all parties work together."

New community schools generally bring together education, social work, family support and health services. The delivery of "joined-up services" is the responsibility of integration managers, whose appointment is one of the developments being funded by the Government.

The announcement last week is the third and final phase of the pilot programme, which attracts up to pound;600,000 in Government funding for each project over three years. The initial phases established 47 projects in 31 authorities (all except Shetland) and involved 200 schools.

The latest tranche, worth pound;9 million over the three years, covers 225 schools.

Mr McConnell said that he was now considering the next stages of the new community schools initiative and promised to make an announcement in the near future.

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