News at a glance

Gift of creationist book to students 'infuriating'

A book about creationism that aims to refute "the most commonly taught evolutionary ideas" and show that the universe was created by "an all-powerful God" has been handed out to children in a South Lanarkshire school.

The book, entitled Truth Be Told: exposing the myth of evolution, was given to all 400 children at East Kilbride's Kirktonholme Primary School on Monday after a visit from West Mains Church of Christ.

One father of a P1 child described the church's visit and gift as "infuriating and upsetting". The parent, who did not want to be named, said it had confused his five-year-old son, who had been learning the basics of evolution at home, and undermined the education of the school.

A South Lanarkshire Council spokesman, speaking on behalf of the school, confirmed that the books had been donated by the church, the members of which were "regular visitors to the school and supplement the religious and moral education (of the students)".

"All our schools throughout South Lanarkshire acknowledge the Christian tradition and also encourage young people to engage with and explore a wide range of beliefs and religions," he added.

The incident was cited by the Scottish Secular Society in evidence to MSPs this week. The society is petitioning for a change in the law so that parents must opt in to religious observance for their children rather than having to opt out, even in denominational schools.

Many parents are unaware of their right to withdraw children, says the society's chair, Caroline Lynch. Children whose parents have taken them out of religious observance are left unattended in corridors or told to carry out menial tasks like sharpening pencils or cleaning the library, the society claims. Emma Seith

Lack of targets widens literacy gap, study claims

A lack of target-setting may be causing a literacy gap between rich and poor children in Scotland, according to major new research. Cardiff University academics used the Millennium Cohort Study to track 19,000 children from their births in 2000-01. Children from the poorest homes in Scotland and Wales tended to do worse in reading at age 7 than those in England. In Scotland, high-income children did better than in England. The researchers suggested that "the more 'comprehensive' and perhaps less target-driven systems of Wales and Scotland appear to be associated with greater inequalities in child development".

Colleges can expect further cuts and falling funding

The finances of Scotland's further education colleges are "generally sound", but funding continues to fall and more cuts will be needed in the ongoing programme of mergers, according to an Audit Scotland report. Scotland's Colleges 2013 finds that, in 2011-12, the sector had a "relatively small" surplus of #163;2.2 million. But income fell by 9 per cent that year, including a #163;56 million real-terms cut in Scottish Funding Council grants. Staff numbers fell from 12,800 full-time equivalent posts to 11,600, with most cuts affecting teaching staff.

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