Raised EMA thresholds to benefit 22,000 students
Thousands more school pupils and college students will be able to claim the pound;30 weekly Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) from January 2016 after the Scottish government announced this week that it would be raising the income thresholds for eligibility. The EMA was introduced to encourage students from low-income families to stay on in education. Currently, students from a family with one dependent child and a combined income of up to pound;20,351 can claim the EMA but from January that threshold will increase to pound;24,421, up pound;4,070. For a family with more than one dependent child, the new threshold will be pound;26,884, up pound;4,481. Part-time college students will also be eligible, meaning that an estimated additional 10,000 school pupils and 12,000 college students will be able to claim the EMA.
Councils welcome attainment challenge expansion
Scottish councils have cautiously welcomed the news that the Scottish Attainment Challenge is to be extended, claiming that the focus on improving attainment is positive but that "11 authorities and many, many more primary schools will not see any additional resources". First minister Nicola Sturgeon announced last week that 57 further primaries in 14 local authorities would receive funding from the pound;100 million Attainment Scotland Fund. Cosla education spokesperson Stephanie Primrose said: "There is little that separates local authorities and the Scottish government when it comes to the broad goal of improving attainment. It is on the detail of the challenge and how it will operate where we think some issues lie."
TESS' interview with Stephanie Primrose is on page 10
Additional support decline is `deeply worrying'
The number of additional support for learning teachers has dropped by 13 per cent in four years, at a time when the number of pupils with additional support needs has more than doubled, figures highlighted by the Scottish Children's Services Coalition (SCSC) reveal. In 2010, some 69,587 Scottish pupils were classed as having an ASN, according to official statistics; by 2014, that number had risen to 140,542. However, over the same period the number of specialist teachers fell by 13 per cent from 3,363 to 2,963, with 22 of Scotland's 32 local authorities recording a drop. A spokesperson for SCSC described the figures as "deeply worrying".
For more on ASN, see the News focus on page 16
Government gives pound;5m to flexible learning spaces
A pound;300,0000 construction training centre will be built in Angus and schools in South Lanarkshire will have the use of a mobile classroom to help cope with temporary spikes in pupil numbers, thanks to a pound;5 million giveaway by the Scottish government. In total, 20 projects in 19 local authorities will benefit from the cash, which will be distributed by the Learning Spaces Fund, introduced last year to encourage the creation of spaces for flexible learning and to allow closer partnerships between schools and further education, in line with Curriculum for Excellence.
Drive for mass library membership begins
Every child could become a library member under plans announced this week by first minister Nicola Sturgeon. Pilot projects are being developed in every local authority area to introduce automatic library membership in the early years. The pilots - which will give all children a library card at birth, age 3 or 4 or in P1 - will also encourage libraries to work with schools and communities to promote the services they offer to families. From September, every baby registered in the Glasgow area will be given a library membership card by the registrar.