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Is this the shape of schoolsto come?

Dumfries and Galloway has pre-empted the "great debate" on education promised by ministers with a "green paper" presented to the education committee on Tuesday.

Fraser Sanderson, the council's director of education, said a whole series of changes made it vital to examine where education should be heading. But Mr Sanderson pleaded for a mature debate which did not just focus on school closures.

Among changes he highlighted were the impact of technology, the nature of teaching and teachers, the slack pace of learning in S1, the difficulty of recruiting sufficient staff, particularly in rural areas, the unequal distribution of schools across the authority and costs.

Mr Sanderson raised a series of "speculative" possibilities:

* Should pupils transfer at the end of P6, both to ease demands on the primary curriculum and improve learning in early secondary?

* Will it continue to be strictly necessary to have students traveling to a central point for their schooling?

* Could post-school students be based mainly at home, with teachers as "directors" of learning guiding them to resources such as the BBC's forthcoming "digital curriculum"?

* Can lessons via video-conferencing be extended, as happens in one case where physics teaching is beamed to Lockerbie Academy from Wallace Hall Academy in Dumfries?

* Will there be a more integrated teaching force of the future consisting of teachers, classroom assistants, technicians and librarians?

* Is the curriculum likely to be subject-driven or skills-oriented?

* How can learning facilities be set up in many more communities to develop lifelong learning?

* Should primary schools be "clustered" under a single management?

Dumfries and Galloway has set up two groups which will take an initial look at these issues, including the impact that changes might have on school buildings.

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