The embattled Labour Party in Scotland was hit by another shock this week - support from an SNP minister. Fiona Hyslop, the Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, said: "I think I inherited a very strong education system from the previous administration, and I think we do have a very good education system now." But, in an interview with Holyrood magazine, she said this could all be undone if there was too much complacency.
Crime is to come to the aid of Scottish schools, it was confirmed this week, as Kenny MacAskill, the Justice Minister, announced the establishment of six schools-based football academies. Part of the Government's CashBack for Communities scheme, it will be funded from the proceeds of crime, following a trial at Graeme High in Falkirk. Upwards of 30,000 young footballers are expected to participate, using the game to develop their educational, psychological and social development as well as their physical abilities.
Revenue spending on local authority schools increased by 4 per cent last year, a real terms increase of 1.5 per cent. This took the costs of educating each primary pupil to pound;4,403 a year and to pound;6,120 per secondary pupil, according to statistics published by the Scottish Government. Capital expenditure on primaries and secondaries rose by 32 per cent, and 133 per cent for special schools.
Councillors have described the state of 16 Inverness primary schools as "appalling". Of the 22 schools inspected over the past five years, only six were rated "very good" or "good" for the quality of their accommodation and facilities. Hector Robertson, Highland Council's education manager in Inverness, said the problems in schools inspected in the past three years had been addressed, but the buildings improvement fund was no longer ring-fenced.
The abuse suffered by children in care homes is to be confronted in a "truth and reconciliation forum". The intention is to allow survivors of abuse to talk about their experiences, so lessons can be learnt and children protected in future. A package announced by Adam Ingram, the Children's Minister, also involves better staff training, including a requirement that residential care workers must be registered with the Scottish Social Services Council. Children 1st operates seven "abuse recovery services", but "demand far outweighs supply".
The Government signalled that Malawi will continue its special relationship with Scotland, as it donated pound;700,000 for developments. They include pound;200,000 to enhance school performance and teacher training, and pound;50,000 for skills training to help former street children work their way out of poverty.