A week in education

7th March 2008 at 00:00
The "unfair and inefficient" graduate endowment fee, as the Education Secretary described it, was abolished last week in a tight parliamentary vote of 65-63.

The pound;2,289 fee was levied on graduates to help pay bursaries for poorer students. But SNP ministers believe it was a poor deal for taxpayers, as well as Scottish students, whose debt has increased to pound;26.3 million over the past three years. Only pound;57,000 has been repaid to the public purse. Students who graduated on or after April 1 last year will not now have to pay the charge.

The top 17 independent schools in Scotland, which have charitable status, have a combined annual income of pound;160 million, according to figures published last week by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.

They range from pound;39 million for the three Edinburgh schools run by the Merchant Company to pound;7 million for Strathallan. But they are dwarfed by Edinburgh University which grossed nearly pound;439 million, and by Glasgow University Court with pound;312 million. These are among the 20 charities with the largest incomes in the UK, which include four other Scottish universities.

Letters, p20

Edinburgh City Council has launched a new "vocational curriculum", with the help of pound;1.5 million from The Hunter Foundation. It will concentrate on the city's three most deprived neighbourhoods, served by the secondary schools at Castlebrae, Craigroyston and Wester Hailes. Other business supporters are also throwing their weight behind the scheme, including city celebrity hairdresser Charlie Miller. The other vocational areas are automotive, child care and construction. The Hunter Foundation believes the initiative will achieve parity of esteem between vocational and academic learning.

Charles Kennedy, the former Liberal Democrat leader, who honed his debating skills at Glasgow University, was last week elected rector of the university for the next three years.

In the two-stage ballot, he eliminated his nearest rival, the prominent lawyer Aamer Anwar, by nearly two to one.

Almost half of the pupils who attend Gaelic-medium primary schools are lost to the system when they move on. Only 54 per cent went on to take Gaelic classes in secondary schools this session, although that is 3 per cent up on the previous year.

Figures compiled by Strathclyde University revealed that, overall, the number of pupils in Gaelic-medium provision is still growing in nursery, primary and secondary - up by 118 to 3,204 this year. The number of schools offering Gaelic-medium education has dropped by one to 61.

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