The proportion of S2 pupils not achieving the expected standard in the basics fell consistently over the first eight years of the Scottish Parliament, the latest figures indicate.
Maureen Watt, the Schools Minister, told Murdo Fraser, the Conservative's education spokesman, that 35 per cent were not at level E in reading in 2006, compared with 56 per cent in 1999; 47 per cent did not make the grade in writing, compared with 62 per cent; and 36 per cent had not reached it in maths, compared with 58 per cent.
The figures are based on teachers' judgments and are taken from the Scottish Survey of Achievement in the final two years and the 5-14 national survey up to 2004.
Despite repeated references to cuts and a pound;27 million under-funding of education in Aberdeen, a report to councillors this week said spending on the education component of the children's services budget would increase by 2.5 per cent in the coming year. But schools will still have to achieve "efficiencies" of pound;1.5 million in 2008-09 in addition to the pound;2.5 million which was taken out of their devolved budgets last year - ranging from pound;8,000 less to spend for Marchburn Primary to pound;150,000 less for St Machar Academy.
The latest initiative to link Scotland with Malawi, assisting the country's 19 vocational colleges, was officially launched on Tuesday by Linda Fabiani, the External Affairs Minister. Known as Evets (equipping vocational education and training staff), it will receive pound;250,000 in Scottish Government funding and will be delivered by a consortium of 10 Scottish further education institutions, led by Adam Smith College in Fife.
A group of P6 pupils from Sandaig Primary and St Stephen's Primary in Glasgow have "graduated" from an anti-sectarian college project on the theme of "building friendships". Some 70 pupils across the denominational divide attended college on Fridays, learning a variety of new skills in information technology, construction, fashion design, photography and printing.
A survey of councils by the Scottish Liberal Democrats has shown that only one has set a definite deadline for introducing the SNP Government's class size limit of 18 pupils in P1-3. Orkney says it will meet the commitment - "fully effective August 2010". Glasgow is adamant it will refuse to do so. The other councils are "developing strategies" and will take decisions only if their budgets allow, according to the data revealed under Freedom of Information legislation. Few - including councils run by coalitions which involve SNP councillors - say when they intend to hit the target.