A Week in Education

22nd May 2009 at 01:00

Fewer pupils will be entitled to an education maintenance allowance under plans launched by the SNP Government last week to "refocus" support for young people. Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop believes many of the 37,000 pupils eligible for the EMA would stay on in education whether the cash was offered or not. The Pounds 10 and Pounds 20 weekly awards will be removed, disqualifying around 10,000 students, leaving the Pounds 30 allowance for those most in need. The qualifying family income will fall and a higher ceiling for households with more than one child in education will bring another 1,000 youngsters into the scheme. The removal of the two lower allowances will redirect Pounds 6.3 million to help young people get ready for work and to pilot a new initiative for the most vulnerable youngsters to learn in the community or the voluntary sector.

The prospect for limiting class sizes to 18 in Falkirk, run by a LabourConservativeIndependent coalition, seems very far away. A report to last week's meeting of the council's education committee said it was only at the point of giving priority to achieving the previous government's maximum of 25 pupils in P1, extending it to P2 and then to P3, and "progressing" to 18 once these stages had been completed.

Still on the subject of class sizes, Glasgow City Council treasurer Gordon Matheson remained defiant last week when he told the parliamentary finance committee inquiry on the Government's budget that it would cost Pounds 47 million in revenue and capital funding to reduce P1-3 classes to 18. "If I had it, I wouldn't do it because it is not a properly-targeted response to raising educational attainment," he said.

Final figures for 2007-08 showed that net revenue spending on education by local authorities was up by 4.2 per cent, or Pounds 180 million, on the previous year, bringing the total to over Pounds 4.4 billion. This was revealed in a parliamentary answer by Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop to her Labour opposite number Rhona Brankin, who had referred to the criticism of spending on science teaching by the Government's chief science adviser (TESS, April 14).

Playgroups are under threat as local authorities consider bringing them in-house, according to the Scottish Pre-School Play Association. In a paper to the parliament's budget inquiry, it says this is being contemplated "without proper scrutiny, consultation with employees and service users and scant regard to how redundancy issues will be handled".

There had been a "positive and effective" response to the initial 2007 inspection report on child protection in the Argyll and Bute Council area, claims an HMIE-led team. There were improved links among various professionals in police, education, health, and social work. Further improvements were necessary.

More pupils will get free school lunches from August when those whose parents receive maximum child tax credit and working tax credit will become eligible, a total of 162,000. This is in addition to free lunches for all P1-3s, which will be introduced in August 2010.

More than a flush in the pan will be needed to bring Edinburgh's school toilets up to an acceptable standard. A council survey has revealed that Pounds 8.4 million would be needed to improve their condition, which one councillor described as "brutal".

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