A week in education

3rd July 2009 at 01:00
Seven days of news

The SNP Government has been accused of "moving the goalposts" on crumbling schools. Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop this month announced a Pounds 1.25 billion investment programme to build 55 new primaries and secondaries by 2018, in advance of a new school estates strategy to be unveiled in September. But, it has now emerged in a letter to council leaders from Isabel Hutton, education spokesperson for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, ministers are seeking "other intelligence" to identify the schools in the worst condition. The existing official figures show there are 134 in the direst straits, with another 698 in an unsatisfactory state - well above the 55 new ones pledged by Ms Hyslop.

A generally positive HMIE verdict has been delivered on the educational performance of West Dunbartonshire Council. Its best-known initiative, raising literacy levels in schools, was described as "bold and imaginative", although Standard grade and Higher results were less good than in similar authorities. Executive education director Terry Lanagan "inspired confidence". The authority was rated "very good" for its impact on learners, staff and the community; the other seven indicators of performance were judged "good".

Labour leader Iain Gray has called for a change in the "orthodoxy" which allows children at risk to be left with their drug or alcohol-addicted families. But First Minister Alex Salmond sidestepped his call to set up a national inquiry on child protection, following the damning inspection report on services in Dundee after the death of toddler Brandon Muir. Sue Bruce, chief executive of Aberdeen City Council, which was also heavily criticised by inspectors but is now judged to be showing "significant improvements", has backed the call for a Scotland-wide inquiry.

Falkirk, the latest council area to be inspected on child protection, was given four evaluations of "very good" and nine of "good", but four areas of activity were just "satisfactory" (including recognising and assessing risk) and one was found to be "weak" (planning). But overall, inspectors expressed confidence that "prompt and effective action" was taken to protect children at immediate risk.

Despite the persistent efforts directed at health promotion, the number of secondary pupils taking what are supposed to be more nutritional school meals has fallen in the past year from 42.9 per cent to 39.2 per cent; it was 47 per cent 10 years ago. In primary, there was a slight increase from 46.4 per cent in 2008 to 48.2 per cent this year (after stripping out the five authorities trialling free meals in P1-3, which skewed the national figures); primary uptake was also 47 per cent a decade ago. Overall, only 282,980 pupils took advantage of school meals out of a total of 627,446 who were present on census day.

A parliamentary committee has uncovered "disturbing evidence" that under- fives with mental health problems are slipping through the net. MSPs on the health and sport committee said the risk had been exacerbated by a "drastic drop" in the number of health visitors. The report of the committee's inquiry, which investigated child and adolescent mental health and well-being, called for teachers to be trained in spotting and dealing with problems.

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