A week in education

31st July 2009 at 01:00

Early years provision has been given a boost with the announcement of an additional 170 modern apprenticeships, giving young people access to careers in childcare. Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: "These apprenticeships will not only help young people into rewarding childcare careers, but will support the expansion of the sector, allowing the additional capacity to help deliver our commitment to increasing pre- school entitlement and allowing more parents back to work."

Prospects for the early years sector look bleak at Glasgow College of Nautical Studies, where the management proposes to cut five jobs and close the baby room at its Thistle Nursery, prompting the union to call for a strike ballot. "This is the first stage in management's plan to close the Thistle Nursery by July 2010, closing an important service and losing 20 jobs," said a union spokesman. "This is exactly the sort of cut that Unison is convinced is resulting from the city centre college merger proposals."

A teacher whose job at a specialist residential school for girls was axed has won his claim for unfair dismissal. Alexander Lafferty, 58, from Gourock, was the only teacher at the Good Shepherd Centre in Bishopton, Renfrewshire, to be selected for redundancy last September in response to falling pupil numbers following a police probe. Savings amounting to 4.5 staff salaries were being sought and selection for redundancy was by competitive interview. Mr Lafferty was one of nine teachers interviewed, but the only one selected. No alternative employment was considered by the centre, although he was willing to take on a role as carer, with a substantial pay cut.

Teachers' jobs may be under threat in the capital where a private agency has been employed to provide supply work, according to the Educational Institute for Scotland. The union questioned whether all teachers on Edinburgh's supply register would retain their listing when recruitment firm Blue Arrow takes over. "There are also concerns regarding the distinction between short-term and long-term supply arrangements, and whether staff on fixed-term contracts could be adversely affected," said an EIS spokesman. The council gave assurances no teacher would be disadvantaged, saying it would remain the employer and the move was to simplify the system: "We have nearly 900 teachers on the list but many have done no supply work for some time, so we want to be sure those on the list are available. We also want to be sure they receive appropriate training and professional reviews."

Cabinet Office figures for the UK predict that by October, 12 per cent of the working population could be absent through swine flu, which would put pressure on the cost to authorities of supply teachers. Budgets for this year are set, says the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, but councils would need to be flexible and make sure their supply contacts were up to date. If they hit overspend, they would draw on council reserves then, if necessary, seek Government support.

Heriot-Watt University is offering free online Mandarin lessons. Scholar is better known for its online courses in European languages for Higher and Advanced Higher students, but Mandarin will be open to everyone with computer access.

http:scholar.hw.ac.uksco.html click Try Scholar, Simplified Mandarin.

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