Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop has ordered officials to begin discussions with headteachers, after a dramatic report foretold a potential crisis in recruitment to headships (TESS last week). Ms Hyslop, addressing the annual conference of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland, said she wanted to "quickly initiate" talks with the union and other bodies to work out responses. The report, commissioned by the Scottish Government, found headship was a lonely and emotionally- demanding job to which only 8 per cent of teachers aspired. Meanwhile, Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith has given her backing to the majority of heads in the report who wanted more control over their schools.
Proposed improvements to the much-criticised disclosure vetting system were announced by Children's Minister Adam Ingram, who launched a consultation this week. They promise better protection for vulnerable groups and an end to the need for detailed application forms with every check. The scheme should: replace multiple checks - costing pound;23 a time - with continually updated information; ensure people who become unsuitable during employment are quickly identified; and allow employers to check records easily. Meanwhile, the Government has made clear, following our report last week, that no decision has been taken on whether host families involved in school exchanges will have to be disclosure-checked.
Edinburgh teachers could be offered early retirement in a scheme designed to ease pressure on the council's budget and pave the way to employ newly- qualified teachers. Marilyne MacLaren, the council's education leader, plans to contact the Government to request funds to support the scheme. A Government spokesman said such schemes would be welcomed if shown to work well.
Scottish schools are falling further behind levels of attainment in England, according to figures from the Reform Scotland think tank. England overtook Scotland in 2007 and the margin has increased this year, based on the number of pupils achieving five good grades by the end of compulsory education (49.7 per cent in England, 47.4 per cent in Scotland).
A not-for-profit company based in Dundee will promote the Critical Skills teacher-training programme. Funding of pound;300,000 from Social Investment Scotland led to the creation of Critical Skills Group. The move from a former private-sector venture is designed to allow critical skills trainers (50 in Scotland) to work more effectively with A Curriculum for Excellence.
Literacy and numeracy levels are rising, according to the Government's Scotland Performs website. There has been a steady decrease in the proportion of adults with SCQF level 4 qualifications or less since 2001, from over 20 per cent to 14.8 per cent in 2008. The first major assessment of literacy levels will be published next spring. The 1996 International Adult Literacy Survey is still quoted by Scottish ministers, but the Government will update these findings. The 1996 survey showed 800,000 working-age adults, or 23 per cent, had low levels of literacy.
Baker Warburtons is handing out reflective waistcoats to schools, in connection with its Use Your Loaf teaching pack to improve children's safety. The latest school to benefit is Larbert Village Primary, near Falkirk.