A week in education

27th November 2009 at 00:00

The "hand of Hyslop" is now hanging over local authorities, following Parliament's approval last week of the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Bill. It imposes more barriers in the way of school closures, allowing ministers to intervene if the process has "serious flaws", requiring councils to produce an "educational benefit statement" to justify closure and placing an obligation on HMIE to comment in every case. There will also be a mandatory six-week consultation period, which must be in term time. Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop said the new Act introduced "a presumption against the closure of rural schools".

An ancient tradition has been maintained by the General Teaching Council for Scotland, which has turned once again to a former president of the Educational Institute of Scotland for its new convener. David Drever, deputy head of Kirkwall Grammar, was elected last week to succeed May Ferries, also a former president of the union. Among the committee conveners, an influential role will be played by Myra Pearson, dean of the education faculty at Aberdeen University, who will chair the GTCS education committee; she is a former depute registrar at the council.

The Scottish Government is resisting pressure to give teachers the right to anonymity when allegations of misconduct are made against them. Keith Brown, the Schools Minister, said in a parliamentary answer that, with limited exceptions, Scotland had an open system of court reporting and introducing any further restrictions "would have repercussions beyond the teaching profession and would require very careful consideration".

A 13-year-old pupil at Edinburgh's specialist music school has been chosen as First Minister Alex Salmond's official piper. Connor Sinclair, who attends Broughton High in the city, is already in great demand at official functions and Sean Connery has asked him to be his official piper when he is in Scotland. He was spotted by Mr Salmond while playing at a Save the Scottish Regiments rally in the capital.

Scottish ministers have been criticised by Labour leader Iain Gray for claiming they were responsible for building 236 schools since coming to power. A parliamentary answer revealed that 157 of those schools were started in May 2007 or earlier, before the SNP Government was elected.

Meanwhile, a report prepared for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities estimates that around 400 of Scotland's 2,000 primary schools need to be replaced. This contrasts with the 15 primaries which will be revealed shortly to benefit from the next phase of the Government's pound;1.25 billion school rebuilding programme.

The first of a new style of local-authority inspections has been published by HMIE. A "validated self-evaluation" of East Lothian Council's education service takes as the starting point its own measure of how well it is performing. The inspectors agreed with the council's analysis of its strengths and weaknesses, and agreed an action plan which includes exploring "the emerging model of community-based management of schools."

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