A week in education
The review of teacher education in Scotland is now officially under way, led by Graham Donaldson, former head of the inspectorate. The "call for evidence" and teacher questionnaire will be available online from next week until May 31. The review team is planning a series of online events, including a "challenge of the week", to spark debate. This kicks off on Monday with the question: "There is a perception that the quality of new teachers in Scotland has never been higher. What do you think?"
Scottish Labour has published its general election manifesto, which effectively signposts pledges for the Holyrood elections next year, since education north of the border is not a Westminster responsibility. The party promises more support for pupils struggling with English and maths, a return to its policy of limiting S1-2 English and maths to 20 pupils and a "mentor" for every young person throughout secondary school. Labour has also signalled greater autonomy for schools and an extended role for parents, while keeping its distance from the more radical proposals by the party in England, which would allow parents to set up state-funded schools and invite high-performing schools to take over weaker ones.
An ambitious action plan for a new generation of Gaelic speakers was published this week by Bord na Gaidhlig, the language's development agency. Among the education proposals in Ginealach ur na Gaidhlig are a 20 per cent rise in the number of children in early years Gaelic groups and 15 per cent more children in Gaelic-medium primaries by December next year. An increase in the number of Gaelic-only schools from two to six by March 2012 and a 100 per cent year-on-year increase in the number of teachers trained to allow an expansion of Gaelic-medium education by the same date are also suggested.
A protest was held on Wednesday against proposed job cuts at Glasgow University. Action was taken as 25 jobs were targeted in the education faculty, following a shortfall in teacher-education funding. It has also emerged that another 60 jobs could go in areas including arts and life sciences. University and College Union official Mary Senior said the university had given an undertaking that its restructuring plans would not be a cost-cutting exercise. "With at least 80 jobs at risk, those words mean little," she said. A university spokesman described the proposals as being aimed at "non-core university business", but could not say how many jobs would be affected until consultation with staff and trade unions had ended.
The shadow education minister at Westminster wants to eradicate illiteracy in English primary schools, by following a trail blazed in Scotland. Michael Gove, who was born in Edinburgh and brought up in Aberdeen, has promised to wipe out illiteracy in all English schools if the Conservatives are elected. He told a Sunday newspaper the target was feasible, claiming illiteracy had been eliminated in West Dunbartonshire and Clackmannanshire. All new teachers south of the border would be trained in synthetic phonics, and children's progress would be tested after two years at primary school.