A week in education
The number of students who drop out of university in Scotland after their first year has fallen slightly from nearly 11 per cent in 2008 to 9.9 per cent in 2009, which is 1.3 per cent above the UK average. The figure for mature students is higher, at 15 per cent, almost double the 8.3 per cent of young entrants who fail to continue into second year, according to data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency; both categories are also 1 per cent above the UK average. The UK universities least successful at holding on to their students are in Scotland - the University of the Highlands and Islands Millennium Institute with a 25 per cent drop-out rate and the University of the West of Scotland at 21 per cent. Universities which accept more students from disadvantaged backgrounds have traditionally topped this particular league table. The lowest drop-out rate, of 2.1 per cent, is at the Glasgow School of Art, which it partly attributes to its "studio-based education".
Are student fees on their way? Page 18
Educational psychologists in Scotland are the latest group to call for a renewed drive to improve children's literacy. Their leaders told a meeting at the Scottish Parliament last week that initiatives in East Dunbartonshire, Edinburgh, North Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire "improve skill levels, confidence and enjoyment in reading and writing, and support those who are vulnerable to failure".
The Education Secretary has delivered an implicit rebuke to schools and local authorities which are dragging their feet on the provision of modern languages. In a parliamentary written answer, Michael Russell said that modern languages were "central to our aspirations for Curriculum for Excellence and our ambitions that all young people become responsible global citizens equipped with the skills needed in the 21st-century global marketplace". He added that "modern languages are also key to achieving the Scottish Government's overall purpose of creating a more successful Scotland".
Pupils' concentration in class can be improved if they do more exercise, according to a study of more than 1,000 Aberdeen schoolchildren. Researchers at the universities of Aberdeen and Leeds found that the P4-7 youngsters who undertook "moderately intensive" exercises of around 15 minutes performed significantly better in tests of concentration than those who did not.
An analysis by the STUC has found that youth unemployment has increased by 89 per cent during the two years to February 2010. Drawing on official figures ahead of its annual congress, held in Dundee this week, the union reveals that the number of 18- to 24-year-olds claiming job seekers' allowance has ranged from a rise of 184 per cent in East Lothian to 29 per cent in Shetland. The average increase slowed to 17 per cent in the year from 2009-10.
The SNP's Westminster manifesto has called for more control over employment policy to be handed to Holyrood to allow better co-ordination between Skills Development Scotland and job centres, which are currently the responsibility of the Department for Work and Pensions in Whitehall.