A week in education
The SNP Government has announced a further trimming of the education maintenance allowance scheme, which makes payments of pound;30 a week to pupils from the poorest families so they can stay on at school or college. Critics have condemned the decision to scrap the bonus element of the scheme, under which an additional payment of up to pound;300 is available for those with a good record of attendance and performance (25,535 young people received a bonus of at least pound;150 last year). The Government says the money will be used to make sure there is enough EMA funding for the increasing numbers staying on at school or college. It points out that the same change was made in England by the last Labour government.
Former Labour health minister Susan Deacon has been appointed by the SNP Government to lead a new national initiative on the early years. Ms Deacon, who is coming to the end of a period as professor of social change at Queen Margaret University and will take up a new post at Edinburgh University, has been asked to report by the end of the year on practical steps "to renew the national effort on children's early years". Ministers want her to concentrate on building a consensus on what can be done, including "the need to create in children a readiness to learn and prosper no matter their social circumstance".
The education convener of Scottish Borders Council has been axed from the post. Catriona Bhatia, the Liberal Democrat daughter of Lord Steel, was ousted by 21 votes to 8 after she publicly criticised the council's education spending cuts in a local newspaper. Although she apologised, her colleagues in the Lib DemConservativeIndependent coalition told her they no longer trusted her.
Education Secretary Michael Russell told MSPs he is keeping a "careful eye" on the difficulties caused for St Ninian's High in East Renfrewshire by the clamour from parents to gain places there for their children. He said there was always pressure on schools from time to time, and he would await the conclusions of the working party set up by the council to consider the issues.
Parents at the Edinburgh private school, St Margaret's, have thrown in the towel over their efforts to save it from closure. They said their campaign to raise pound;2.5 million simply ran out of time, and the governors went ahead with their decision to close the 350-pupil school on Tuesday after it ran up considerable debts because of a falling roll.
Another school closure has caused potential embarrassment for the Government, as SNP-led East Ayrshire Council became the first authority to close a rural school since legislation to protect them was introduced by SNP ministers. The council argues that the 52-pupil Crossroads Primary near Kilmarnock is unsafe and that the cost of replacing or refurbishing it would be prohibitive. Pupils will be sent to another primary school three miles away.