A week in education

3rd September 2010 at 01:00

Almost a quarter of young people entering Scottish colleges and universities in 2008-09 came from the 20 per cent most deprived areas of the country. This represented an increase of 1.4 per cent on the previous year, bringing to 24.8 per cent the proportion of youngsters under 21 from deprived areas participating in higher education. The figures were recorded before the credit crunch and this year's applications crisis, National Union of Students president Liam Burns pointed out. Generally, participation in higher education among young Scots increased by 0.8 per cent to 43 per cent.

A new tool to tackle staff stress has been developed amid fears that teachers in Scotland are facing burn-out over the delivery of the new curriculum. Fife Council plans to "stress-proof" all its schools, after it carries out an audit of teacher and staff well-being, developed with the help of the Scottish Government by Teacher Support Scotland. School leaders will then identify areas for improvement and use the results to improve staff morale.

Figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives under Freedom of Information show that teacher time off for trade union duties had cost nearly pound;1 million for providing cover over the past five years. This was based on returns from 18 councils, but the party claims the total cost to the taxpayer in all 32 authorities was heading towards pound;1 million a year. Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said: "In these hugely difficult economic times, we need to be asking who should foot the bill for trade union activity - the school, the taxpayer or the union itself?"

A teacher who failed to cover the curriculum, mark pupils work, carry out national assessments and record her pupils' progress has been struck off for incompetence. Gillian MacNaughton, who taught English at Bell Baxter High in Cupar, Fife, was found to be "seriously professionally incompetent" between 2007 and 2009, following a hearing at the General Teaching Council for Scotland in Edinburgh last week.

Fife Council is redesigning its janitorial service in order to save pound;390,000. Currently, 19 janitors out of a pool of 147 are committed to 10 community-use schools in Fife, where evening and weekend cover is paid for at premium rates, costing the council pound;591,750. Now the council plans to employ 12 janitors on a lower grade with specific responsibility for community-use schools at a total cost of pound;200,000. The changes mean more janitors will be available for schools generally and there will be a better chance of primaries and secondaries remaining open during the winter months, the council suggests.

Midlothian Council, meanwhile, is looking to class sizes to save money. It plans to increase numbers to 30 in P2-3 and in S1-2 maths and English, resulting in savings of pound;172,813 and pound;289,088 respectively over the the next year. The council is also restricting music tuition in primary schools to pupils currently receiving it, saving pound;48,125 this year; reducing the summer school budget, saving pound;6,000; and reducing wrap-around childcare, saving pound;27,000.

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