A Week in Education
Unions have been surprised and angered by an Aberdeen City Council plan for all staff earning over pound;21,000 to take a 5 per cent pay cut to fund voluntary redundancies. The move is intended to stave off compulsory redundancies for 900 staff expected to lose their jobs in 2011, many of them working in schools. The Educational Institute of Scotland's local branch queried whether councillors had realised teachers' pay was negotiated nationally, and argued the plan would not entirely remove the threat of compulsory redundancies. The EIS and the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association say ballots on strike action are inevitable if it goes ahead.
Merchiston Castle, an independent school in Edinburgh, is seeking legal advice on whether it can introduce random drug-testing for pupils after police found a small quantity of illegal drugs on its premises. Tam Baillie, Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People, urged the school to think again. He said: "Schools should be promoting the rights of all children and young people. This reported initiative interferes with children's right to privacy and to have their dignity respected."
The two most dilapidated secondary schools in the country, Edinburgh's Boroughmuir High and Campbeltown Grammar, are to be revamped. They are the latest to receive funding from the Scotland's Schools for the Future programme, bringing its number of projects to 37. Education Secretary Michael Russell said the Scottish Government would work with Edinburgh and Argyll and Bute councils to explore the best plans. They will be funded through non-profit distributing investment, rather than a public-private partnership, with support from the Scottish Futures Trust.
Children's dental health in Scotland has broken records, said the Scottish Government, as a report showed 64 per cent of P1s had no sign of tooth decay. That exceeded the Government's 60 per cent target, and Public Health Minister Shona Robison hopes for further improvement after announcing that the pound;15 million Childsmile programme would be operating in every Scottish health board in the new year. Childsmile, which uses specially-trained dental nurses, aims to work with all nursery children and P1-2s in poorer areas.
Skills Minister Angela Constance this week unveiled the Scottish Government's new adult literacy plan. Measures will include increasing awareness of services; targeting employers and ensuring they appreciate the benefits of workplace learning; and improving access to resources such as e-learning technology. All local authorities will be expected to have effective literacy strategies in place.
The Highlands and islands are almost certain to have their own university in the new year. The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education has decided that the UHI Millennium Institute, which brings together 13 partners mostly comprising colleges, meets the required standards. A final decision on the status of UHI, which was established in 1992 and has its main office in Inverness, could be reached within weeks. Scottish Ministers will make a recommendation before the final decision is taken by the Privy Council. UHI principal James Fraser said "it would be an understatement to say we are delighted".