The Scottish Office has come in for strong criticism over the share-out of a Pounds 3 million grant to help schools deal with disruptive pupils. John Stodter, director of education in Aberdeen, said the decision to reject the city's bid was "astonishing".
Jim Wyness, the council's education convener, has now written to the Education Minister protesting at the lack of a satisfactory explanation. His letter also expresses fundamental reservations about tight time-scales for preparing applications and the system of "challenge funding", to which councils have long been opposed.
Labour has inherited the commitment from the Tories but a lack of funds means that only 18 of the 32 councils will benefit over the three years. They are required to use the money to develop alternatives to excluding pupils such as support units, work placements and specialist programmes. Sums range from Pounds 300,000 for Glasgow to Pounds 72,000 for Orkney.
Some of the nine councils that reported permanent exclusions to the Scottish Office audit unit last year, including Aberdeen, will receive nothing. Others which have no permanent exclusions as a matter of policy have been awarded large sums. "We can't see the logic," Mr Stodter said.
Aberdeen has been told that it met all the requirements and that there were no deficiencies in its bid. Mr Stodter said: "I accept that resources are going to be limited but, if this is so, there could surely have been more obvious targeting than this rather illogical way of distributing funds."
Edinburgh has been less upset by the capital's failure to secure any cash, having been told that the Scottish Office wanted a diversity and geographical spread of schemes. But Liz Reid, the city's director of education, said that the criteria should be clearly agreed with councils in advance.
Brian Wilson, the Education Minister, says the intention is to support a wide range of different projects "so that we can maximise the range of approaches which can be tested and evaluated".
The Scottish Office says the criteria include quality of provision, arrangements for monitoring progress, multidisciplinary collaboration and parent involvement.