Coalition to deliver 3,000 new teachers

16th May 2003 at 01:00
Another 3,000 teachers by 2007, further cuts in P1 class sizes to 25 and less formality in the teaching of under-sixes are among the few surprises in the educational plans for the next four years, agreed late on Wednesday by Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

The bulk of the proposals put forward as part of their revised coalition deal are substantially those from the two parties' election manifestos, which themselves relied heavily on the previous Scottish Executive's plans in response to the national education debate and in its lifelong learning strategy.

It appears that the haggling over the details which took place in talks between the two parties during the past week has given both broadly what they pledged to the voters.

Two pledges which came neatly together were Labour's plans to limit English and maths classes in S1 and S2 to 20 pupils and the Liberal Democrat promise of another 3,000 teachers; the extra numbers will be targeted on those years to get the numbers down. The further reduction in P1 class limits from 30 to 25 was unexpected, but will enable the coalition parties to meet SNP charges that they were doing nothing for the early years.

The major Liberal Democrat failure was to get agreement on its headline plan to postpone the start of formal schooling to the age of six. But it survives to an extent in the promise of more flexibility in the curriculum for 3-6s. This will involve "changing the ethos of P1, freeing up the curriculum and introducing less formal teaching methods".

Another area of potential conflict also appears to have been resolved with a carefully crafted section on struggling schools. Labour had appeared to favour a harder line and, while the commitment remains to take extra ministerial powers where authorities have failed to tackle an underperforming school, this will only be done "as a last resort" - and only on the recommendation of the inspectorate.

Previous plans to modernise the curriculum and to combine the Assessment of Achievement Programme with national testing will be pushed through. The Liberal Democrats had claimed during the election campaign that abolishing the existing tests regime would release a million extra hours for teaching.

Full details, page 7 Leader, page 26

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