Last chance for talks

18th June 1999 at 01:00
THE SCOTTISH executive has given the pay and conditions' talks between the teachers' unions and local authority employers one last chance to succeed by opting for a separate consultation on the future of the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee.

Sam Galbraith, minister for children and education, on Wednesday sketched out the broad terms of the education Bill about to go before the Scottish Parliament but revealed draft plans for education legislation would avoid proposals on teachers' issues. This is a reference to the SJNC.

As predicted, the Bill will centre around Labour's White Paper, Targeting Excellence, published last January, key sections of which have been criticised by local authorities, teachers and parents.

Mr Galbraith said the Bill will give new powers to ministers to identify priorities in education. It will also place a duty on himself and local authorities to make improvements, a policy first revealed in Labour's election manifesto for the new parliament.

Councils will be asked to take account of the minister's priorities in managing the service but, curiously, Mr Galbraith said there would be more freedom for local authorities to adapt to local circumstances. The White Paper called for greater diversity and experiment.

Not surprisingly, the Bill will remove opting out from the statute book and toughen pre-five legislation where the Government has made extensive commitments to expand part-time nursery education for three and four-year-olds.

Mr Galbraith is expected to reveal details about a pre-legislative consultation phase next week, part of the new-style politics on the Mound. Draft plans are expected to be published in July with a Bill following early in the autumn.

Donald Dewar, the First Minister, confirmed education will be an early priority in the legislative programme. The education Bill would lay a duty on authorities to raise standards and tackle the problems of under-performing schools.

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