News at a glance
Old Highers still make up almost half of entries
The number of provisional Higher entries has increased by 5 per cent to 217,976 this year. Of these, only 120,557 (55 per cent) are for the new Highers, being sat for the first time this year, with the remaining 97,419 entries opting for the old version of the qualification. The government said the figures indicated that the introduction of the new Highers was going well. Education secretary Angela Constance said it was "very positive to see greater numbers of young people aspiring to higher levels of qualification in our schools". But Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS teaching union, said: "Schools and teachers know what is best for their pupils and it is clear that, for this year, many believe the existing Higher is the preferable choice."
Lecturers back on strike at Ayrshire College
Ayrshire College lecturers are out on strike again this week after rejecting the latest offer from management in an ongoing dispute over proposed changes to working conditions. The new bid was rejected by 55 per cent of EIS-FELA union members who voted in the latest ballot at the college's North Ayrshire campus. The union said its offer to enter into arbitration had been rejected by the college. Meanwhile, college officials said they were "amazed and disappointed" by the lecturers' decision, which they claimed went against the advice of their union negotiators. The first wave of industrial action at the college commenced in November and the campaign resumed earlier this month.
Petition to ban creationism in class wins reprieve
A petition to ban schools from teaching creationism as a viable alternative to evolution has won a reprieve. The Scottish Secular Society's petition was rejected by the Parliament Petitions Committee late last year on the basis that creationism was not identified as a scientific theory or topic within Curriculum for Excellence. But the PPC has now referred the matter upwards to the Education and Culture Committee. Last week, it emerged that South Lanarkshire Council had introduced tough new measures around the teaching of creationism. However, MSP John Mason of the SNP also tabled a parliamentary motion stating that pupils should be made aware of creationism and that it could not be disproved by science.
Inspectors sing praises of orchestra programme
The Big Noise Project in Raploch has been praised by Education Scotland after its first inspection. The scheme, run by Sistema Scotland, aims to engage young people in music through orchestras and was inspired by the El Sistema music education project in Venezuela. Inspectors noted the "significant numbers" of young people who "achieve exceptionally well", and found that many were "increasing their confidence and self-esteem". Education Scotland said it was keen to share the project's innovative practice.
Dairy work experience scheme hailed by experts
A programme offering young people work experience in the dairy industry has been highlighted as a key means of boosting the sector. The Dairy Skills Initiative gives school-leavers the chance to undertake a 12-week placement on a dairy farm. It was praised by the Scottish government's fair work, skills and training secretary Roseanna Cunningham, who said it offered young people "hands-on experience of an industry with economic value and real growth potential, straight out of school". Gary Mitchell, chairman of the National Farmers' Union Scotland's milk committee, said organisers were keen to work more closely with schools to expand the project.