THE latest raft of statistics from the Scottish Executive contained one nugget of comfort for ministers - the average size of state primary classes last September was 24, a fall of 0.3 per cent (the figure for independent primaries is 18.7).
This was the only crumb which Peter Peacock could find to comment on in the annual census figures and the Education Minister pointed out that six of the seven primary year groups had had a reduction (P3 being the exception).
Mr Peacock pledged the Executive would do even better, if selectively, in future. The 3,000 extra teachers promised by 2007 under the coalition agreement between Labour and the Liberal Democrats would be used to reduce class sizes to 20 for maths and English in S1 and S2, and to limit numbers to 25 in P1.
There are variations in the figures with Western Isles primaries at the traditionally lower class size of 12.9 while East Renfrewshire primaries average at 27.4 Pupil-teacher ratios continue to fall, from 18.9:1 to 18:1 in primaries and from 12.9:1 to 12.7:1 in secondaries. There is also now a child-adult ratio in primaries, with the advent of classroom assistants, and this is 13.6:1 compared with 14.2:1 the previous year.
Information was collected for the first time on ethnic background, confirming that Scottish schools are overwhelmingly white - 95 per cent of pupils and more than 90 per cent of teachers.
In the primary sector, 92.8 per cent of teachers are female, a proportion that rises to 94.8 per cent for unpromoted staff. In secondary, women account for 56 per cent of all teaching staff and 65.8 per cent of class teachers.
The census also reveals a significant increase in the uses of technology in schools. Some 52 per cent of primary pupils had an e-mail address compared with 16 per cent in 2001 (the 2002 figure relates to access to e-mail not an individual address as in 2001), while the secondary figure rose from 68 per cent to 80 per cent.
Among primary teachers, 63 per cent now have an e-mail address against 38 per cent. The secondary figure is 94 per cent compared with 80 per cent the previous year.
* Pupil numbers will continue to fall, from 796,000 last year to 674,000 in 2013 - a 15 per cent drop. The figures show that the fall is set to be greater in primaries over that period, with a 16 per cent drop from the current total of 414,000. The secondary decline will average 15 per cent.
The figures do not make any attempt to predict what the effects of mainstreaming will be. Numbers entering P1 over the next three years are expected to fall by 5,000, while enrolment figures in S1 will fall even more dramatically, by 6,000 in 2007 and 13,000 in 2013.