THE SCOTTISH Executive launched the final group of specialist schools this week, bringing the total to nine.
Sam Galbraith, Children and Education Minister, visited one of the latest, St Joseph's Academy in Kilmarnock, on Monday to put the symbolic final touch to the programme, which is being backed by pound;14 million from the Government over three years.
The Kilmarnock school is also one of the most unusual. It is part of a pound;1.1m modern languages project in which pupils from East Ayrshire, North Ayrshire and Argyll and Bute will be brought together through distance learning in a "virtual school". The move is aimed particularly at halting the slide in foreign language learning among older pupils.
The other centres announced officially this week are a pound;960,000 international language school at Shawlands Academy in Glasgow covering Asian as well as European languages, and music tuition based at three secondary schools in Fife, which will benefit 180 talented young musicias in a pound;327,000 project. The Glasgow School of Sport at Bellahouston Academy was also included in this week's announcements, although it has been taking in 20 pupils in each of the past two years.
Mr Galbraith said: "The new centres will increase the geographical spread of specialist provision through a variety of teaching methods, from the single centre which caters for a few pupils to distance learning which involves much larger numbers of students."
Specialist provision for music is to be established at Dyce Academy in Aberdeen and for traditional music at Plockton High. These will all join the longer-established music schools at Douglas Academy in Bearsden and Broughton High in Edinburgh, and the Dance School of Scotland at Knightswood Academy in Glasgow.
Mr Galbraith said he could "see no limits" to the extension of specialist centres. "It's a journey without end," he added. "Every child has talents which should be realised to their full potential."