pound;80m to sweeten the doctor's medicine

21st May 1999 at 01:00
David Henderson and Neil Munro round-up a remarkable week

THE "partnership agreement" between Labour and Liberal Democrats that paved the way for Scotland's coalition Government is committed to spending pound;80 million more on education in this and the next two financial years.

The sum comprises:

* pound;30m from next April to fund 1,000 extra teaching posts -double the 500 Labour had allocated for reducing infant class sizes but half the number that had been promised by the Liberal Democrat manifesto.

* pound;21m more for equipment and books (including new IT investment in schools) from next April, the equivalent of another pound;24 per pupil and an additional pound;8,000 on average per school. The Lib Dems wanted the pound;50m annual spend doubled in one year.

* pound;6m for part-time adult students on low incomes, double the previous funding.

* pound;9m over three years to encourage pupils from low-income families to stay at school and aim for a university place.

* pound;14m a year for the next two years to relieve financial hardship for higher education students, a fourfold increase which was a Lib Dem promise.

There is also a commitment to provide capital investment of almost pound;600m in the infrastructure of schools. Labour had promised more than pound;500m for school building and renovation work. The Lib Dems pledged "at least an extra pound;100m" over the four years of the parliament.

Most of the 13-point plan for education restates existing policy on, for example, nursery places for all three-year-olds and four-year-olds, early intervention, 5,000 classroom assistants, reducing class sizes, giving every child an e-mail address and promoting social inclusion.

Apart from the new investment plans, the only distinctively new move is an education forum "to review and raise standards", beginning with a bid to improve performance in science and modern languages.

The forum, a revised version of the Lib Dems' standing commission on education, "will draw on expert opinion and experience" - a phrase actually borrowed from the Lib Dem manifesto.

The Educational Institute of Scotland welcomed the coalition agreement, but called for consultations with the unions on the distribution of the extra funds.

The new Scottish executive is also pledged to give teachers "an appropriate pay and conditions package", including a "modern staff development programme to ensure that the best teachers remain in the classroom".

The EIS has called on the executive to resolve the impasse that has arisen over the Millennium Review and "use its political and moral authority to kick-start the process of negotiation".

News H3 TESJMay 21J 1999 murdo macleod

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