Strong support for directing resources to the first years of education comes from the Government's task force on underachievement, whose report this week backed early intervention in literacy and numeracy problems and backed nursery education in deprived areas regardless of uptake of nursery vouchers.
The Secretary of State responded by announcing a grant of Pounds 9 million over three years for literacy and numeracy schemes in addition to local authority expenditure. Michael Forsyth said: "The task force attaches the highest priority to a comprehensive strategy for strengthening the delivery of education in the early years of schooling and to programmes of planned intervention in nursery and P1 to P3. The Government shares this priority. "
The task force, which was led by Hamish Robertson, a former senior civil servant, also said that nurseries should put firm emphasis on pre-reading activity and preparation for mathematics.
Other proposals include a standard transfer form for pupils moving from P7 to S1; more setting of classes in S1 and S2; and the dissemination of good examples of work for P6-S2 especially in environmental studies and religious and moral education, plus alternative curriculum packages for S3 and S4 pupils unlikely to do well at Standard grade.
The inspectorate will discuss with local authorities how best to identify schools whose performance should be improved as a matter of urgency.