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Three out of four parties state their position in manifestos

Three of the four main parties have launched their manifestos this week for next month's Scottish parliamentary elections.

Scottish Labour promises jobs and specialised training for 1,000 recently- qualified teachers, to be charged with driving up literacy and numeracy standards.

An Early Years Bill is proposed to introduce common measures to support children from birth to three; and at the other end of the spectrum, all school leavers would be guaranteed an apprenticeship and students would not pay fees at any point.

Heads are promised more freedom to deal with staffing and the curriculum, and teachers greater powers to tackle misbehaviour. Schools would be compelled to draw up a "discipline code", and to monitor bullying and share the information with parents.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have vowed to keep higher education free; they would not introduce fees or a graduate contribution. Many students would complete their degree in three years, not the traditional four, while college courses would be opened to 14-year-olds.

A pound;250 million "early intervention fund" is planned for struggling children. The Liberal Democrats also promise heads more power, particularly over recruitment and discipline. They would establish "proper career structures" for technicians, classroom assistants, special needs staff and nursery nurses.

The Scottish Conservatives want to boost the 3Rs with better testing in primary schools, and to introduce a graduate contribution of up to pound;4,000 per year.

They also aim to give heads more power over discipline, recruitment and budgeting. They would allow state schools to opt out of local authority control.

The SNP is due to publish its manifesto on Wednesday.

Interview with Conservative Liz Smith, page 6

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