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A Week in Education

The Labour Party in Scotland is to set up a literacy commission of independent experts as part of a renewed focus on literacy and numeracy.

Among other things, it will consider whether the party should commit itself to extending across the country the West Dunbartonshire initiative that claims to have eradicated illiteracy among pupils leaving primary school.

The move follows a party seminar in Edinburgh last week attended by Richard Tease, the Australian academic, who was the rapporteur on the review team from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development which wrote a recent report on Scottish schools.

There was a 5 per cent drop last year in the number of school placing requests to 28,645, according to the latest statistical bulletin. They represented 22 per cent of P1 rolls and 13 per cent of S1 pupils.

The movement of pupils out of their local area was greatest in Edinburgh primaries, where requests were 40 per cent of P1, and lowest in Orkney at 3 per cent. S1 requests ranged from 28 per cent in Edinburgh to nil in Orkney.

The Scottish Government is to introduce new guidance on exclusions in schools, Maureen Watt, Minister for Schools and Skills, said this week.

At a conference in Edinburgh, she presented an upbeat picture: "Most children behave well most of the time, and most teachers cope well most of the time."

The number of pupils leaving school with no qualifications has remained virtually static for the past three sessions.

Around 4 per cent are not even achieving Standard grade at levels 5-6 or Access 3, according to figures released this week on pupils' attainment and qualifications for 2006-07. At the other end of the range, 47 per cent of pupils had gained five or more awards. Standard grade 1-2 and Intermediate 2 A-C awards were up significantly from 34 per cent two years previously.

The annual gongs for excellent poetry and art championing anti-racism were given out at Hampden Park stadium this week, with football stars on hand to offer their plaudits. The overall prize winner of the competition, which is run by the Educational Institute of Scotland and the charity Show Racism the Red Card, was Sylvie Clark of Banchory Academy in Aberdeenshire. She walked away with pound;1,000 and other prizes for her school.

A survey of 18,000 young people in Edinburgh has revealed that 60 per cent would like more training at school in the skills employers want, and 72 per cent support more work experience.

Representing one in four 11- to 21-year-olds in the city, the survey also indicated that 85 per cent believe eating healthily is important, and 40 per cent said they would like more support in handling their emotions.

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