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A week in education

Schools across Scotland were heavily disrupted on Wednesday as members of the three unions representing 200,000 local government staff staged a one-day strike. The 24-hour stoppage by Unison, GMB and Unite, which represent a range of non-teaching staff among others, was prompted by their refusal to accept a pay increase of 2.5 per cent a year over the next three years. The unions say this amounts to a wage cut at a time when the cost of living is soaring; the local authorities say they cannot afford any more.

The SNP-run West Lothian Council has become the first to put a positive spin on its class size plans, claiming to be making "impressive progress" as the new school session starts. It says that staffing and accommodation have allowed reductions in 26 of its 66 primaries, and 14 will meet the SNP Government's target of having all P1-3 classes with 18 pupils or less. Priority is being given to schools in the most deprived areas.

Raising educational attainment is still a challenge for schools run by Perth and Kinross Council, according to the latest local authority "best value" report from Audit Scotland. The council has had five directors of education in the past eight years (two of them interim), and is urged to continue providing corporate support to the new management team heading education and children's services "to maintain stability and sustain improvement".

A corporate parenting board is being set up by Fife Council to monitor the service being provided to children in its care and with foster families. The board, which will be composed of council representatives and officers from other agencies, will aim to ensure a "step change" in the quality of care for the 791 looked-after youngsters in Fife.

The best inspection report for any further education institution is being claimed this week by Forth Valley College, whose main centres are in Falkirk, Alloa and Stirling. The 16 gradings in teaching departments received "very good" scores in 13 areas and "good" in the remaining three. All seven cross- college elements, including its leadership and quality assurance, were given the top mark of "very good".

Scientists in Scotland are teaming up with counterparts in the United States to investigate why children who are deaf or hard of hearing experience problems with maths. The National Institute for Child Health and Human Development in America is providing pound;800,000 for the study which will examine a number of areas, including memory and attention skills, parental and child attitudes to maths and basic number skills.

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