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A week in education

The Educational Institute of Scotland has launched a campaign urging teachers, parents and the wider public to sign up for smaller class sizes in Scotland's schools. The EIS is encouraging people to sign a petition to be presented to the Scottish Parliament because, it says, research evidence demonstrates that pupils from all backgrounds and of all levels of academic ability will benefit from learning in smaller classes.

Hugh Henry, the Education Minister, has renewed the Scottish Executive's pledge to focus on learning through play for children in primary 1. The promise was part of the Labour-Liberal Democrat partnership agreement three-and-half years ago, which included a commitment to ease the transition between nursery and P1 by using a less formal learning environment.

A Curriculum for Excellence also stresses benefits of smoothing out the differences between pre-school and early primary. ACfE leaders have showcased a number of primary schools pioneering learning through play in the past year.

Aberdeen councillors have gone the way of their Glasgow counterparts with a snappy title for their new pound;110m school rebuilding programme, under a public private partnership. The 3Rs project ("reorganise, renovate, rebuild") follows Glasgow's 3Ed modernisation of its 29 secondary schools ("education, education, education").

Aberdeen has chosen as its preferred bidder NYOP Consortium, comprising an Icelandic property company, a UK facilities management business and a Danish contractor. The programme will see two secondary schools replaced, seven new primaries built and another completely revamped.

The Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association wants an end to "exam cheating". It says it has become impossible to distinguish between plagiarism and legitimate uses of external sources. Coursework should therefore take place in "fully verifiable conditions", the union suggests.

The Accounts Commission has told West Dunbartonshire Council to be more "open and transparent" in its decision-making - one example being the way the allocation of the schools improvement fund was handled. At an unprecedented public hearing into the running of the council, allegations were made of "bullying and harrassment which, whether real or perceived, must be addressed immediately, the commission says."

Tom McCabe, the Minister for Finance and Public Service Reform, has ordered the council to put its house in order, or face action by him.

There are 57,000 teachers employed in local government, according to the latest statistics on public sector employment in Scotland.

These are individual headcount figures which, for example, include teachers who are off on maternity leave as well as those covering the post. They are therefore different from the Scottish Executive's 2007 target of 53,000 teachers, which is a full-time equivalent figure.

The Scottish Executive has given local authorities an election year boost of pound;201 million in new funding, providing they keep council tax levels down and cut costs. An additional pound;17 million of this has been earmarked for education.

The General Teaching Council for Scotland says it has already taken steps to address concerns expressed by the Disability Rights Commission that regulations governing entry into some professions, including teaching, may fall foul of anti-discrimination laws.

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