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A Week in Education

The education inspectorate is to lose its lead responsibility for child protection as part of the Government's policy to reduce the amount of regulation and number of scrutiny bodies in the public sector. By 2011, child protection will be within the ambit of a body for care and social work, which is to take over the functions of the Care Commission and Social Work Inspectorate Agency. In a statement, HMIE told The TESS it would continue to undertake integrated inspections of pre-school centres and residential special schools with the care authorities. Its involvement in joint inspections of child protection would continue until the current programme finishes.

Highland Council was set to decide this week that it could not afford to implement the Government's pledge to reduce class sizes to 18 for Primary 1-3. The education committee heard from officials yesterday that, while little capital investment was required because of significant surplus capacity in primary schools, it would cost Pounds 3.12 million a year to employ an extra 80 teachers and more for non-teaching staff. Since there was no money in the budget, the class-size reduction "cannot be progressed any further at this stage".

Labour has called for an investigation into the delay in paying out pensions to 100 teachers, following last week's revelations in The TESS. Ken Macintosh, the party's schools spokesperson, said this was "not acceptable". John Swinney, the Finance Secretary, said applications were being "processed urgently".

Pressure on the Government to step up the school modernisation programme was further in evidence this week as Fiona Hyslop, the Education Secretary, announced she would be opening four schools in 12 days, beginning this Wednesday. The opposition parties point out that they were started under the previous administration, but Ms Hyslop says 250 schools will be rebuilt or refurbished by 2011, benefiting 100,000 pupils.

Schools in Aberdeenshire, Highland and Moray could face further disruption on November 21 and 24, unless a pay dispute involving Stagecoach drivers and other staff is settled. About 4,000 pupils were affected in Aberdeenshire on Tuesday by a one-day strike which hit school bus services; several Highland schools were also hit. Stagecoach said it had drafted in drivers from elsewhere, but they could not be used on school contracts because they had not been disclosure-checked.

The number of referrals to children's panel reporters has fallen for the first time in seven years, but that was from a record high last year. The figure of 50,314 is a drop of nearly 6,000 but still represents 5.5 per cent of the Scottish child population; in some areas, it is above 9 per cent.

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