On an average day in Scotland, around 45,000 pupils (7 per cent) are absent from school. The latest figures show this has barely changed over the past three years, with the absentee rate for 2007-08 the same as the previous year - 5 per cent in primaries and 9 per cent in secondaries. Glasgow and East Renfrewshire continue to occupy the bottom and top of the table, the city having double the absenteeism in primaries and secondaries. Pupils in deprived areas, with special needs and in care continue to be absent more often.
The Government's early years framework, launched last week, places a new emphasis on the first three years of a child's life, with better training and "new roles" for staff. There is no indication of new money, and Bronwen Cohen, chief executive of Children in Scotland, said there would have to be a "reprioritisation of resources". Isobel Hutton, education spokesperson for the authorities, admitted the plans were "ambitious and complex" and would take 10 years. The Educational Institute of Scotland expressed concern that there is no commitment to retain qualified teachers in the early years.
This year's school-by-school exam results, on scottishschoolsonline, and reconstructed as league tables in the media, show the usual state schools and authorities in the most favoured circumstances are in the "top 10", led by Jordanhill School in Glasgow and East Renfrewshire. The Scottish average for the "benchmark" of S5 pupils gaining three or more Highers remains 22 per cent, ranging from 69 per cent at Jordanhill to 1 per cent at three secondaries in Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
An additional Pounds 18 million is being provided to authorities to help with the costs of teachers' pensions as part of a 5 per cent increase in support for councils which will get Pounds 11.7 billion from the Scottish Government in 2009-10.
Health services in schools are being beefed-up to improve health inequalities. From January, children in a South Ayrshire cluster will have access to school nurses all year round, and increased support from speech and language therapists. By Easter, projects in Moray, Clackmannanshire and West Lothian get underway, with Moray focusing on children with additional support needs and Clackmannanshire on teenage pregnancy. The Health Care in Schools project has received Pounds 7 million from the Scottish Government and is part of its Equally Well initiative.