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A Week in Education

The UK's first "hub" of expertise in child protection is to be set up at Stirling University, it was announced this week. The Multi-Agency Resource Service (MARS) will help councils and other child protection agencies handle difficult cases and share good practice. The Government will inject Pounds 410,000 over three years into the centre, which will become operational in the summer with a staff of three.

Meanwhile, Fife's online child protection register has won a national e-government award for work in managing inter-agency information on child protection.

The SNP Government has made no approach to the Treasury in London to discuss its manifesto pledge to reduce student debt, it has been revealed. In a parliamentary answer, Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop said there had been "no discussions with the Chancellor of the Exchequer or other Treasury ministers". Ministers say they are being realistic because they do not have the resources or the parliamentary majority to act. But Labour's higher education spokesperson, Claire Baker, said the failure to contact the Treasury demonstrated that "they have never been serious about meeting this pledge".

The costs of childcare are rocketing in Scotland, according to the Daycare Trust. The increase for out-of-school childcare in the past year was 29 per cent to Pounds 49 a week on average, compared to Pounds 40 in England. And the cost of a nursery place has gone up by 12 per cent, to Pounds 158 per week for under-twos and Pounds 143 for a child aged two or over. Unless the Treasury intervened, there would be "significant increases in child poverty", Bronwen Cohen, chief executive of Children in Scotland, warned.

The early years were also in the news for a more positive reason, with the announcement that Scotland is to lead a European research programme to find out how the qualifications and skills of staff in the sector can make an impact on reducing poverty and improving social inclusion. The Scottish Government is already committed to a programme of workforce development for early years staff this year.

A former pupil of Perth Academy, who lists "trees" among his hobbies, is to be the new chairman of Scottish Enterprise. Crawford Gillies, 52, is also a high-flying businessman who is a driving force behind a leadership programme for young people with ambition.

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