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A week in education

A scathing verdict on Dumfries and Galloway Council has been delivered by the Accounts Commission, the best-value watchdog on local authorities. It notes weaknesses in both political direction and managerial leadership, concluding that the council "does not have effective performance management or a culture of continuous improvement". In education, the report cites a decline in educational attainment, a failure to invest in schools and lack of policy on the viability of small schools. The council says the findings match its own assessment and it is working on an improvement plan.

The Dundee secondary teacher who was convicted of assaulting two pupils after suffering "extreme" verbal abuse from them has been sacked. Mike Barile, a maths teacher at the city's Lawside Academy, was admonished by the sheriff who said the case would not have come to court if he had not been a teacher. Dundee education chiefs, controversially, took their decision to dismiss Mr Barile before the outcome of an appeal against his conviction.

Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop spent the week in China cementing educational links, as part of a delegation led by the First Minister to strengthen ties between Scotland and the Asian giant. Ms Hyslop unveiled a new partnership between Edinburgh Napier University and the University of Hong Kong, saw the signing of a collaboration agreement between Abertay and Shanghai universities and visited Huiashao School in Shanghai, which is twinned with Peebles High. A memorandum of understanding was signed with the Chinese Education Ministry when Ms Hyslop visited in April last year.

The state of child protection in the Scottish Borders Council area is much improved since an inspection in March 2007, HMIE has reported. But services still need a more co-ordinated approach to handling performance information and sharing it among the different agencies.

A former general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland is to be the next Public Services Ombudsman in Scotland, following parliamentary approval. Jim Martin, 55, who held the EIS post from 1987 to 1995 and is currently the Police Complaints Commissioner, was chosen from a field of 23 applicants and takes over the Pounds 83,000-a-year job from Professor Alice Brown. He will investigate complaints against councils, the NHS and government.

A new scheme to provide free milk daily to all under-fives in 140 nurseries in Glasgow was launched on Monday. The initiative is a partnership between suppliers Cool Milk and Glasgow City Council, although private and voluntary nurseries will also be included. Other education authorities are now being urged to take part at no cost for the service.

Skills Minister Keith Brown has admitted that the SNP's key election pledge to replace student loans with means-tested grants has not been costed. Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Hugh O'Donnell, who received the confirmation from Mr Brown, accused the Government of not doing its sums.

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