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A week in education

Most people in Scotland believe improvement in the 3Rs is more important than lowering class sizes, according to a new poll. The You-Gov survey of 1,183 adults, commissioned by the Scottish Conservatives, found 76 per cent thought raising standards in reading, writing and arithmetic was top priority. Only 16 per cent put lowering P1-3 classes to 18 first, while 6 per cent ranked free school meals as the most crucial issue. Tory education spokeswoman Liz Smith said that, as the Government was reportedly trying to reduce the legal maximum class size from 30 to 25, the poll was a "resounding rejection of the SNP's obsession with class sizes".

Two graduates of Scottish colleges took gold at the WorldSkills "Olympics" in Calgary, Canada, last week. Mark Nevin, who attended Edinburgh's Telford College, came top in the painting and decorating competition, while Richard Sagar, who learned his trade at Dumfries and Galloway College, won in the electrical installation category. Mr Nevin also scooped the "best in nation" award for the highest score in the UK team, at 547 points.

Inspectors are confident that Shetland's vulnerable children are known about, and that prompt action is taken to ensure their safety. An HMIE report on child-protection services on the islands rated five areas "very good", nine "good" and four "satisfactory". Areas for improvement included consistency of recording, arrangements for medical examinations, and support for children affected by substance misuse.

School trips to Scottish historical sites will be funded by the Scottish Government. The National Trust for Scotland is receiving pound;180,000 to subsidise visits to Bannockburn, Culloden and Robert Burns's birthplace. Last week's announcement created a stir among the SNP's opponents, who argued the scheme had a nationalist bias.

The Scottish Conservatives want an independently-chaired review of higher education in Scotland. The call comes after Lord Sutherland, a former convener of Universities Scotland, said tuition fees should be reintroduced, and that some of the money should go towards scholarships for poorer students. The idea of bringing back upfront fees, which were abolished under the former Labour-Lib Dem administration, was dismissed by the Government.

The Parliament's education committee rejected a move by the Scottish Government that opponents claim would have harmed the children's hearings system. Legislation aimed at providing state-funded lawyers for vulnerable parents was voted down last week. Opposition MSPs were concerned that the much-admired non-confrontational nature of hearings would be lost, to the detriment of children's needs. But Children's Minister Adam Ingram said there was a "moral duty" to back such measures.

A new poll shows that 71 per cent of people are in favour of every secondary school pupil in Scotland receiving at least one week's free outdoor education a year. The YouGov poll asked whether activities such as hillwalking, abseiling, canoeing and camping should be available as part of such a commitment. The Scottish Conservatives, who commissioned the survey, said the move would improve leadership skills, but denounced the Government for reneging on what they thought was a deal to pump pound;1 million into the "outward bound" scheme being promoted by the Tories.

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