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A week in education

Children's voices are still not heard enough in school, a new HMIE report concludes. Good Listeners, which focuses on the primary and special sectors, finds that too many schools think they do enough listening with one-off events "rather than strategies which provide sustainable methods of engagement and make a real difference to learners' experiences." Several case studies highlight exceptions: one large primary left pupils to sort out rotas for entering the school from the playground, sharing the football pitch and queuing for lunch; in a residential special school, children became school council representatives despite complex needs.

The official research service for MSPs has estimated that local government's share of the Scottish Government's budget will fall from 34.7 per cent in 2006-07 to 33.9 per cent next year, despite ministers' repeated claims that their grant support to councils is at "record levels". The figures provided to the Labour Party by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre also show that the spending share for schools over the same period will dip slightly from 0.5 per cent to 0.4 per cent.

Nursery education in Renfrewshire has survived the removal of full-time teachers and heads from pre-fives centres, according to Children's Minister Adam Ingram. In a parliamentary answer, he pointed to the latest statistics indicating that the council's new "peripatetic teacher" approach had increased the number of pre-school youngsters with access to a teacher from 49 per cent last year to 62 per cent.

The education service in Inverclyde has had to give up pound;670,000 from its pound;67 million annual budget as a contribution to efficiency savings of pound;1.6m demanded by the council up to 2011. This is on top of a pound;7.1m cut for all services, already agreed for the two-year period. Meanwhile, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities has told Holyrood's local government committee that the 32 councils have played their part in being more efficient, having shaved pound;726m from their budgets since 2005.

Former Scotland football coach Craig Brown was on hand at the Scottish Learning Festival last week to help launch the 2010 creative competition for Show Racism the Red Card. Entries are open as usual to all pupils from P1-S6, and students from further education colleges and special schools are also eligible for the first time. The closing date is January 29.

A new drive aimed at getting parents talking to their children was launched last week by Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop. The Play, Talk, Read campaign is inspired by research which shows that children whose parents talk to them frequently have better language skills: at 20 months, babies of talkative parents know 131 more words than infants of less talkative parents; at 24 months, the difference is 295 words.

The latest figures on children's health and weight show that three- quarters are still unaware of how much exercise they should be doing, and only one in eight is getting the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity a day. A poll of 1,029 children aged eight to 15, conducted throughout the UK by the British Heart Foundation, also found that 30 per cent "can't be bothered" with daily exercise, which rises to 35 per cent in Scotland.

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