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A week in education

Education Secretary Michael Russell is to write to the parents of all children beginning secondary school next session to explain the Curriculum for Excellence and offer them reassurance about the programme. The S1 intake in August will be the first to sit the new exams in 2014. His initiative was condemned by Labour as another "panic measure" and by the Conservatives as "extraordinary and deeply worrying" five years after CfE was launched and just four months before it is due to be introduced in schools.

The news of a 10,000 rise in the number of Scottish children living in poverty is a "major wake-up call", according to Douglas Hamilton, head of Save the Children in Scotland. The UK Government's Household Below Average Income statistics show that one in five Scottish youngsters are on the breadline, with the poorest parents having to provide for their children on less than pound;33 a day. The new coalition Government at Westminster is said to be committed to sticking with Labour's pledge of ending child poverty by 2020, but the new figures cast doubt on that aspiration.

An unusual attempt at a solution to falling school rolls is to be attempted in north-east Fife. Rathillet Primary, near Cupar, which has only 16 pupils, is being mothballed and its pupils educated at Balmerino Primary - at the suggestion of the latter's parents. It will be a two-year trial which has been made easier by the fact that the Rathillet headteacher, Viv McQueen, will be put in charge of the combined school and take all her staff with her.

Audit Scotland has delivered a positive verdict on Scottish Borders Council, following a best value review. It says it particularly welcomes "the good and improving" service provided by the education department, which hit turbulent times a few years ago when a "black hole" was discovered in its finances.

The education committee of the Scottish Parliament has started an inquiry into local authority management of schools. It has issued a call for evidence as part of its deliberations, the deadline for which is July 2.

Despite high-profile efforts by governments and local authorities, there has been a fall in the number of pupils walking or cycling to school. Figures from the sustainable travel charity Sustrans found that 49.9 per cent did so last year, a drop of 1.3 per cent on the previous year. The survey, which covered more than 400,000 pupils, discovered a similar increase in the number of parents who drove their children to school. Although the Government has put pound;31 million into promoting active travel this year, critics complain that cycling and walking schemes are still dwarfed by spending on roads and rail.

The new direct line for the public to bend the ear of Education Secretary Michael Russell (TESS last week) was unveiled at St Ninian's High in Kirkintilloch on Tuesday. The "engagement website" can be found at:

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