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A week in education

The Scottish National Party (SNP) has hit out at policies adopted by the Scottish Labour Party at its weekend conference in Oban, claiming it would create a budget "black hole" and land every Scottish household with an additional tax bill of pound;3,000. Among the Labour pledges are to bring an end to "crumbling" schools (which the Nationalists estimate would cost pound;816 million), give a nursery place to all two-year-olds in deprived areas (estimated pound;41 million), introduce Glasgow's nurture classes to every authority (estimated pound;31 million) and give qualified 16 to 18-year-olds the right to an apprenticeship (estimated pound;26 million).

The future of Aberdeen City Council's Liberal Democrat-SNP coalition looks uncertain after the parties clashed over school closures. Northfield Academy was spared after Nationalists formed an alliance with opposition Labour members last week. The Lib Dems had been accused of targeting the school because they had no councillors in the area, a claim vigorously denied. The education committee unanimously agreed to save Harlaw Academy, but Torry and Kincorth academies will be replaced by a new school. It approved longer-term proposals to replace Bridge of Don, Oldmachar and Hazlehead academies and build a new primary school at Kingswells.

Councillors in the Western Isles have voted to close 11 schools. The council's education and children's services committee agreed this week to shut eight primaries and three junior secondaries. However, the decision still had to be ratified by the full council after we went to press. Meanwhile, Argyll and Bute Council has deferred making a decision about closing 26 primaries until November 25.

A new approach to "cluster headships" has been approved by councillors in Perth and Kinross. It follows an experiment in shared headships where two heads ran two schools each, which was judged a success for both pupils and teachers. The schools involved in the pilot will now share heads on a permanent basis.

Teacher training may be undergoing cuts at home, but the Scotttish Government is to make pound;400,000 available over three years to support 1,000 scholarships for women in Malawi who want to become primary teachers. The funding will support the Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa (TESSA) programme, which has already helped train more than 400,000 teachers in 12 African countries using the Open University's distance learning model.

Children's Minister Adam Ingram has postponed the introduction of the Protection for Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme from later this month until February after the PVG programme board warned the IT support system was not sufficiently robust. The Scottish Parent Teacher Council expressed surprise, given the time and money already spent.

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