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A week in education

A 6 per cent jump in applications to Scottish universities from Scots students is not good news, according to the National Union of Students Scotland. The combination of rising youth unemployment and the growing pressure on university places points to the need for the Scottish Government not just to maintain the number of places, which ministers have headlined as their top pledge, but to increase them. "Surely it makes sense to increase university places when the only alternative is benefits?" NUS Scotland president Liam Burns commented. Meanwhile, applications to Scottish universities from England have dropped by 15 per cent in the past year, the latest figures from the Ucas admissions service show.

Professor Bernard King, principal of the University of Abertay, Dundee has been suspended from his pound;222,000-a-year job. The unprecedented move was taken by the chair of the court, Nigel Hawkins, after what is understood to be differences over the university's direction. It follows the suspension last month of the vice-principal, Professor Nicholas Terry, on what is said to be an unrelated matter. Professor King, 64, is also to step down temporarily as convener-elect of Universities Scotland.

The schools modernisation programme in South Lanarkshire is back on track, the council has declared. The project had faced the threat of being derailed after a high-profile row between leading councillors and officials, with claims by the politicians that more savings were being demanded than were necessary. Now, the council says the pound;812 million programme will lead to the rebuilding or refurbishment of every primary in the authority over the next few years.

Education Secretary Michael Russell has been urged by his political opponents to allay fears over Curriculum for Excellence. They were responding to the relentless campaign by Educational Institute of Scotland education convener Larry Flanagan for a year's delay in introducing the new national exams to 2014. Labour's Des McNulty suggested Mr Russell was being "high-handed", while the Liberal Democrats' Margaret Smith alleged that "questions still remain unanswered".

Young people in Inverclyde are better protected than ever, a joint inspection of child protection in the area has concluded. Services were given one evaluation of "excellent" for the way in which children were listened to and respected and five of "very good". Families have "very high levels of trust and confidence in staff", the HMIE-led team concluded. The excellent rating was "a level of recognition rarely given in inspections in Scotland", commented Kenneth Ritchie, chairman of Inverclyde child protection committee.

Parliamentary figures have revealed that almost 60 per cent of prisoners cannot read, write or count properly (at or below Intermediate 1). Labour seized on the statistics, provided by John Ewing, chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service, to justify the party's programme for 1,000 literacy specialists to tackle the problem of 13,000 pupils leaving primary schools without literacy and numeracy skills. Aberdeen prison comes out worst in communication levels, with 69 per cent at or below Intermediate 1; the Open Estate is recorded as 39 per cent. In numeracy, the equivalent range is from 72 per cent at Glenochil to 26 per cent at the Open Estate.

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