A week in education

The number of placing requests for parents exercising choice of school has barely changed in the past decade and stood at 30,240 last session, the latest official figures reveal. Of all requests received, 84 per cent were granted.

The first years of primary and secondary constitute the main stages for placing requests, but they remain a minority sport, representing 22 per cent of P1 rolls and 14 per cent of S1 pupils. There is a significant range, from 4 per cent of P1 in Orkney to 42 per cent in Edinburgh, and from zero cases in S1 in Orkney to 33 per cent in Edinburgh.

Education services in Stirling Council have won considerable approval from HMIE whose report this week commends the authority's "continuing improvement and strong leadership". The action points directed at the council are standard fare -build capacity to improve further and develop robust systems for evaluating performance.

The Culture Minister is providing a pound;5.8 million bonanza for schools, which will provide further funding for the cultural co-ordinators in schools programme over the next two years. Patricia Ferguson made the announcement during a visit to Eastriggs Primary in Dumfries. The programme already receives pound;750,000 a year in core funding to support the work of the 86 cultural co-ordinators.

An Alex Salmond-led government after the election would use the SNP's first 100 days in office to start the move towards lowering class sizes, the leader pledged in his speech to his party's conference at the weekend. The only limit to which the nationalists have committed themselves is 18 in P1-3, in response to the Scottish Executive's current plans for 25 in P1.

In its manifesto for Holyrood, published yesterday, the Edu-cational Institute of Scotland puts class sizes at the heart of its pressure on the political parties in the election. The union is demanding that the next parliament "move significantly" to its goal of no more than 20 pupils in every primary and secondary class. This was essential for better discipline and learning.

The difficulties Scottish ministers have encountered with their attempts to reduce class sizes are being mirrored in Wales. Jane Davidson, the Education Minister, has come under fire for ditching a move to a maximum of 25 pupils in primary classes. She said that, while there were benefits for teachers in cutting class sizes, the research evidence pointed to teaching methods and organisation as having a greater impact on pupils.

East Dunbartonshire has become the latest council to block access to the ratemyteacher website as a result of "inappropriate comments" made about its staff.

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