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A week in education

The latest official figures for the number of young Scots entering higher education in universities and further education colleges reveal a virtually static position. The "age participation index" of those aged under 21 shows 47.1 per cent took up full-time HE courses in 2005-06, a rise of 0.7 per cent. The proportion has been sliding gradually since the high water mark between 2000 and 2002, when the index stood at 51.5 per cent.

The gap between young males and females in HE remains as wide as ever, with 53.5 per cent accounted for by women and 41 per cent men in 2005-06; this compares with 51.9 per cent women and 41.2 per cent men the previous year.

Three-year-olds in Scotland are more advanced than those elsewhere in the UK when it comes to their vocabulary and readiness to start school (as measured by their understanding of colours, numbers and shapes). These findings emerged from the Millennium Cohort Study, which is tracking more than 15,500 children born in the UK between 2000 and 2003. But the researchers, from London University's Institute of Edu-cation, caution that the higher scores for children in Scotland are "intriguing and cry out for further investigation".

A former president of the Headteachers' Association of Scot-land has had criminal charges against him dropped. Donald Matheson was accused of embezzling pound;3,000 between October 2003 and May 2005 while he was the headteacher at Hermitage Academy in Helensburgh. He was also accused of demanding pound;10 a day from an ice cream van owner to sell sweets in the playground.

Mr Matheson was suspended and subsequently given early retirement. But a spokesman for the Crown Office said: "Having reviewed all available evidence, the fiscal has concluded it is no longer in the public interest to proceed."

Knowledge of food safety is patchy among school pupils, according to a survey carried out on behalf of the Scottish Consumer Council. It also found that chopping vegetables and making sandwiches are the only types of food preparation regularly carried out by young people in Scot-land. Nearly a quarter said they never cook anything from scratch. The findings, based on responses from more than 1,500 S2 pupils in 71 schools, echo similar results from a survey in 2000.

The Scottish Qualifi-cations Authority is to allow dyslexic pupils to use laptops to sit their exams, instead of having questions read to them by scribe helpers and then writing out the answers on paper. The move has been welcomed by the British Dyslexia Association.

Two sixth-year pupils at Glen-cryan special school in Cumber-nauld, Natasha Connon and Graham Truesdale (pictured), are believed to be the first with additional support needs to gain a nationally-recognised vocational qualification on an outreach basis, picking up a City and Guilds certificate in hospitality and catering - "a terrific achievement", the school said.

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