A week in education- TESS

Times Educational Supplement Scotland, 13 November 2009

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Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop has ordered officials to begin discussions with headteachers, after a dramatic report foretold a potential crisis in recruitment to headships (TESS last week). Ms Hyslop, addressing the annual conference of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland, said she wanted to “quickly initiate” talks with the union and other bodies to work out responses. The report, commissioned by the Scottish Government, found headship was a lonely and emotionally- demanding job to which only 8 per cent of teachers aspired. Meanwhile, Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith has given her backing to the majority of heads in the report who wanted more control over their schools.

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Proposed improvements to the much-criticised disclosure vetting system were announced by Children’s Minister Adam Ingram, who launched a consultation this week. They promise better protection for vulnerable groups and an end to the need for detailed application forms with every check. The scheme should: replace multiple checks – costing £23 a time – with continually updated information; ensure people who become unsuitable during employment are quickly identified; and allow employers to check records easily. Meanwhile, the Government has made clear, following our report last week, that no decision has been taken on whether host families involved in school exchanges will have to be disclosure-checked.

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Edinburgh teachers could be offered early retirement in a scheme designed to ease pressure on the council’s budget and pave the way to employ newly- qualified teachers. Marilyne MacLaren, the council’s education leader, plans to contact the Government to request funds to support the scheme. A Government spokesman said such schemes would be welcomed if shown to work well.

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Scottish schools are falling further behind levels of attainment in England, according to figures from the Reform Scotland think tank. England overtook Scotland in 2007 and the margin has increased this year, based on the number of pupils achieving five good grades by the end of compulsory education (49.7 per cent in England, 47.4 per cent in Scotland).

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