Page last updated at 13:39 GMT, Friday, 26 June 2009 14:39 UK

Pledge to cut class sizes 'dead'

Primary class
Class size cuts will vary from council to council across Scotland

The Scottish Government's manifesto pledge to cut early primary class sizes is now "dead", according to the Labour party.

The Scottish National Party had pledged to cut class sizes to a maximum of 18 in primaries one to three.

The government has now said that it would allow the policy to be applied differently in different areas.

The new stance emerged in a paper put before the national convention of local council umbrella body Cosla.

The government said it wanted year-on-year progress in cutting class sizes in P1-3, but accepted this would "vary" between councils.

A spokesman said: "In partnership with Cosla and in line with our shared concordat commitment, the Scottish Government is determined to build on the record low average primary class size achieved this year by delivering year-on-year progress in further reducing class sizes in P1-P3, while recognising that progress will vary between authorities.

This shows clearly that the class size pledge that was the major plank of the SNP manifesto is dead
Rhona Brankin
Labour education spokeswoman

"We are fully committed to working in partnership with Cosla and local authorities to take forward this joint commitment and we are currently exploring how we can make more progress and place a greater focus on achieving this aim."

Labour's education spokeswoman Rhona Brankin said: "This shows clearly that the class size pledge that was the major plank of the SNP manifesto is dead.

"Fiona Hyslop and her colleagues wrote a cheque to the Scottish people that they couldn't cash. It shouldn't be committed teachers looking for a job - it should be this minister."

Scotland's leading teachers union, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), also criticised the paper. Ronnie Smith, the EIS general secretary, said: "It is clear that local authorities are seeking, and the Scottish Government is willingly providing, more scope to wriggle out of the commitment to cut P1-P3 class sizes to a maximum of 18.

"If this recasting of the agreement goes ahead we will see even more of a postcode lottery in class sizes within - never mind among - local authorities."

Mr Smith also criticised proposals in the paper which could see the commitment to maintain teacher numbers despite falling rolls watered down.

He added: "It is a clear breach of a manifesto promise - which attempts to get both the Scottish Government and local authorities off the hook and away from the inconvenient truth that teacher numbers are dropping."

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