Page last updated at 14:59 GMT, Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Hyslop faced tough manifesto pledges

By Seonag MacKinnon
BBC Scotland education correspondent

Fiona Hyslop has been made culture and external affairs minister
What impact did Ms Hyslop have on Scotland's education system?

To many the post of education secretary had all the appearance of a poisoned chalice.

In their eyes Fiona Hylsop has been blamed - and then some - for problems which in reality few politicians could resolve.

The SNP manifesto carried exceedingly expensive promises - the abolition of graduates' debts and very small classes in early primary. Many doubted these plans could ever come to fruition.

Some maintain the party did not expect to win the election so presented its ideals rather than workable plans.

Some maintain it was merely a cynical vote-gathering exercise. In a knife-edge election the proposals have been credited with winning support from graduates, teachers and parents.

For sure, when the new government signed the concordat deal with local councils, the education secretary's task of delivering on election promises became even more difficult.

Some argue the government goal of maintaining teacher numbers at 53,000 is illogical in the face of falling numbers of pupils

The big pot of money handed by central to local government no longer had a large chunk of it ring-fenced for education.

Councils have been free to spend the money as they judge best. Some councillors say there's no overwhelming body of research around the world indicating small classes make a lasting significant difference to the progress of the average child.

And some argue the government goal of maintaining teacher numbers at 53,000 is illogical in the face of falling numbers of pupils.

What's more, it's argued, organisations such as hospitals and private companies aspire to achieve certain results during the year not to have a target number of staff on the pay roll.

Cold comfort for the legions of teachers who are out of work, that councils argue in cutting posts they are using public money responsibly and efficiently.

The government says it has been responsible, efficient etc in setting up the Scottish Futures Trust to replace the Public Private Partnership and Public Finance Initiative as a way of funding badly needed new school buildings. Unfortunately the SFT has yet to pay for a single school.

Does Fiona Hyslop bear any responsibility for failures to deliver? Some say she was a victim of decisions made by the wider Cabinet. Some argue she should have fought longer and harder to ensure money to match manifesto promises came to her department.

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