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Learning to be partners Education Bill welcomed but Tories will fight return of opted-out school to the fold

SCOTTISH Tories are to campaign to save one of the country's two opted-out schools, St Mary's Primary in Dunblane, from having to return to local authority control under proposals in the new Education Bill.

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Instead, Tory education spokesman Brian Monteith is calling for the school to be given the same direct grant status as Jordanhill Primary in Glasgow and St Mary's Music School in Edinburgh - adding that such a move would be ''particularly appropriate'' as Education Minister Sam Galbraith's children attend Jordanhill Primary. Mr Monteith said he would be seeking cross-party support for his proposal, adding that he had no wish to ''make an issue'' of Mr Galbraith's children's schooling arrangements or to ''expose hypocrisy''. He said: ''We want consensus and agreement in this daisy-chained world that we live in and this is the way to deal with St Mary's in Dunblane. ''If that does not work, we will have no compunction in exposing the double-edged, two-faced position of the Labour Party in this respect.'' Mr Galbraith said that Jordanhill Primary's status arose from a different historical context to the two Scottish schools which chose to opt out under Tory legislation. Jordanhill school receives direct grant aid from the Scottish Office because a number of years ago, when its role as a teaching practice school attached to Jordanhill College ceased, its bid to enter local authority control was refused by Strathclyde Region and the Scottish Office agreed to fund it directly. Mr Monteith said that the other opted-out school in Scotland, Dornoch Academy, had already agreed to return to local authority control. Speaking at the launch of the new Education Bill, and in marked contrast to Tony Blair's attack on intransigent public sector unions, Mr Galbraith yesterday signalled he was confident of being able to work in partnership with Scotland's teachers to implement the proposals in the Bill. He said: ''I have had meetings with all the unions. I have been round schools and I am really impressed by what is happening. I have been to some of the good ones to find out why they are buzzing, and I have been impressed by people who work over their hours to deliver for children.'' The president of the Educational Institute for Scotland, Mr John Patton, welcomed the ''partnership'' approach but added: ''Legislation alone cannot solve the issue of teachers' workload, but if a genuine partnership is to develop between teachers and the new Scottish Government, a real reduction in those pressures must be a result of the measures being announced by the Government today,'' he said. The Bill sets out new statutory duties and powers for Ministers and local authorities, with council education department's facing inspection - just like the schools they control - for the first time. Corporal punishment will be finally outlawed throughout Scotland as the ban is extended to independent schools and grant funded pre-school centres. And councils will have a duty to provide pre-school education. The SNP's Shadow Minister for Children and Education, Ms Nicola Sturgeon, welcomed the tone and approach of the consultation paper ''as a clear recognition on Labour's part that they have got it badly wrong in their approach to Scottish education hitherto. ''But we regret that the move away from 'teacher-bashing' has not been replaced by plans for a formal mechanism for consultation within the Scottish education system as the SNP have proposed with our concept of a standing education convention and as the Executive themselves suggested in the coalition document.''

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