‘Future of key services hangs in the balance’

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YESTERDAY’S SNP U-turn on privatisation of council services sparked some fraught moments at City Chambers – and the reverberations will continue today.

The Nationalists’ coalition with the Lib Dems was still in place at the time of going to press, but no-one was taking bets on it lasting until May’s elections.

Interestingly, it was the SNP side that was talking up the prospect, pointing out that the “alternative business model” concept it had rejected was outside the two parties’ coalition agreement of 2007.

Angry Lib Dems, on the other hand, were not rushing to predict the joint administration’s survival.

All of which may seem like mere political froth, but the dynamics involved point to very real concerns over an SNP change of heart on a policy which £3 million has been spent pursuing.

Tensions will remain high when councillors meet to discuss the issue today. The role of the Greens may be key, especially if Labour and the SNP join forces to oppose privatisation – strange bedfellows, but both are in a race for the left-wing vote next May.

However, we expect the main players to find a way to kick the issue into the long grass. That may well be a political panacea, but it is one which would leave the future of key services such as bin collection hanging in the balance.

Full for school

THERE is one thing that is guaranteed when parents try to choose a state school for their children in Edinburgh – some will be disappointed.

This year, there were more “losers” than ever, as the full impact of the SNP government’s legal limit of 25 pupils in primary one class sizes was felt for the first time.

While research has suggested that good teaching is much more important than class sizes in pupil attainment, smaller lessons are undoubtedly popular with parents.

But one downside is the lack of flexibility it leaves headteachers, and that is why 450 fewer out-of-catchment placement requests were granted this year.

The best schools will always be the most popular schools and it is entirely understandable that parents want to get their kids into them.

Most understand that education bosses have to have a system in place to balance out the numbers and prevent them falling foul of the class size law.

But parents will only accept that situation if they are satisfied that every possible effort is being made to drive up standards in every school across the Capital.