Thousands of cancer patients in Scotland will be lonely this Christmas and New Year, according to a survey for Macmillan Cancer Support.
School Literacy Promise For Scotland
Education Secretary Angela Constance has conceded the results of the latest schools literacy survey are "not as good as they should be'' after the research showed a drop in standards of reading and writing.
Ms Constance has pledged work to improve the key skills will be stepped up in the wake of the results.
The Scottish Survey of Literacy 2014 found fewer than half (47%) of S2 boys were doing well, very well or performing beyond the level they were being assessed for in writing, down from 58% in 2012.
The proportion of S2 girls whose writing was of this standard also fell, going from 70% to 63% over the period.
In the most-deprived communities, about two-fifths (41%) of S2 pupils were said to be "performing well, very well or beyond the level'' with their writing, a drop from 54% in 2012.
Performance in this age group in the least-deprived areas had also fallen, going from 74% in 2012 to 64% last year, according to the research
Overall, 55% of S2 pupils were said to be doing well or better at writing, down from 64% in 2012.
When it came to reading, the 2014 survey found 80% of S2 students were doing "well or very well'', compared to 84% two years previously.
Performance was also poorer in primary schools, with 78% of P4 pupils and 88% of P7 students reading at this level, compared to 83% and 90% respectively in 2012.
Some 10,000 pupils in 2,250 schools were involved in the research last year, with Liberal Democrat education spokesman Liam McArthur saying the findings showed that "the performance of Scotland's pupils in reading and writing has either stagnated or is going backwards''.
Mr McArthur stated: "This will have alarm bells ringing with parents across the country.
"While the SNP focus has been on their independence plans, ministers have taken their eye off the ball in government.
"Given the crucial importance of literacy and numeracy skills to our children's life chances, ministers need to get their priorities right.
"They can start by explaining how they plan to turn around this worrying trend in the literacy standard.''
Liz Smith, the Tory spokeswoman for young people, also criticised the Scottish Government, saying: "These are stark statistics which prove that when it comes to improving basic skills in literacy and numeracy, and closing the attainment gap, the SNP is failing Scotland's schools.
"The SNP's obsession with trying to break up the United Kingdom has meant that it has completely taken its eye off the ball when it comes to education and helping those from the most-deprived backgrounds to succeed.''
Ms Constance, who was visiting Calderwood Primary School in Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire, pledged action from the Government.
"Put simply, while Scottish pupils perform well, these results are not as good as they should be,'' she stated.
"They demonstrate the need to redouble efforts to ensure that every child can succeed in school and so gain the skills they need for life.''
Ms Constance added: "This Government has already made clear that tackling the attainment gap is a key priority.
"The £100 million Scottish Attainment Challenge, the Read, Write, Count campaign and Access to Education funding are all designed to drive up standards and close the attainment gap.
"In addition to these and other actions taken since last year's survey was conducted, I have also asked Education Scotland to strengthen the focus on literacy as part of their school inspections.
"I also intend to work closely with education partners to establish a national improvement framework.
"This will give us the data we need to ensure that every child can achieve the high standards set out within Curriculum for Excellence.
"In the last six months I've seen excellent work in our schools, to support learners and parents.
"It is essential that we both promote this positive practice in schools and identify where improvements can and should be made.''
SFA chief executive Stewart Regan says they take full responsibility for child protection failings.
The 55-year-old died at the scene of the incident in Dryden Street at about 9.50am on Monday.
She called on both sides of the Brexit divide to treat each other with respect and stop accusations of "racism''.
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