Exclusive: Scottish teacher shortages set to worsen as universities fall short of trainee teacher targets

Hundreds of teacher training places at Scottish universities went unfilled this year, with key subjects including maths falling dramatically short of their targets, TESS can reveal.

Experts have warned that the shortfall could worsen the growing national teacher shortage.

Figures obtained by TESS show that the Scottish government aimed to train 146 maths teachers this year on the most common route into secondary teaching in Scotland – the one-year postgraduate PGDE course – but only just over half of the places (76) were filled.

Other subjects failing to attract anywhere near the target number of students include RE, computing, technological education and physics.

Gaelic was also badly hit. The goal was to recruit four secondary Gaelic teachers this year but universities failed to attract any.

Overall, one in five places on secondary postgraduate teacher education courses was not taken up when over-recruitment to subjects such as geography, history and modern studies was adjusted for.

‘Consistent challenge’

There has been “a consistent challenge over a number of years” to attract sufficient candidates in several key areas – particularly Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects – revealed Professor Teresa Moran, convener of the Scottish Teacher Education Committee (STEC), which represents university schools of education.

“This is a complex issue and one all parties are working together to address,” she said.

In September the Scottish government launched a campaign aimed at encouraging more teachers to enter the profession, with a particular focus on Stem subjects.

But more creative solutions are needed, according to Bruce Robertson, an education policy adviser to the Scottish government and education directors’ body ADES.

Ministers should consider offering incentives to encourage students to train in the Stem subjects, he said. And there also needed to be more initial teacher education (ITE) places on offer at universities outside the Central Belt.

This year there were 1,165 places available on postgraduate courses, the most common route by which students enter secondary teaching in Scotland. Of the target places, 933 were filled. However, because of over-recruitment to some subjects, 991 secondary teachers are currently training via this route.

This is an edited version of an article in the 11 December edition of TES Scotland. You can subscribe to TES online here or read the full coverage in this week’s TESS magazine, available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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