Teacher shortages: act now before a ‘full-blown crisis’ emerges, unions warn

Unions have voiced concerns about teacher supply in Scottish schools after new figures have revealed that hundreds of jobs are unfilled across the country.

A request under the Freedom of Information Act by the Scottish Liberal Democrats revealed 469 vacancies were being advertised as of 22 June across 27 councils. More recent research by TESS suggests even higher figures in a number of local authorities.

The Lib Dem survey showed 41 vacancies in Aberdeenshire; by 1 July, TESS found this had risen to 120. Other figures not supplied to the Lib Dems included Stirling (160 vacancies), Renfrewshire (47) and Perth and Kinross (19).

Ken Cunningham, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, said: “Clearly there is still an issue over teacher supply which is not getting any better.”

North Lanarkshire gave unusually high figures for primary school vacancies: 132 full-time unpromoted; 24 full-time promoted; 73 job share; 102 full-time, long-term temporary; and 172 part-time, long-term temporary. A spokesman for the authority said: “While the numbers appear high, it should be noted that these posts were being filled by staff with either permanent pool, employment rights or temporary contracts.”

NASUWT Scotland national officer Jane Peckham called for research into why vacancies were going unfilled “before a full-blown crisis in teacher recruitment and retention emerges”.

Every part of Scotland is finding it difficult to fill vacant posts, according to John Stodter, general secretary of education directors’ body ADES. But he added that the problem – exacerbated by the country’s wider economic difficulties in recent years – was most acute in rural authorities and those that covered large, geographically disparate areas.

Mr Stodter cautioned that any set of figures was only a snapshot and that the picture could fluctuate markedly from day to day. Even so, he said, Scotland remained fairly adept at pulling off “an amazing high-wire act” where the number of teachers being trained up was broadly the number required when they entered the profession.

A Scottish government spokesman said: “The recruitment and employment of teachers is a matter for individual local authorities, with all 32 committing to maintaining their teacher numbers and pupil teacher ratio at 2014 levels for 2015-16.” He added that, over the past four years, the government had increased intake targets for teaching students to ensure that schools had the right number of teachers with the right skills.

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