Leader comment: Teacher shortage plan doesn’t add up

A shortage of maths teachers led to a head teacher appealing for maths-qualified parents to get in touch, to help.
A shortage of maths teachers led to a head teacher appealing for maths-qualified parents to get in touch, to help.
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An appeal from a high school for parents to help with teaching mathematics is guaranteed to set alarm bells ringing around town.

Maths is a core subject, and a situation where tuition provision is so precarious that an appeal has to be put out in a letter to parents creates serious doubts over whether pupils will be properly prepared for important exams in just a few weeks’ time.

The head teacher of Blairgowrie High School said the school was looking for “creative short-term measures” to cope with a shortage of maths teachers. “Any parent with a maths or related degree who would be interested in supporting our pupils in the short term, please contact myself,” wrote Bev Leslie.

That’s not quite what she meant, said a Perth & Kinross Council spokeswoman, trying to limit the damage by saying that the letter was simply an attempt to identify qualified teachers who are not on the council supply list. But if this was the case, the letter should have stated its purpose clearly, avoiding confusion. Anyone reading the letter would be forgiven for drawing the conclusion that people were being pulled off the street to fill gaps in the teaching timetable.

At best, this is a communication problem, but there is more to this row than the delivery of the message. Staffing difficulties in the maths department at Blairgowrie were identified in a report by inspectors a year ago, which should be enough time to have resolved the matter by now, despite any recent turnover.

It is accepted that teacher recruitment has been a challenge in several parts of the country, and creative thinking should not be discouraged – but if it is to be pursued, it has to be done more responsibly than this.