Labour proposes bursaries to tackle shortage of physics and maths teachers

John Swinney. Picture: John Devlin
John Swinney. Picture: John Devlin
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Bursaries to attract teachers to key subjects like maths and physics have been put at the forefront of Labour’s plans to transform Scottish education.

The awards would fund teacher training for potential science teachers and would work on a similar principle to the bursaries introduced by the Scottish Government to attract more doctors and nurses.

Labour has yet to put a figure on the cost of its proposals, but says they are necessary to tackle the falling number of teachers. Official figures say there are now 4,000 fewer teachers than there were when the SNP first came to power in 2007.

Of particular concern has been the 12 per cent drop in those teaching so-called STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Other measures in Labour’s education blueprint include an independent review of teachers’ pay and conditions, a new literacy and numeracy programme and an end to centralising schools under regional directors.

Labour’s education spokesman Iain Gray, a former teacher, also called for the re-establishment of an independent inspectorate which would be tasked with improving the Curriculum for Excellence.

There are 4,000 fewer teachers since the SNP came to power in 2007, including a 12 per cent drop in STEM teachers. Labour said a lack of teachers in key subjects cut off opportunities for pupils, and would ultimately hold Scotland’s economy back.

Mr Gray challenged the SNP government to commit to real-term increases in education funding for every year of the rest of this parliament, and said Mr Swinney must halt moves to centralise school budgets.

An expert group would be formed to reform senior school, which would include increasing vocational training through skills academies and further education partnerships.

Labour also wants to introduce a Scottish Graduation Certificate for all at 18, reflecting achievement in exam, vocational, work experience and voluntary learning and establish a breakfast club in every school.

A Scottish Government spokesman said bursaries were already available for student teachers and added that councils were responsible for teacher recruitment.