Nursery teachers may be sent to primaries to plug staff gaps

Nursery teachers may be sent to teach in some primary schools due to teacher shortages.
Nursery teachers may be sent to teach in some primary schools due to teacher shortages.
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Nursery teachers could be drafted in to take primary school classes because of the teacher shortage, a Scottish council has warned.

The measure is contained in a risk assessment briefing note on teacher shortages from Clackmannanshire Council outlining the crisis facing its primary education service when pupils return next month for the 2017-18 academic year.

The council, which has 18 primary schools, says it is short of 13 primary teachers needed to maintain the national pupil-teacher ratio and to meet the expected increase of 90 extra pupils in the new school year.

However a recruitment campaign in May failed to attract any suitable candidates.

In February the council employed 25 teachers as part of a process in which they admit they “appointed all applicants who met our minimum standard.”

As well as the possibility of moving nursery teachers out of nurseries and into primary classes the report from Anne Pearson, the council’s chief education officer, lists other emergency measures the council may have to take.

These include the possibility of some schools being unable to hold classes for certain year groups, turning away children in catchment areas and class size limits likely being breached, with some breaking the 30-child limit.

While the council says it has enough teachers to fill vacant posts at the start of term this relies on staff not leaving and no staff absences.

There is also potentially no cover for teachers who may leave to take up another post or are temporarily absent for reasons such as maternity leave.

Liz Smith, MSP, Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary, called for the Scottish Government to take urgent action to prevent any of the council’s emergency measures having to be implemented.

“We’ve heard warnings for many years about the possible impact of teacher shortages,” Ms Smith said.

“Now we have hard-hitting predictions which could happen within a matter of months, and there will undoubtedly be negative consequences for children.

“Parents will be alarmed that things have got so bad nursery teachers may have to be drafted in, and entire age groups in some primary schools may have to be sent elsewhere.

“This is the consequence of an SNP government which has had a boom and bust approach to teacher training.

“The nationalists have planned disastrously, and really left councils in the lurch when it comes to dealing with the impact.

“The SNP must take serious heed of these warnings, and act urgently to ensure these scenarios coming down the track don’t play out.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “All primary teachers registered with the General Teaching Council for Scotland are fully qualified to teach in both primary and early years settings.

“Local authorities are free to assign staff as needed and it is not uncommon for teachers to work across both nursery and primary school settings as required.

“We recognise that some councils have faced challenges with teacher numbers. That is why we are taking a number of actions to help recruit and retain teachers and widen the pool of available talent. We have worked with local authorities to increase teacher numbers this year, with an additional 253 teachers in Scottish classrooms.

“We are also increasing student teacher places for the sixth consecutive year and new routes into teaching are being explored to increase the availability of quality teachers entering the profession more quickly.”