Pupils could be taught by video link in an effort to deal with teacher shortages in Scotland’s classrooms, education secretary John Swinney has suggested.
A scheme in place in the Western Isles could be replicated in areas like Aberdeen which has trouble attracting teachers to the city, according to the Deputy First Minister.
Mr Swinney said he wants to attract more people into the profession, but schemes such as the “e-sgoil”, broadcasting lessons across the Western Isles from Stornoway, could be a solution for mainland areas.
“It is designed to deliver education across the challenging geography of the Western Isles, but obviously that could be done to a much wider geography,” he said.
“We are encouraging local authorities to work together in that respect to ensure the resources we have in the teaching profession can be deployed in an effective way around the country.
“You can have young people having a proportion of their education driven by online learning and classes led digitally from one centre and deployed in others.”
Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said the plans emerged after it was revealed that Blairgowrie High School in Mr Swinney’s Perthshire constituency has been advertising for volunteers to teach maths because of a lack of teachers.
Mr Gray said: “The SNP government’s handling of Scottish education is now a complete embarrassment.Education was supposed to be the SNP’s top priority, but John Swinney is seeing the problems in his in-tray piling up.
“The reality is John Swinney, as education secretary, is feeling the effects of a decade of cuts he made as finance secretary, with 4,000 fewer teachers, 1,000 fewer support staff and £1.5 billion cut from council budgets since 2011.
“Instead of agitating for a second independence referendum that will divide our country yet again, SNP ministers should be focused on bread and butter issues like our schools.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has insisted that she wants to be “judged” on her record in education and in particular driving down the so called “attainment gap” between richer and poorer areas of Scotland.
It emerged last week that there are a record 137 unfilled teaching posts in Aberdeen which is up by about 50 per cent since the start of the academic term in August, with other councils dozens short.
Earlier this month, the Scottish Government suffered a parliamentary defeat over education after MSPs backed opposition claims the administration is “failing” pupils, teachers and parents. The motion stated that “many teachers have lost confidence” in the official bodies Education Scotland and the Scottish Qualifications Authority, and also that “disappointing” international figures show “a decline in reading, maths and science scores in Scotland”.
Flagship reforms of the system set out in the Education Bill have also been delayed by ministers.