The battle to find hundreds of teachers in Scotland

A teacher helps pupils at a Kirkcaldy primary school, but some schools in Scotland face the prospect of new term without one. Picture: JP/ Steve Brown

A teacher helps pupils at a Kirkcaldy primary school, but some schools in Scotland face the prospect of new term without one. Picture: JP/ Steve Brown

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They have been offered ‘golden hellos’ worth thousands of pounds and even, in some cases, a brand new house rent free.

But, despite the perks, parts of Scotland are still battling to attract new teachers with hundreds of vacancies still to be filled ahead of the new term.

A high school in Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin

A high school in Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin

Primary headteachers and secondary teachers in maths, physics, home economics and Gaelic are the hardest to find in 2016.

Angela Taylor, Aberdeen’s education convener, claimed some schools may be forced to close if the if the city can’t fill its 134 teaching posts ahead of August.

This is despite more than £500,000 in incentives being offered to new recruits who receive up to £5,000 if they stay for two years, with accommodation costs covered in some cases.

In Moray, a local housebuilder offered 10 teachers a rent-free home for six months to help draw new recruits to the area.

READ MORE: Scots city leaders unite to call for more economic powers

Such measures have proved essential when numbers of publicly funded teachers have dropped by 1,305 between 2010 and 2015.

Pupils numbers fell by around 1,600 over the same period.

Drew Morrice, deputy head of Educational Institute of Scotland said: “I don’t think we have got enough information to suggest there is a crisis.

“I have seen periods of teacher unemployment where there are more teachers that we have posts for and I have seen teacher shortages.

“But I think to find a situation where schools could be short of staff at the start of a school year is quite a unique problem, in my mind.

“It suggests we are facing a difficult situation in the autumn and I think that is a matter of concern.”

Education secretary John Swinney announced 20 new teachers could be created in the North East with funded training places available for oil and gas workers affected by the downturn.

Meanwhile, teachers numbers in the North East have been hit by the oil industry crisis given that families were now relocating, it is claimed.

Aberdeen City Council has called for a London-style weighting payment to compensate public sector workers for the high cost of living.

However, Mr Morrice said property prices were higher in other parts of Scotland and that attracting trained teachers away from the Central Belt was a key challenge.

“By and large we have enough teachers coming into the system but young teachers tend to look for work in the Central Belt. If young people study in a certain area they are more likely to stay in that area. More rural authorities are affected,” he said.

Laurence Findlay, director of education and social care at Moray Council - which has 58 teaching vacancies - said he was encouraged that University of Highlands and Islands was to offer secondary teacher training with hopes graduates would remain in the north.

He added: “A recent phenomenon we are discovering is that they come up, they accept a job in Elgin and the following week we will get a call saying they have had an interview in Glasgow or Stirling and they are not going to take what we offered them.

“We have done a lot locally to promote the area but we are still struggling.”

He said that “good things” were happening nationally to attract more teachers but that deeper questions about the profession had been raised.

Mr Findlay said: “As a profession and as a country we need to look at why people are put off teaching.

“It’s quite a long time since we looked at the teaching profession and how we sell it.”

Some teachers choose to leave Scotland after completing their probationary year, either to take a gap year or to teach in England or overseas.

The EIS said better ‘intelligence’ was needed on why teachers moved and that issues of workloads and pay had to be addressed.

Mr Morrice added: “If you speak to universities, they seem to be able to meet the demand for places so from the outset the profession is perceived to be relatively attractive. We need a lot more intelligence on what is happening thereafter.”

The Scottish Government said action was being taken on a number of fronts to assist local authorities recruit and retain teachers, including increasing student teacher intake targets for the fifth year running.

A spokeswoman added: “We are also supporting innovative ways to encourage more graduates to come into teaching in areas which have difficulty recruiting teachers. This includes the University of Aberdeen’s distance learning initial teacher education programme, which allows council employees to retrain as teachers while staying in work.”

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