The situation is being felt particularly in the north of Scotland, and the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) last night warned that the goodwill of teachers “cannot be relied upon for ever” – hinting that industrial action over “low” pay may soon be considered.
At Moray Council, where officials fear pupils could be told to go home because of the crisis, there are currently around 70 teaching vacancies in 53 schools. It is resulting in officers elsewhere in the education department being taken away from their day jobs to provide teaching cover.
In a report to councillors tomorrow, Lindsey Stanley, business support team manager, warns that failure to address staffing shortages in both primary and secondary schools may result in pupils ultimately being told to go home.
Meanwhile, neighbouring Aberdeenshire Council is also struggling, with around 100 primary teaching posts and 57 secondary vacancies in the area. And Aberdeen City Council has resorted to offering staff across all departments the opportunity to retrain as teachers to fill the glaring gaps.
Larry Flanagan, the EIS general secretary, said poor pay and a decline in supply teachers was causing the crisis, adding: “Teacher shortages are bad news for pupils, who should have the right to be educated in appropriately sized classes in schools that are adequately staffed. It is in no one’s interest for teachers to be overworked to the point of exhaustion.”
The union boss said that, while teacher recruitment was an issue across Scotland, it was a particular challenge in rural areas, and in a number of curricular areas such as maths, English, technical and physics.
He added: “The number of teachers employed in schools across Scotland has been falling steadily for most of the last decade and now stands at an all-time low. Coupled with a desperate lack of teachers for supply cover, all of this is placing an intolerable workload burden on teaching staff in schools.
“Class sizes are rising and teachers – including management staff – are frequently expected to provide ad-hoc cover for colleagues who are ill, with major implications for their own workload. It is often solely on account of the dedication and commitment of teachers that classes are covered, but this degree of goodwill cannot be relied upon for ever.”
The EIS currently has a campaign aiming to cut excessive workload and one source said industrial action could be a potential option should employers fail to address these concerns.
Maria Walker, Aberdeenshire Council’s director of education and children’s services, said: “There are around 100 primary teaching posts and 57 secondary vacancies in the area. This inevitably puts a strain on the teaching workforce and I pay tribute to the efforts they have made to ensure young people are well supported in their education.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said it was committed to maintaining teacher numbers, adding: “The number and quality of our teachers is a crucial factor in ensuring our children and young people have the best possible education.”
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