Teachers Scotland: SNP commissioned report recommends abandoning pledge to increase teacher numbers

Consultants suggest goal of maintaining the overall number of teachers instead

A report commissioned by the Scottish Government has recommended abandoning an SNP promise to increase teacher numbers.

Modelling by WPI Economics instead suggests attempting to maintain existing levels, warning that delivering the pledge to recruit more teachers could have “significant implications for cost and sustainability”, while raising questions about “whether this delivers maximum value for money”.

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The study said that if teacher numbers were maintained, class contact time could be reduced to 21 hours by 2028 – two years later than planned.

Student Raising Hand To Ask Question In Classroom. Picture: Adobe StockStudent Raising Hand To Ask Question In Classroom. Picture: Adobe Stock
Student Raising Hand To Ask Question In Classroom. Picture: Adobe Stock

Ahead of the 2021 election, the SNP pledged to recruit 3,500 additional teachers and classroom assistants. But the overall number has fallen by 252 full-time equivalents in the past two years, while some councils, such as Glasgow City, are planning further reductions.

Meanwhile, there is a huge shortfall in the number of students training to be secondary teachers at Scottish universities, when compared to targets.

The WPI Economics report, which looked at projections for a decline in pupil numbers in the coming years, analysed various options open to the Government.

The document concluded: “Bringing the implications of these scenarios together can provide useful insight for teacher recruitment.

"Focusing on the implications from projected demographic changes – and in the context of constrained public sector budgets – our modelling suggests that a constant, rather than increasing, teacher stock could more closely match expected teacher resourcing needs over the next decade.

"This could avoid sudden excesses in teacher numbers relative to resourcing needs, while meeting the policy commitment to reduce contact time to 21 hours, albeit by 2028, two years later than planned.”

Mike Corbett, NASUWT national official Scotland, said the report was notable for its lack of data on the recruitment and retention of teachers, localised contexts and the size and operation of the supply teacher workforce.

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"Without these, any decision-making is not fully informed and NASUWT requests that the Scottish Government swiftly commission or produce relevant research data in these areas to aid discussions,” he said.

Scottish Conservative education spokesman Liam Kerr said: “Far from the £1 billion and 3,500 additional teachers and classroom assistants they claimed, full-time staff numbers have actually fallen, while there’s a dangerous shortfall in students training.

“In the light of this report, the new First Minister John Swinney, who had a catastrophic record as education secretary, must decide whether to abandon a key election pledge, or push ahead with an un-costed plan on which the SNP have made no progress.”

In a letter to Holyrood’s education committee, education secretary Jenny Gilruth said: “Outcomes from the report will also help to inform discussions with partners, including teaching unions, Cosla and local authorities, to ensure we have a teaching workforce in place, now and in the future, that enables us to progress our key commitments, ensure an education system that delivers excellence and equity for all, and also represents maximum value for money.

"I should highlight that the scenarios in the report should not be interpreted as representing Scottish Government policy.

"However, this modelling, which I hope can be augmented by local data and intelligence from councils, will contribute to discussions with our partners on the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers on how we can reduce teachers’ class contact time by 90 minutes per week.”



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