John Swinney has insisted Scotland there is no "crisis in morale" among Scottish teachers as he faced a grilling over punishing workloads and low pay.
The education secretary was today told by one retiring head teacher that the profession is "haemorrhaging" staff with questions raised over his ability to deal with the situation. Mr Swinney also played down the prospect of a strike over pay as he appeared on the BBC Radio Scotland phone-in with Stephen Jardine today.
But he admitted there were "challenges" in the profession as he was grilled by one retiring Primary teacher, identified as Susan, who has worked in the profession for the past 39 years.
She said: "The number of teachers who are leaving - haemorrhaging out of the profession - I would like to know how many probationer teachers carry on and how many years they go into the profession. "You have a real crisis in recruitment and retention and I don't hear anything there that you've said this morning that would convince me that you have got a handle on this."
She added: "The working time agreement for teachers is almost a joke - there's no way teachers can do the work in the contracted hours in enough time. The morale is so low."
The Education Secretary accepted that teaching is a "very, very busy and demanding life" and admits he often gets "tough feedback" in discussions with teachers. He said: "My door is very much ope on this question to try to reduce the amount of bureaucratic burden that teachers feel they are facing."
But Mr Swinney added; "I don't think we have a crisis in morale. I think what we have got is a very challenging period in education where we have some staff shortages. The last vacancy survery said we were about 800 teachers short - about 1.5% of the teaching contingent in Scotland."
He said measures had been undertaken to attract new teachers including bursaries to attract professional people to switch careers and teach in the key science, technology and maths subjects.
Teaching unions are currently demanding a 10% pay hike after years of freezes, but only 3% is currently on the table prompting fears of strike action.
"I'm working very hard to ensure there's an agreement and a resolution to teachers' pay claim," Mr Swinney went on.
"Discussions have continued over the Summer and will continue over the Autumn period."