Nicola Sturgeon’s education record came under fire after it was claimed bureaucratic barriers were preventing teachers from relocating to Scotland to plug the school staffing shortage.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson brought up the the case of a maths teacher with 15-years experience in English schools who had been told he couldn’t work in Scotland without re-training.
Ms Davidson opened her attack on Ms Sturgeon by quoting the Scotsman’s revelation that children at Trinity Academy, Edinburgh, were having to be taught maths by specialists in other subjects.
At First Minister’s Questions, Ms Davidson said the Tories wanted those who had trained as teachers elsewhere to be “fast-tracked” into Scotland’s classrooms.
She said: “Yesterday we received an email from a couple who moved to Scotland five years ago, the husband did his teacher training in maths and he worked down south for 15 years as a maths teacher.
“When he moved here he was told he couldn’t teach maths any more without a full years retraining as a student.
“That is a qualified maths teacher not allowed to teach maths in Scotland. And he is not alone.
“We have a crippling shortage of teachers but according to evidence presented to this Parliament this year we have more than 550 qualified teachers from outside Scotland applying to teach here but who have been told by this government to go back to school themselves.”
Ms Sturgeon hit back, saying: “I received that email as well yesterday, so I have been able to look into it.
“My answer is going to include something I thought Ms Davidson would have known, but since she clearly doesn’t I’m going to tell her about it.
“The circumstances narrated in that email relate back to 2012, since then - and this is the bit I would have thought Ruth Davidson, if she was going to raise this today, might have actually have been aware of - because since then the General Teaching Council for Scotland has introduced provisional conditional registration, which allows teachers qualified outside Scotland to become registered and to take up a teaching post in Scotland while they work towards meeting the minimum requirement.”
The First Minister added: “Ruth Davidson asks me why haven’t we fixed that. Well I’m afraid Ms Davidson the answer is we have, you just didn’t bother to do the research to find out.
“That individual, while he would not have been able to teach in 2012 may now be in a position to do so, which is why we will now be contacting that individual to see if he wants to take up a teaching post.
“That is a change in circumstances that frankly I’m quite gobsmacked Ruth Davidson didn’t bother to find out before she came here today.”
But Ms Davidson claimed that was “smoke and mirrors” from the First Minister, saying the change had not been brought in as yet.
“This was only talked about by the General Teaching Council in May of this year and hasn’t been brought through yet, so it’s smoke and mirrors,” the Tory said.
Ms Sturgeon went on to rule out a review of teachers’ pay and conditions after one was called for by Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie.
Mr Rennie called for a repeat of the McCrone inquiry conducted in 2000 for the Labour/Lib Dem Scottish Executive.
Mr Rennie said: “The First Minister knows that Scottish teachers are on the edge. Their pay is lagging way behind those in other countries. A study found there’s a potential exodus from teaching, with 700 vacancies already.
“The McCrone report was delivered by the Liberal Democrat-Labour government, despite Nicola Sturgeon’s opposition. It transformed education and had future teachers queuing up to join the profession. After 10 years of the SNP that isn’t happening any more.
“Isn’t it time for the First Minister to establish urgently a new McCrone inquiry to reinvigorate teaching and have future teachers queuing up once again?”
Ms Sturgeon replied: “No, I don’t actually think the right thing to do is embark on a review that could take years to undertake and to complete.
“I think the better thing to do is to take the actions, the hard tangible actions, that we are taking right now.”