Leader comment: Plea to parents lays bare teaching crisis

Teacher shortages are now a depressingly familiar worry in Scotland's schools, but for parents to be asked to help out will come as a shock.

Maths is a key subject suffering teacher shortages. Picture: Susan Burrell

Trinity Academy in Edinburgh has written to parents to tell them its lack of maths teachers has meant that colleagues with a maths “background” have had to be drafted in to help cover some classes.

However, more disturbing is the headteacher adding a plea for any parent who could “support us in any way”.

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This is an unacceptable situation that is unfair on pupils and takes parental goodwill a step too far.

Maths is a core subject, a crucial cornerstone of our children’s education. Pupils being taught by properly qualified professionals should be a given.

Many parents are happy to lend a hand with school activities, but on the fringes rather than getting involved in a key part of the curriculum. There should be no place for such begging letters.

It is shameful that we have got into this situation, considering First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has placed education as her number one priority.

Emphasis has also been placed on Stem subjects - science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

It is also an indictment on Edinburgh’s reputation as a world-class place to live and work that one of the Scottish capital’s major schools cannot attract enough maths teachers.

Worryingly, Trinity Academy’s plight is not unique.

Parents at Blairgowrie High School have also been asked to help with maths teaching, prompting Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson to raise it at First Minister’s Questions in March.

Ms Sturgeon admitted there are teacher shortages in several subjects and said teacher training intakes had been increased.

On Monday, education secretary John Swinney - who was appointed to troubleshoot the crisis - launched the first Maths Week at a school in Glasgow.

It included him setting the first of a series of maths challenges to pupils.

But the challenge to ministers is how to get right such a fundamental part of our education system.

Innovative thinking is essential, since many more teachers threaten to leave the profession.

Casting the recruitment net wider could be an option, like the England-based Now Teach initiative to attract senior professionals from other careers.