More than £1m a week for supply teachers in Scotland given an 'F' by Tories

More than £1 million is being spent on supply teachers per week across Scotland, new analysis by the Scottish Conservatives has shown.

The figure is alongside data that shows around half of all councils have increased the number of supply teachers being used between 2016/17 and 2019/20, with the amount spent on supply teachers also rising in 18 of the 24 councils which responded.

Jamie Greene, the Scottish Conservatives’ education spokesperson, said the figures demonstrated the SNP’s “failure” to hire enough teachers to educate Scotland’s pupils, with there being around 1,600 fewer teachers in Scotland today when compared to when the SNP entered government in 2007.

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However, the SNP claimed the figures showed Douglas Ross’s party were “blatantly trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes” due to the fact supply teacher numbers have dropped in the past year and their salary costs had only risen due to pay rises from central government.

Supply teachers in Scotland are costing the public purse around £1m per week. Pic: John Devlin.

Overall, £53.7m was spent across Scotland’s local authorities on supply teachers in the 2019/20 financial year, the Scottish Conservative figures show, up from £50m in 2015/16 and £48.7m in 2016/17, but down by £5m when compared to 2018/19.

Mr Greene said: “The First Minister invited us to judge her record at Bute House on how she performed on education. Well her exam paper is back, marked and I’m afraid the grade is an F for fail.

"Our pupils having to rely on so many supply teachers demonstrate the SNP Government’s failure to retain and recruit the teachers Scotland needs.

“This is only one of the many ways in which the SNP have let down our schools, resulting in children’s education suffering.

“Things have been even worse during the pandemic, with the botched rollout of home learning by [education secretary] John Swinney being a national embarrassment which has failed schools and pupils alike.

“The Scottish Conservatives have set out an ambitious educational catch-up scheme to undo the damage done by the SNP. We will get our pupils back in the classroom, set up a national tutoring scheme and recruit an extra 3,000 teachers.”

The figures show a relatively static number of supply teachers over the past five years, with gaps in the data making direct comparisons difficult.

However, following a high of 8,380 supply teachers in 2018/19, the number has stayed around 7,500 for the past five years.

An SNP spokesperson said: "The Tories are blatantly trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes. The figures they have published show no discernible rise in the number of supply teachers in recent years and actually show a fall in the most recent year.

“As for the cost increasing, that’s what happens when you give teachers a pay rise. We think that’s a good thing, but if Mr Greene is against pay rises for teachers, he should just say so.

“This embarrassing gaffe is driven by the Tories determination to talk down our schools – not least with their offensive comments about the efforts of teachers during the pandemic.

"No wonder they are desperately asking other parties to drop out of the election when their campaign is such a mess as this.”

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