New bid to attract STEM teachers to rural areas

Teachers generally, and maths teachers in particular, are in short supply in Scotland. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Teachers generally, and maths teachers in particular, are in short supply in Scotland. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto
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A new route into teaching for highly-qualified graduates and career changers specialising in science and technology-related subjects has been launched to get more teachers in the subjects into rural classrooms.

The new teacher training course will be run by the University of Dundee and the University of the Highlands and Islands.

There remains a shortage of STEM teachers

There remains a shortage of STEM teachers

The universities will work with rural schools in areas of high deprivation in Aberdeenshire, Argyll and Bute, the Borders and the Highlands to help between 30 and 50 students qualify for a Masters-level diploma in teaching.

The course will run from December 2018 to June 2020 and will be open to graduates with a minimum 2:1 honours degree in chemistry, physics, home economics, maths and engineering.

The Scottish Government has come under pressure from opposition parties to address teacher shortages, particularly in subjects such as maths.

Teacher shortages in the so-called STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths – has also been a matter of long-standing concern. Figures produced towards the end of last year suggest that only 112 student maths teachers had been recruited – well short of the goal of 237. Of the 1,226 people in Scotland studying to become secondary school teachers, just 36 were studying to become technological education teachers – 29 per cent of the target of 124.

Teacher shortages tend to be more acute in rural areas. However, even city schools have struggled to attract maths teachers. A notable example was Trinity Academy in Edinburgh, where the school appealed to parents for help after finding it difficult to find two maths teachers.

Education Secretary John Swinney said: “We know that some areas face challenges in recruiting teachers in certain subject areas and this means that we need to think differently about how we attract new recruits into the classroom.

“This innovative proposal is designed to broaden the range of people entering the profession – providing a challenging, yet extremely rewarding, opportunity to train in rural schools within areas of high deprivation.

“Crucially, this route maintains the traditionally high standard of teaching in Scotland and I am pleased to support it with a quarter of million pounds from the Attainment Scotland Fund.”

General Teaching Council for Scotland chief executive Kenneth Muir said: “This new route into teaching is a welcome addition to the range of opportunities that exist to support people to become high quality teachers.”

Professor Teresa R Moran, depute dean, discipline lead (education) at the University of Dundee, said:“The universities of Dundee and the Highlands and Islands are delighted to be working together to provide this new route into initial teacher education for STEM subjects.

“Working in partnership with several rural local authorities we are looking to recruit high-calibre candidates to enhance leaners’ experiences in a number of STEM subjects.”

Dr Morag Redford, head of teacher education, University of the Highlands and Islands, said: “This new programme provides an exciting opportunity for high quality graduates to join the teaching profession in rural schools.”