Scottish election 2021: Rise in casual teacher contracts under SNP a 'disgrace', says Willie Rennie

The rising number of teachers on casual contracts has been attacked as a “disgrace” by the Scottish Liberal Democrats ahead of the Holyrood election on Thursday.

Leader of the party Willie Rennie said statistics which indicate a 44 per cent rise in the number of newly qualified teachers employed in Scotland on casual contracts in the past year was “further proof of the casualisation of teaching under the SNP”.

Since 2007/08 when the SNP were first elected into power, the number of casual teacher contracts rose from 1,065 to 1,386 in 2010/11 before dropping to a low of 754 in 2015/16.

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However, in recent years under Nicola Sturgeon, those numbers have rocketed to 1,404 in 2019/20 from a figure of 972 in 2018/19.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have hit out at a rise in casual teacher contracts under the SNP.

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The number of newly-qualified teachers who found full-time work after their first year on the job also dropped to as low as 384 in 2009/10 before recovering to a high of 1,582 in 2017/18.

However, that figure dropped to 1,164 teachers finding full-time work after their first year in 2019/20.

Education secretary John Swinney said the SNP had employed 3,000 more teachers since 2016 and recruited 1,400 for the pandemic response.

Reacting to the figures, Mr Rennie said: ”These new statistics are further proof of the casualisation of teaching under the SNP.

"Thousands saw the government's adverts and worked their socks off to get through teacher training, only to be put on short-term and zero-hours contracts at the end of it. It's a disgrace.

"We need every single talent available to education to help pupils bounce back, but you wouldn't know it from the way that the SNP Government is treating teachers. I've met many more teachers on zero-hours contracts, working in cafes and supermarkets, or who have just left the profession altogether.

"There is a chance for change at this election. Scottish Liberal Democrats are the only party proposing a teacher job guarantee.

"Under our plan, no teacher would be unemployed or feel underemployed in August. It's one of the key components of our Bounce Back Plan for education.”

Responding, Mr Swinney said the Liberal Democrats did not “have a leg to stand on” and labelled them the “architects” of austerity.

He said: “In government, the SNP employed, over the lifetime of the last parliament, 3,000 more teachers, and ensured 1,400 were recruited specifically throughout the pandemic, so that children in Scotland had the best possible access to education.

“Given the certainty of funding offered by the SNP Government, there is no reason for local authorities to be offering only temporary contracts. If re-elected, the SNP will work to help teachers to take steps to secure longer-term contracts.

"When it comes to 'putting recovery first', particularly for education, the Liberal Democrats don't have a leg to stand on. Along with the Tories, they were the architects of the austerity policies and they betrayed students over tuition fees.

"Only giving both votes to the SNP will guarantee the strong leadership and bold policies needed to move the country from pandemic to recovery, and re-elect Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister.”

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