Scottish schools struggle to fill nearly 3000 teaching posts

Nearly 3,000 teaching posts across Scotland had to be re-advertised over the past three years after the initial search failed to find a suitable candidate.

Figures from Scotland’s councils show the difficulty schools have had in recruiting for both primary and secondary teachers across a range of subjects.

The Scottish Government said it had taken “decisive” action to recruit and retain teachers. But the country’s largest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), said the figures highlighted the “crisis” in the education system, with the profession struggling under heavy workloads and declining pay.

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The statistics, which were obtained by the Scottish Conservatives under Freedom of Information legislation, show the problem is not confined to rural locations, with schools in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow all struggling to recruit.

Last week 98 per cent of teachers taking part in a ballot rejected the governments latest pay deal, which offers a headline 3 per cent rise. Picture: Getty

A total of 340 posts were re-advertised in Aberdeen over the past three years, as well as a further 369 in neighbouring Aberdeenshire, 197 in Edinburgh and 120 in Glasgow.

Last year The Scotsman ­highlighted the case of Trinity Academy in Edinburgh, which cited a national teacher shortage for its failure to find a suitably qualified maths teacher.

The issue was raised at First Minister’s Questions in Holyrood after the school wrote to parents asking if they could help plug the gap.

Commenting on the latest figures, Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary Liz Smith said: “This is another alarming statistic, which highlights the severe consequences of the SNP’s chaotic approach to workforce planning.

“Councils are clearly finding it very difficult in some circumstances to recruit teachers to key posts, which is why the level of re-advertisement is rising and why there is a growing burden on existing teachers.

“Naturally this has a big impact on morale within the profession and, of course, on our young people in classrooms across Scotland.”

She added: “We have seen the public expression of anger within the profession about the SNP’s handling of education generally. That anger will continue to grow if the problems of teacher recruitment persist.”

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Last week 98 per cent of teachers taking part in a ballot rejected the government’s latest pay deal, which offers a headline 3 per cent rise, with bigger increases for staff on lower grades.

The Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) has said a walkout – the first national teacher strike over pay in Scotland since the 1980s – is now “very likely” unless there is an improved offer.

An EIS spokeswoman said: “Difficulty filling vacant posts is just one example of the effects of the recruitment and retention crisis currently facing Scottish education.

“A growing number of experienced teachers are choosing to leave the profession early and not enough new teachers are coming into the system. In order to make teaching an attractive career option, issues of severe workload and declining pay must be addressed.”

Fife Council has re-advertised 325 positions over the past three academic years, including 151 alone in 2018. A total of 174 teaching jobs were re-advertised in the Highlands over the past three years. Edinburgh City Council drafted in undergraduates last year when it was unable to fill teaching posts at Trinity Academy. The secondary school initially received fewer than five applications when it advertised two vacancies in the maths department.

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesman Tavish Scott said: “Thousands of teaching posts are proving stubbornly hard to fill. Teaching is a hugely rewarding profession, but there is an urgent need to make it more attractive to both existing and potential teachers.

“Support staff numbers have cratered and teacher workloads have soared.”

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A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We continue to provide funding of £88 million per year to support councils to maintain teacher numbers.

“This resulted in 543 more teachers in 2017 than the previous year – the second consecutive year teacher numbers increased. In addition, 2,864 newly qualified probationer teachers started on the Teacher Induction Scheme in August 2017 – 231 more than last year.

“We have taken decisive action to recruit and retain teachers through our Teaching Makes People campaign and have created new routes into the profession. We have also made bursaries of £20,000 available for career changers to train in priority subjects.”