North-east councils forced to spend £30m to plug teaching gap

Cash-strapped councils in the North-east of Scotland have spent more than £30 million on supply teachers since 2012.

Cash-strapped councils in the North-east of Scotland have spent more than £30 million on supply teachers since 2012.

Local authorities in Aberdeen and neighbouring Aberdeenshire have had to find the money because of an ongoing struggle to recruit and retain staff.

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There are currently almost 190 vacancies for teachers across the region, of which 39 are head teacher positions. The oil and gas industry and the high cost of living in the region have been blamed in the past for council staffing shortages – a problem shared with NHS Grampian.

Councillor Angela Taylor, the convener of Aberdeen City Council’s education committee, spoke of a range of initiatives to ensure the problems did not affect pupils.

She said: “It is widely accepted that recruitment of teachers continues to be challenging in Aberdeen, and across the north of Scotland.

“We continue to recruit teaching staff to work in Aberdeen by using a range of approaches such as incentives, assistance with accommodation, wider advertising campaigns here and abroad, and recruiting from a broader range of potential candidates.”

Aberdeen City Council has spent a total of £6.5m on supply teachers since the local authority elections in 2012. There are currently nine vacancies for head teachers in the city, as well as 44 primary, 29 secondary and 12 additional support need teaching roles.

Meanwhile Aberdeenshire Council has spent £24.4m on plugging gaps in the classroom over the past four years and has vacancies for 53 primary teaching roles and ten for secondary teachers. There are a further 28 primary and two secondary head vacancies.

Craig Clement, head of education at Aberdeenshire Council, said: “Teacher recruitment is an ongoing challenge for rural authorities like Aberdeenshire and we’ve developed a number of tools to ensure we have suitable staffing numbers. We were pleased to meet our teacher number targets for 2015 and efforts will continue to fill vacancies as they arise.”

An emergency summit was held by councils across the North-east and Highlands and Islands last year to address recruitment issues with cabinet secretary for education Angela Constance.