New teacher recruitment figures 'confirm crisis'

Written by Gemma Fraser on 11 December 2018 in News

Teacher numbers have increased but unions argue this does not go far enough

Image credit: kasto

The crisis in teacher recruitment is “very real and very damaging” according to the EIS union – despite an increase in teacher numbers over the past year.

Scotland’s chief statistician has published figures which show an extra 447 teachers have been recruited in 2018.

But the EIS, Scotland’s largest teaching union, says an increase in pupils of 4,611 means the pupil-teacher ratios remain the same.

The new figures form part of the Summary Statistics for Schools in Scotland report - which also looks at early learning and school estates - revealing the pupil-teacher ratio remained the same as last year at 13.6, while the average class size for primary pupils was 23.5 – also the same as 2017.

There were 87 per cent of probationers in employment in 2018 – down one per cent on the previous year.

EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said: “Today’s teacher census figures provide further confirmation of the growing teacher recruitment and retention crisis.

“The Scottish Government lauds the fact that teacher numbers are now at their highest level since 2007, but we also have a large increase in the number of pupils in our schools which means that pupil-teacher ratios remain at an absolute standstill compared to last year.

“The Scottish Government also seems particularly keen to highlight teacher numbers and class size levels in primary, but has failed to gather or publish any equivalent data on secondary class sizes – where we know that significant recruitment difficulties continue.

“Even at the primary level, the data for the number of teachers employed is inflated by the inclusion of a growing number (962 FTE) of Pupil Equity Fund (PEF) funded teaching posts.

“These posts, valuable though they are, are short-term only and not guaranteed to be retained in future years.”

Teaching unions are campaigning for a ten per cent pay rise and have rejected the Scottish Government and COSLA’s offer of three per cent.

A new offer is expected to be made before Christmas, though it is unlikely to be the desired ten percent.

Flanagan added: “Overall, the recruitment and retention crisis in Scottish education remains very real, and very damaging. This must be addressed by enhancing teachers’ pay in order to attract new entrants and to retain experienced teachers at all grades.”

Despite the overall rise in teacher numbers, the statistics reveal an 11 per cent drop in the number of teachers working in early years over the past year, from 921 to 821.

The Scottish Government has pledged to increase the provision of free early learning and childcare provision to 1140 hours per year by 2020.

It is estimated that up to 11,000 additional workers (up to 9,000 full time equivalents) are required to fulfil this pledge.

Education Secretary John Swinney said: "Teacher levels are the highest in a decade and the number of primary teachers is the highest since 1980.

“The average size of primary one classes has been dropping consistently in recent years, which is particularly important as helping children in the early years is crucial if we are to close the attainment gap between the most and least deprived.”

But the Scottish Liberal Democrats say more needs to be done to reduce class sizes.

The party’s education spokesman Tavish Scott said: “The SNP came to power telling people that P1-P3 pupils would be in small classes.

“More than a decade on and this is being achieved for just 12 per cent of classes across Scottish primary schools.

“The Scottish Government maintains this is an ‘aspiration’ but has failed 150,000 young children this year alone.

“Meanwhile, the average class size remains at a record high.”

With reference to the school estate, the report shows that 86.6 per cent of schools were considered to be in a ‘good’ or ‘satisfactory’ condition in 2018, while 13.2 per cent were deemed to be in a ‘poor’ condition.

 

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