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by Tom Freeman
10 December 2014
Teacher numbers drop “disappointing”

Teacher numbers drop “disappointing”

There are fewer teachers teaching more pupils in Scotland, new statistics show.

An increase in school students in Scotland has coincided with a drop in total teacher numbers, according to an annual report by the country’s chief statistician. The total full-time equivalent (FTE) number of teachers was 50,824, which is 254 fewer than the 2013 figure, while the numbers of pupils have gone up by 3,425 to 676,955.

The figures are largely due to the primary sector, which saw a 2.1 per cent increase in pupils while only a 0.5 per cent increase in teachers. However the number of children in early learning with access to a qualified teacher increased to 74.3 per cent from 72.8 per cent last year.

Education Secretary Angela Constance, visiting her former primary school in Midlothian this morning, said the increase in the pupil teacher ratio was “disappointing” but welcomed figures showing an increased satisfaction with conditions in schools.

“Everyone involved in education from the Scottish Government to the local councils want to see real progress made. We must redouble our efforts to accelerate improvements in attainment and to ensure that all young people have the opportunity to fulfil their potential,” she said.

Scottish Labour said the figures showed how much pressure the education system in Scotland is under. Education spokeswoman Kezia Dugdale said: "Our schools are creaking, our teachers are stressed, parents are anxious and pupils are suffering. Yet year after year the SNP sweep these issues under the carpet and pretend everything’s on the up.”

Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman Mary Scanlon said Constance had a "considerable mess" to clean up, after accusing her predecessor Michael Russell of "arrogantly dismissing" concerns for years. Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone said the figures illustrated the "impossible position" councils have been put in. "Local authorities have had their funding squeezed by Scottish ministers, while teachers are dealing with an increasing workload. We're also seeing councils considering options such as shorter school weeks to cope with budget pressures. Unless local government has the flexibility to properly invest in education there's a risk we cannot provide our children with the high quality learning experience they deserve," she said.

Today’s figures also show probationers are now more likely to secure permanent or temporary positions after their year-long training post. In 2009 only 57 per cent of probationers managed to get further employment, but the figure has increased to 80 per cent in 2014. This is partly because student teacher numbers were greatly reduced in 2010 and 2011.

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