Staff sickness intensifies Fife teacher shortage

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Fife’s teaching crisis has been laid bare as soaring vacancy numbers combine with an increase in staff sickness.

The double whammy comes at a time of rising school rolls and a severe shortage of supply teachers, leaving the region’s education officials with a huge headache.

A higher than expected number of teachers going off on maternity leave has added to the problem.

In a bid to relieve the situation some head teachers and depute heads have been drafted back to the classroom to ensure children are given an education and part-time staff are being urged to work additional hours.

Former heads and depute heads have also been persuaded to return to the chalkface on the supply list.

Head of education Shelagh McLean said the council was doing everything in its power to address the issue, including trying to attract graduates from universities in Ireland.

She spoke out following revelations that 259 teaching posts are currently unfilled in Fife, many of them in science, computing and maths.

A number of schools have not been fully staffed since the summer and some pupils have not had an English teacher this term.

More than £680,000 has been spent covering long term teacher absence this year, along with £1.7 million on maternity pay.

At the same time, school rolls have increased by 645 pupils across the primary and secondary sector and the rise is expected to continue.

Ms McLean said: “We are getting a sense there are schools that are struggling.

“We are working with them to manage that in the best way possible.

“We are trying to put in staffing so that children are being taught by a teacher but there is an issue out there with the number of vacancies that we have.”

She added: “We’ve been working with universities in Ireland and we’ve had some teachers through in the last few weeks finishing their training and being interviewed while they’re here.

“We’re doing a lot to help the situation but that won’t resolve it in the long term.”

Stating Fife Council was continuing to put pressure on the Scottish Government and the General Teaching Council, Ms McLean said: “Science, business management and computing are all areas where we have shortages and we have not been able to recruit in the numbers we would have hoped.

“It’s an ongoing problem and I do think we need a national programme to look at what we can do to promote the profession.”

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