Fife is facing a teacher numbers “crisis” because of difficulty recruiting people to run primary school classrooms, it has been claimed.
Cowdenbeath MSP Alex Rowley has written to Deputy First Minister John Swinney to express his concern, after it emerged there has been a 20% drop in applications this year compared to 2014.
In his letter, Labour’s local government spokesman said the last teacher ratio census showed Fife Council was 83 teachers short of the numbers required by the Scottish Government. He wrote: “This was not because they were trying to save money and had not recruited teachers, but was because they are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit teachers.
“They are not alone and we are seeing many of Scotland’s 32 authorities say they are having problems recruiting teachers in subjects that are needed as well as in primary education.
“Indeed it is being suggested to me that we are reaching crisis point in the primary education sector for recruiting teachers and the age profile of the teaching profession means even more pressure on numbers.”
Mr Rowley added: “Would you not agree that to punish financially local councils and ultimately school pupils in any local authority area for the failure of your government to put in place the correct planning to make available the correct level of teachers needed to work in our schools and deliver the national curriculum is, at best, unreasonable and, at worst, a complete dereliction of your duty as a government and takes the term passing the buck to a new level?”
The Scottish Budget passed by Holyrood last month includes an extra £51 million to help local authorities maintain teacher numbers, although it includes the ability to claw back money from those who do not comply.
The funding is being made available after a drop in teaching staff last year, while the ratio of pupils to teachers in Scotland’s classrooms increased slightly.
During a Holyrood debate, Mr Swinney replied to Mr Rowley: “The education secretary is heavily involved in tripartite discussions about workforce planning between the local authorities, the trade unions and the government.
“The Government has always followed whatever recommendations have come out of those tripartite discussions. I appreciate the issues that Mr Rowley fairly raises on behalf of local authorities, and the education secretary will of course be engaged on all those points.”