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17 February 2015

(S4T-00943) Teacher Numbers

1. George Adam (Paisley) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what steps it is taking to provide councils with resources to maintain teacher numbers. (S4T-00943)

The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning (Angela Constance): The Government provides councils, through the local government finance settlement, with £37.6 million to fund the teacher induction scheme and £41 million to support the commitment to maintain teacher numbers.

The Deputy First Minister wrote to all local authorities on 5 February asking them individually to commit to maintain their pupil teacher ratio and the numbers of teachers that they employ. In return for meeting that commitment, the Government will provide councils with their share of the £41 million, plus a share of an additional £10 million.

George Adam: Given the resources available to councils that commit to maintaining teacher numbers and the fact that the Scottish Government has offered to suspend the penalty that it was entitled to apply as a result of last year’s fall in teacher numbers, does the cabinet secretary agree with Larry Flanagan, the general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland? He said:

“The fact that COSLA”—

the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities—

“is continuing to resist a national agreement, including the offer of significant new money, is extremely disappointing.”

Angela Constance: Yes, it is indeed disappointing that COSLA found itself unable to accept the original offer. That fair and generous offer has now been made to all local authorities; I encourage them to accept it.

It is important to recognise that the maintenance of teacher numbers is also a condition of the tripartite pay agreement. Teachers unions have accepted changes to their members’ terms and conditions on the basis that teacher numbers will be maintained.

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): Given the unacceptable teacher vacancy numbers in Moray, will the cabinet secretary advise what contact is being made with the council to establish why that situation has arisen and to ensure that it is taking proper steps to address the deficiency?

Angela Constance: A number of actions can be taken and are being pursued at local and national level. I have had meetings with Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council, and I have been in touch with members who represent the Moray area.

It is true that in some areas of the country there are teacher shortages, particularly in certain subjects. The Scottish Government has an overall responsibility for national workforce planning; local authorities have duties to employ and recruit teachers.

A number of actions are being taken. At a national level, for example, for the fourth year in a row we have increased the number of students going into initial teacher training. The increase has been disproportionately geared towards the University of Aberdeen, the University of Dundee and the University of the Highlands and Islands to help those geographical areas where there are shortages. At local level, as I know from my discussions, councils are using the flexibility of financial incentives and programmes such as the distance learning initial teacher education initiative, which the Government funds, to train up classroom assistants.

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