Scottish Government’s head teacher recruitment under fire

News 02/09/08 Scottish Conservative MSP Liz Smith
News 02/09/08 Scottish Conservative MSP Liz Smith

The Scottish Government’s record for head teacher recruitment has been criticised by the Scottish Conservatives, calling it “very worrying”.

Figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request found that, as of 30th June, there were 51 primary school head teacher vacancies across the country.

The numbers for Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire were said to be “particularly worrying”, with 16 empty posts as of the same date.

Scottish Conservative Liz Smith MSP, a member of the Education and Culture Committee, said the government has broken their word on the issue.

“The SNP has continually made bold promises about education over the last eight years, whether on class sizes, pupil/teacher ratios, teacher numbers and ensuring there are sufficient heads for all our schools.

“They are failing on all counts and these statistics lay bare the extent of the problem.”

She added, “There is a very significant problem with recruiting sufficient teachers and serious questions must be asked.”

Aberdeenshire Council admitted there are problems with recruitment, but that there are solutions in place.

SNP councillor for Fraserburgh, Charles Buchan, said, “We are having difficulties, but we are making great efforts.

“We have started offerings such as Golden Hellos, a cash sum incentive”

Buchan, the vice chair of the Education Learning and Leisure Committee, said the council is working towards full recruitment.

“We would like to be completely staffed with every post filled before the end of the summer break.

“We are working with the Scottish Government, who provide quite a generous ring fenced sum of money.”

He added that Aberdeenshire has one of the country’s “fastest growing populations, which is an issue for pupil/teacher ratios”.

The council started the Distance Learning Initial Teacher Education (Dlite) programme in 2014. Dlite is an 18 month course, in conjunction with the University of Aberdeen, to encourage Aberdeenshire Council staff to move into teaching.

The first run has seen 15 members of staff become qualified to teach, with 13 enrolled in the current phase that ends in June 2016.

Craig Clement, Head of Education for Resources and Performance, also highlighted the council’s endeavours.

He said, “From targeted advertising and providing advice on housing, we are making concerted efforts to recruit more teaching staff to live and work in Aberdeenshire.

“To help new teachers in their new job and location, as a pilot scheme, we will provide an up front payment of £5000 for external teaching appointments.

“Teaching is a rewarding career and I encourage people to get in touch to find out more about teaching in Aberdeenshire.”

MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coat Stewart Stevenson, said that the Tories have to accept a share of the blame.

“It is the responsibility of the local authority to employ head teachers, which was until recently a Conservative led administration.

He added, “Aberdeenshire Council now have in place a range of new measures to attract teachers to work and live in the area and that almost 200 probationary and fully qualified teachers have been recruited to commence teaching at the start of term.”