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£30million spent on supply teachers as councils struggle with 187 vacancies

Education convener Angela Taylor outside Hanover School (Picture: Kenny Elrick)
Education convener Angela Taylor outside Hanover School (Picture: Kenny Elrick)

Cash-strapped councils in the north-east have spent more than £30million in three years on supply teachers.

Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City councils have been left with the bill due the ongoing struggle to attract staff to the region.

The most up-to-date figures reveal that across both authority areas, there are a total of 187 vacancies.

Of those, 39 are for head teacher roles – with primary school roles proving the hardest to fill.

And last night, city council leader Jenny Laing claimed the Scottish Government’s controversial named person act could be putting prospective heads off the post – as it creates more responsibility for little financial benefit.

Exclusive figures reveal that Aberdeenshire Council has spent a huge £24.4million on supply teachers since 2012.

The authority currently has vacancies for 53 primary teaching roles and 10 for secondary teachers. There are a further 28 primary and two secondary head vacancies.

Aberdeen City Council spent a total of £6.5million during that same period, although the sum each year – for both authorities – is falling.

There are currently nine vacancies for head teachers in the city, as well as 44 primary, 29 secondary and 12 additional support need teaching roles.

Craig Clement, head of education for resources and performance at Aberdeenshire Council, insisted their recent recruitment targets were being met.

He said: “Teacher recruitment is an ongoing challenge for rural authorities like Aberdeenshire and over the years we’ve developed a number of tools to ensure we have suitable staffing numbers in our schools.

“We make use of targeted advertising and provide a range of support to those considering moving to the area to further their careers, as well as promoting the excellent quality of life Aberdeenshire is known for.

“We were pleased to meet our teacher number targets for 2015 and efforts will continue to place a dedicated focus on filling vacancies as they arise.”

Councillor Angela Taylor, the convener of Aberdeen City Council’s education committee, said it was important to ensure vacancies did not affect pupils.

She said: “It is widely accepted that recruitment of teachers continues to be challenging in Aberdeen, and across the north of Scotland.

“We continue to recruit teaching staff to work in Aberdeen by using a range of approaches such as incentives, assistance with accommodation, wider advertising campaigns here and abroad, and recruiting from a broader range of potential candidates.

“The priority for all of us is to ensure that teacher vacancies do not impact on our children’s education.”

Greg Dempster, general secretary of the Association Of Head Teachers and Deputes In Scotland, said: “The problem has been going on for a number of years and it relates to the fact pay is not sufficiently higher, for head teachers and staff shortages elsewhere mean they have to spend more time in the classroom.”

An emergency summit was held to address the recruitment crisis in the north-east in the Aberdeen last year where representatives from Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Moray, Highland, Western Isles, Orkney, Shetland and Argyll and Bute councils met to address the issue alongside education secretary Angela Constance.

At the time, Mrs Laing called for a “nationally supported” task force to come up with an action plan to deal with the teaching recruitment crisis as well as system of “weighting” in the region, where public sector workers would be paid an allowance to move to the area.

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