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North-east council wanted 49 new secondary teachers but is getting only half

Laurence Findlay, director of education and children's services at Aberdeenshire Council has shared the recruitment challenges they face.
Laurence Findlay, director of education and children's services at Aberdeenshire Council has shared the recruitment challenges they face.

The struggle to attract teachers for key subjects in rural areas has been exposed after Aberdeenshire schools chiefs managed to secure just two of the 11 newly-qualified maths teachers it needs to recruit.

The local authority requested a wider total of 49 newly qualified secondary teachers for the new term starting in August but received only 25 – around half of what it asked for.

Education director Laurence Findlay admitted the council is “really struggling” to hire teachers in a “number of subject areas”.

The majority of teaching vacancies tend to be in Banff and Buchan but there are shortages across the region in maths, home economics and technical.

By contrast, the education boss said “other parts of the country” have received more new teaching graduates then they need, which he described as “frustrating”.

Where there are vacancies schools will do all they can to get supply teachers, but this can be challenging in some subject areas.

Speaking to councillors on the Marr Area Committee in a meeting last week, Mr Findlay warned the council has not received the allocation of newly-qualified teachers it wanted this year.

He continued: “Anecdotal evidence would suggest that other parts of the country have been given surplus newly qualified teachers that they don’t need, which is really quite frustrating.

“So we are applying a fair bit of pressure and … we’re asking that the system for allocating newly qualified teachers is reviewed and we think that’s required quite urgently.”

The Scottish Government says local councils have the powers to provide incentives to attract graduates to their regions and that it is “ultimately a decision for teachers where they decide to work”.

Calls for education secretary to act

The admission from the education chief prompted north-east Conservative MSP Douglas Lumsden to lobby Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville for “new ideas” to reduce vacancies.

He said: “It’s not just teacher numbers we are talking about. It’s the lives and outcomes of the children and young people who might not see the same teacher from week to week because of recruitment issues.

“We need new ideas to help stimulate an equitable share of teachers around Scotland to address where our young people need them most.”

North-east MSP Douglas Lumsden.

The first minister was then asked about the issue at First Minister’s Questions.

In her response, she said it was up to teachers were they wanted to work.

She said:”We will continue to work with local authorities to ensure teacher recruitment is supported.

“Ultimately it is a decision for teachers where they decide to work – no minister can dictate this.”

The north-east, in common with other rural areas across Scotland, has long struggled in recruiting teachers.

Wider concern for rural Scotland

Moray councillors agreed last week that newly-qualified teacher jobs in Moray that cannot be filled could be offered as full-time permanent posts. 

The local authority agreed extra education funding from the Scottish Government should be used to apply for new secondary school teachers.

Of the 18 second roles asked for, seven were not filled.

It comes as Nicola Sturgeon is accused of “central belt bias” after new research revealed the education gap between urban areas and the rural north had doubled.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. 

The Times revealed that in Greater Glasgow 47% of pupils achieved the “gold standard” of five Highers, compared with 39% in the Highlands, Islands and Grampian.

‘Ultimately a decision for teachers’

Since the start of the pandemic, the Scottish Government has committed £240 million of additional investment, specifically for the recruitment of more education staff and a further £145.5m of permanent funding from April 2022.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Local authorities are responsible for the recruitment and deployment of their staff, and have the autonomy to provide incentives to attract teachers to their area and we know some have offered initiatives like free housing for an extended period.

“Probationer teachers choose five local authorities where they are willing to work to complete their probation year, and are allocated a place balancing their choice with local need.

Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville.

“It is ultimately a decision for teachers where they decide to work and ministers cannot dictate this.

“The Scottish Government will continue to do everything we can to help them maximise the number of jobs available for teachers, including permanent posts.

“We are offering 150 bursaries of £20,000 for career changers to do teacher training in STEM subjects where the demand for teachers is at its greatest.  Maths is one of these subjects.”

“A new phase of our teacher recruitment campaign is about to commence. The campaign aims to encourage students and career changers to apply for a teacher education course, with a particular focus on STEM subjects.”

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