Specialist Teachers

Question Time — Scottish Executive — General Questions – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:41 am on 9th March 2006.

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Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green 11:41 am, 9th March 2006

To ask the Scottish Executive how many full-time equivalent specialist teachers were employed in primary schools in 2000 and 2005. (S2O-9258)

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

The only available figures are for 2003, when 2,218 specialist teachers were employed and for 2004, when the figure had increased to 2,262.

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green

Surely the minister must accept that that is still a very low figure, given the number of primary schools in Scotland and the contribution that those teachers make? Does he agree that the contribution of full-time equivalent specialist teachers, whose work is much appreciated by the children and staff in all our primary schools, is vital to the delivery of a rounded and holistic education that develops the skills of all children? Does he also agree that those services are too often the first to be cut? Finally, does the Executive have a policy on specialist services to primary schools and, if not, why not?

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

Several points arise from the questions. On the first point about the figure being low, I agree that it needs to increase, which is why we have committed ourselves to providing an extra 1,000 specialist teachers who will move between secondary and primary schools. They will be employed centrally and will move out to visit schools in rural areas and elsewhere. We are on the move on that and we are increasing the number as part of the major commitment that we made to increase our teacher numbers to 53,000. Our universities are bulging at the seams with new students. That will help to fulfil that commitment.

I also agree that those teachers are a vital part of our education system. We are very clear that we want to see an increase in the number of visiting teachers because of the impacts that they make on young people. We are seeing a gradual improvement in that in the cluster arrangements and learning-community arrangements that we have put in place between the primary and secondary schools in our cities. Under those arrangements, secondary science and modern-languages teachers will move down to help in primary schools. That is happening in addition to the work that traditional visiting teachers undertake.

Robin Harper also queries whether local authorities are reducing the number of visiting teachers. That is something that I would very much regret because it would mean that authorities were heading in exactly the opposite direction to the one that the Executive wants them to take. Such action is not what we are funding, which is an increase in the number of our teachers.