I launched a recruitment campaign last September to encourage more people to become teachers. In January, I announced an additional £2 million to increase the number of teacher training places by 260 this year, taking the total to 3,490. The 2016-17 total is 66 per cent higher than the 2011-12 target. We have supported a number of innovative schemes with a view to attracting people who might not otherwise have come into teaching, and we are working to help local authorities meet some of the particular and localised challenges that they face in recruitment.
Is the cabinet secretary aware of the excellent initiative between Heriot-Watt University and the University of Stirling to provide teacher training places at Stirling for science, technology, engineering and mathematics graduates who come from Heriot-Watt? It is an innovative practice. What other innovative schemes like that are in place to help meet the need for more teachers?
I very much welcome the proposed collaboration between the University of Stirling and Heriot-Watt University, which has seen STEM undergraduates training to become teachers. It is a welcome initiative and the Government has worked closely with the two universities to help to develop the proposal.
We have been working with a range of partners to develop other new routes into teaching. For example, we have supported the development of the University of Aberdeen’s part-time distance learning initial teacher education primary programme, which allows local authorities in the north and north-east to have existing members of staff trained as teachers while they are still working. We also support a similar programme that the University of Dundee delivers in partnership with Perth and Kinross Council and Angus Council, in which members of staff study on a part-time distance learning basis while continuing to work for the local authority. The University of the West of Scotland has a similar initiative with Dumfries and Galloway Council, although in that instance members of staff study on a full-time basis while the council continues to pay the trainee teachers’ salaries during their training.
The cabinet secretary will know that paragraph 18 in the recommendations of the Silver report, which was published this week, describes concerns about access to teachers for those pupils who are studying some higher and advanced higher courses. What is the Scottish Government doing to address those concerns?
As Ms Smith is probably aware, we very much welcome Dame Ruth Silver’s comprehensive and bold report. We are studying all the recommendations, but the point that is made in the report—and by Ms Smith, if I understand her correctly—is that diversity in the teaching workforce is important. In the same way that there are endeavours to widen access into the medical profession, we must take on that challenge in teacher education.
One particular area of difficulty is in recruiting physics teachers. Those who enter teacher training to teach physics in England are eligible for a £25,000 bursary that is administered by the Institute of Physics but funded by the Government. Has the Scottish Government considered replicating that scheme, and why has it decided not to do so?
I can reassure Mr Gray that we are aware of that scheme and that we have looked at it. The bursary of £25,000 is available to some graduates, but it is not universally available to all physics graduates who wish to pursue a teaching career. We have looked closely at the evidence, and I suggest that it is less than conclusive. My understanding is that, south of the border, there has been an attempt to roll back from the scheme. However, we are always open-minded and we will scrutinise it closely.