The Scottish Government’s teaching makes people campaign was launched in February 2017 and has led to almost 3,500 people attending teaching makes people events and more than 42,000 visits to the website. Campaign tracking showed a 21 per cent increase in those considering applying for a postgraduate diploma in education, and that 40 per cent of people who had seen the campaign took action, such as seeking advice on a career in teaching. A further phase of campaign activity was completed at the end of February and is currently being evaluated.
Information received from universities on recruitment into initial teacher education showed a 7.5 per cent increase in student teacher numbers, from 3,591 in 2016 to 3,861 in 2017. The number of teachers in Scotland rose by 543 in 2017, and that included a rise here in Edinburgh, where we have seen a rise in the number of teachers for the third year in a row.
Last week, I was contacted by Gail Morrison, who is a constituent of mine with a son at Queensferry high school. She told me that the computing science teacher left last month and has not been replaced and, as she was the only such teacher at the school, all computing classes are currently going without. The measures that have been adopted by the school include pupils following a set of PowerPoint lesson plans under the supervision of a history teacher. Will the cabinet secretary explain to Gail how he expects pupils to attain vital qualifications if there is nobody there to explain coursework to them when they get stuck?
I am the first to acknowledge the challenges that we face in the recruitment of individual teachers into particular subjects across the country, and I have done so on a number of occasions. There are acute challenges in the STEM—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—subjects. For that reason, the Government has taken steps to increase the number of STEM teachers who are recruited into our education system. On 8 October, I announced the creation of a scheme for STEM bursaries to enable individuals to access £20,000 of funding to make a career switch from existing activities into teaching. I am pleased to tell Parliament that applications for the STEM bursary will be available to be completed from 3 April. The scheme will be available to individuals in order to fill some of the vacancies that Mr Cole-Hamilton mentioned.
A number of steps are being taken. There are the STEM bursaries that I have just referred to, which open up opportunities for individuals to enter the teaching profession. We have expanded the number of available places for individuals to gain access to initial teacher education. More than 4,000 places were available for the current academic year. As a consequence of the new routes into teaching that the Government has established, more than 250 candidates have been recruited into initial teacher education who would not otherwise have been able to gain access.
Mr Carson is correct that the Government is opening up opportunities for particular rural areas through a partnership between the University of the Highlands and Islands and the University of Dundee to take steps to attract more STEM teachers. That will assist the general flow of teachers into the teaching profession as a consequence of the steps that the Government has taken.