We have taken substantive action to recruit and retain teachers through the teaching makes people campaign, and we have created new routes into the profession. There are now more primary and secondary teachers than at any time since 2014, and the ratio of pupils to teachers is at its lowest since 2013. We also provide funding of £88 million per year to support councils to maintain teacher numbers. That has resulted in 543 more teachers in 2017 than in the previous year, which was the second consecutive year in which teacher numbers increased.
When I lodged my question, I intended to ask about the hundreds of teaching posts in the north-east that had to be readvertised because of the Scottish National Party’s chaotic workforce planning.
Press and Journal revealed yesterday the unbelievable pressure on teaching assistants and the 21,000 teaching hours that are lost because of stress, depression and anxiety. Given those shocking figures, it is hardly surprising that schools in the north-east cannot recruit enough teachers to give children the education that they deserve. Does the cabinet secretary acknowledge that my local schools are at breaking point, and will he finally do something about it?
As I recounted in my earlier answer to Mr Kerr, the Government has taken action in that regard through the campaign to recruit more teachers into the profession. The campaign has been successful, because we have 543 more teachers in our schools in 2017 than in the previous year.
Mr Kerr refers to vacancies in schools. A vacancy survey will be published shortly, so we will see what progress—if any—has been made in tackling vacancies. We will also see shortly whether any further progress has been made on the employment of teachers. Mr Kerr can obviously come back and ask questions about those issues when the up-to-date information is to hand. I assure him that, by designing new routes into teaching, promoting the profession and setting out the strength of Scottish education, we are encouraging more individuals to join the profession, as the data that I have set out demonstrates.
Teachers are very clear that the only action that will address the teacher recruitment problem is a restorative pay increase for our teachers. Why, then, has the Deputy First Minister not ensured that an improved offer has been brought forward since the existing offer was overwhelmingly rejected?
We are in active negotiations with the teaching professional associations, and there was a meeting on Monday of the Scottish negotiating committee for teachers. We work closely with our local authority colleagues in the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities who are discussing the offer that can be made to the teaching profession. When we are in a position to make an offer to the teaching profession, it will be undertaken as part of the SNCT process, in which the offer will be properly offered by the employers, who are COSLA, not me.