Unemployed Teachers

– in the Scottish Parliament on 11th November 2021.

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Photo of Alex Cole-Hamilton Alex Cole-Hamilton Liberal Democrat

1. To ask the Scottish Government how many unemployed teachers there currently are in Scotland. (S6O-00353)

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

We are firmly of the view that we will need all possible teaching resources at our disposal to compensate for any loss of learning suffered since the start of the pandemic, as well as to bring much-needed resilience to the education system at this challenging time.

Since the start of the pandemic, we have provided £240 million of additional investment specifically for the recruitment of more education staff. In addition to that funding, we are providing local authorities with permanent funding of £145.5 million a year to support the recruitment of extra teachers on permanent contracts.

Photo of Alex Cole-Hamilton Alex Cole-Hamilton Liberal Democrat

The issue is still a major problem. In the past 24 hours, I have had a flood of complaints from newly qualified teachers. One was so desperate, she was spending £400 a month travelling from Edinburgh to Glasgow for a teaching job. Another had retrained to become a teacher but is now back with her former employer. One said:

“I’ve had enough. My mental health has been affected. My life is on hold until I get a permanent post but there are none for any of us.”

The education secretary’s complacency is crushing the careers of newly qualified teachers. When will she get this sorted?

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

As the member knows, responsibility for the recruitment of staff sits directly with local authorities and not with national Government. National Government’s responsibility is around funding, and I have just detailed the baselining of funding that we have provided to local authorities to ensure that they can recruit extra teachers on permanent contracts.

Figures published show that teacher numbers are increasing; indeed, they are doing so for the fifth year in a row. There are now more teachers than at any time since 2008 and the ratio of pupils to teachers is at its lowest since 2010. As I demonstrated in my first answer, we are undertaking firm action on the issue, and we will continue to support our valued teachers. As I said, we know that teachers’ skills and expertise are required to support our young people during this difficult time.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

There are a number of supplementary questions. I hope to get all of them in, so I ask for brief questions and answers if possible.

Photo of Evelyn Tweed Evelyn Tweed Scottish National Party

In a similar vein, I ask the Scottish Government for an update on progress on recruiting more teachers to Scotland’s schools.

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

The additional £240 million that I mentioned in my first answer to Alex Cole-Hamilton has already been provided and has supported the recruitment of more than 2,200 additional teachers and more than 500 support staff. The permanent funding of £145.5 million a year that we are providing to baseline local authority funds will allow the recruitment of even more additional teachers on permanent contracts. As I said in answer to Alex Cole-Hamilton, that means that we now have more teachers than at any time since 2008.

Photo of Oliver Mundell Oliver Mundell Conservative

Given the number of teachers looking for employment and the additional roles being created, does the cabinet secretary share my concern that Dumfries and Galloway Council are telling parents, particularly in smaller rural schools, that they may have to cut back on teacher numbers and strictly enforce ratios?

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

As I have said in my answers to two members, every council will be receiving additional funding from the Scottish Government. That includes Dumfries and Galloway Council, and I would encourage the council to ensure that the additional funding that has been baselined into a settlement is used to ensure that permanent staff are recruited.

Photo of Martin Whitfield Martin Whitfield Labour

I thank the minister for confirming that the 1,000 new teachers and the 500 pupil support assistants that were announced on 2 August have been employed. Out of that number, how many are qualified to work with children with additional support needs?

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

As the member knows, there are children with whom all teachers will work who have additional support needs. Particular arrangements are in place for them, and the Government is determined to ensure that we support children with additional support needs further in our work with our Scottish Green Party colleagues. I will keep Mr Whitfield up to date on the work that we are undertaking on that issue.

Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

It is truly astonishing that, after months of being asked, the education secretary still does not know how many unemployed teachers there are in this country. She is the education secretary—she should know the answer to that question and cannot simply pass the buck to councils. When will she get a grip of the situation and improve the careers of teachers, rather than crush them?

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

Again, I can only go through some of the figures that I have just detailed about the action that has been taken since I became Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, including the baselining of funding to ensure that permanent contracts are available. The matter is of course for local authorities. The national Government has provided funding to local government for those additional posts and we are determined to continue that work.

We have a commitment during this parliamentary session to the employment of at least 3,500 additional teachers on top of the additional 1,400 teachers that were recruited during the pandemic. The Government has taken and will continue to take action to support our teachers and young people.