Teaching Bursaries (Unused Funds)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 29 February 2024.

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Photo of Mark Griffin Mark Griffin Labour

2. To ask the Scottish Government to where within the education budget it reallocated any unused funds for teaching bursaries in 2023-24. (S6O-03135)

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

To manage emerging in-year budgetary pressures, transfers are made between various budget lines through budget revisions. The transfers are managed collectively across all budget lines and it is not possible to attribute an individual reduction in one budget line to an increase in another. However, in general, those transfers are used to manage wider pressures across portfolios, including things such as pay. All budget revisions are reported collectively to Parliament through the autumn and spring budget revisions.

Photo of Mark Griffin Mark Griffin Labour

I think that we can agree that the current pressure-cooker environment in our classrooms, and in particular the rise in violence and aggression, is driving teachers out of the profession and making those who would have considered entering it think again. What action is the Government taking to challenge such classroom environments? Will the Government commit to redistributing any of the unused bursaries from this year to promote teaching as an attractive profession, particularly for people with skills in computing, modern languages, and science, technology and engineering and mathematics subjects, for which recruitment targets have been missed?

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

We introduced teaching bursaries back in 2017-18. That scheme provides a £20,000 bursary payment to individual career changers for their initial teacher education. Originally it was to cover teacher training only in STEM subjects, but in the past year we broadened that to include Gaelic.

The budget was reduced in the past year due to reduced demand, but the member raises a general point about how we can make teaching an attractive profession. One of the positives in Scotland is that we have the highest-paid teachers in the United Kingdom, and there are other positives in the Scottish education system.

The member has spoken of some of the current challenges in our classrooms, and I am well-sighted on those specific challenges. However, we need to make teaching an attractive career, which is why we invest in the teaching bursary scheme. It is also why we provide funding around the preferential waiver payment, which allows people to tick a box and go anywhere throughout Scotland to teach and be awarded an additional £8,000. We are also protecting teacher numbers by putting an additional £145 million in this year’s budget to protect the number of teachers and support staff at local level.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I can take a supplementary question from Kenneth Gibson, as long as it is brief and the response is likewise.

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

A decade and a half of Labour, coalition and Tory UK Government austerity has impacted across the Scottish budget. What impact has that had specifically on education? How is the Government working to support the teaching profession in such a challenging financial climate?

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

The member is right. Undoubtedly, we have less money in the Scottish Government this financial year because of decisions that are taken elsewhere. Despite that, we have been able to protect the education and skills budget. It will grow to more than £4.8 billion, which includes funding to protect teacher numbers, as I intimated in my response to the previous question. That is a testament to the value that this Government places on education.