Fears over impact of secondary school staffing “crisis”

Fears have been expressed over a shortage of secondary school teachers, but Angus Council denies there is a "crisis".
Fears have been expressed over a shortage of secondary school teachers, but Angus Council denies there is a "crisis".

David May, an elected member for Montrose, has said that the county is in the throes of a staffing crisis, the blame for which he has laid at the Scottish Government’s door.

Mr May, himself a former head teacher, said that with the education service 16 subject teachers short across the county, service delivery must be affected.

His comments followed an update at Angus Council’s children and learning committee on the current staffing situation.

Pauline Stephen, head of schools and learning, said in her report that the advertising of vacancies is continuing and five primary school teachers were appointed in December.

She continued: “These teachers took up posts in Montrose, Forfar, Monifieth and Arbroath in January, 2016. A national advert is highlighting four current head teacher vacancies in Arbroath High, Southesk Primary School, Lochside Primary School and Tealing Primary School.

“A recent staffing exercise has been conducted in all eight secondary schools and the vacancies reflect current and future required staff. In secondary, there are particular vacancies in discrete subject areas most notably in technological education. These posts have attracted very few applications, which is consistent with the acute national shortage in these subjects.

“We continue to advertise widely using a range of media channels.”

Forfar Academy has the highest number of vacancies with six, neither Brechin High School or Webster’s High in Kirriemuir have vacancies, Montrose Academy and Carnoustie High School have one each, Monifieth High School has two, Arbroath Academy has two and Arbroath High School has three posts vacant.

While commending the director’s and department’s efforts to fill the vacancies, which have helped to address the shortfall in primary education, Mr May said continuing long-term shortages “are a major problem.”

He said:“I am really concerned about this long-term shortage of subject teachers and how the curriculum can be covered, and the effect this will have on pupils’ attainment. Head teachers are bound to use their qualified subject staff on the certificate classes so that years one to three in secondary will suffer as they will not get the much-needed grounding in the subject so their grades in future will be affected.

“Shortages in subject teachers are also bound to mean that young people in these schools will have less choice of subjects in fourth, fifth and sixth year and I have already heard that some courses might not be offered next year as there may not be enough subject teachers.”

He added that there are currently two teachers short in Maths, three in technical and one in science while there are also vacancies in business studies, additional support needs, history, home economics, modern languages and computing.

Mr May continued: “The SNP national policy of insisting on retaining teacher numbers even when the roll in an authority is falling has quite obviously contributed to the lack of teachers being available to our schools in Angus.

“This has meant there is less movement between authorities than could have taken place and made teacher recruitment for us very difficult.

“The cut in the pay for supply teachers imposed by the Scottish Government has, in the view of many staff, meant it is not worthwhile financially to do supply teaching. This is especially true as we are a rural authority and costs of travel have to be taken into account by potential supply teachers.

“Furthermore, the Scottish Government has not recruited enough teachers overall, as this crisis applies throughout Scotland and not only with us.

Councillor Sheen Welsh, education convener, challenged Mr May’s assertion that Angus is facing a crisis and said that in percentage terms the shortfall is small.

She said: “I responded in full to Councillor May’s claims at Children and Learning Committee this week. I made it abundantly clear that a staffing shortage of sixteen teachers over our eight secondary schools does not constitute a staffing ‘crisis’.

“We have a staffing complement of nearly 550 secondary teachers and a shortfall of less than three per cent. However we will continue to strive to fill all vacancies.”