Scotland

Government funds 371 new teacher training places

Classroom
Image caption The Scottish government said the number of training places available would rise by 371 to 3,861

Hundreds more teacher training places are to be made available at Scottish universities from September.

Education Secretary John Swinney said the number of places would rise by 371 to a total of 3,861 at the start of the next academic year.

Mr Swinney said the places would be funded by more than £3m of Scottish government cash.

The announcement follows criticism from political opponents over falling standards in Scotland's schools.

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson claimed on Monday that ministers had been "asleep at the wheel on education" and that "constitutional division had taken precedence over education reform".

Teacher vacancies

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has pressed the first minister on falling teacher numbers, claiming schools had lost 4,000 teaching staff since the SNP came to power in 2007, including 826 science and maths teachers.

Figures from August last year showed there were more than 500 teacher vacancies in Scotland.

A new teacher recruitment campaign, launched by the government last week, aims to attract more teachers to science, technology, engineering and maths - the so-called Stem subjects.

Mr Swinney said: "To give all our young people the best opportunity of success, we need to have the right number of skilled teachers in our schools.

"That is why we worked with local authorities to increase teacher numbers this year, with an additional 253 teachers in Scottish classrooms, and are upping student places for the sixth consecutive year.

"We know our student teacher targets are stretching, which is why we are supporting universities to meet them through our new teacher recruitment campaign and £1m from the Scottish Attainment Fund to develop new routes into the profession."

Mr Swinney said that some councils had faced "challenges" with teacher recruitment.

However, he added: "Today's announcement is a further demonstration of the action this government is taking to help attract more people into teaching and widen the pool of available talent."

Oil and gas

Mr Swinney announced the extra places in a speech at the Aberdeen Learning Festival, where he also urged former oil and gas workers to consider a career in teaching.

The education secretary said the focus on Stem subjects meant applications from people with skills and experience in the oil and gas sector would be welcomed.

"We have already supported 12 oil and gas workers retrain for a new career in teaching through our transition training fund and we are considering how this support might continue in future," he said.

Scottish Labour's education spokesman welcomed the announcement but said it "doesn't begin to address the consequences of the SNP's decade of underfunding education".

New tax powers

He said: "Figures released this week revealed a fall of nearly 15% in newly-qualified primary teachers. There are 4,000 fewer teachers since the SNP came into office and 1,000 fewer support staff in our classrooms and a recruitment crisis in key subjects like maths and physics.

"The SNP-Green budget means that Nationalists will have cut £1.5bn from councils since 2011. Schools are still struggling to deal with the problems John Swinney created with his own cuts when he was in charge of Scotland's public spending.

"That will just divide Scotland further. Labour believes that together we're stronger, which is why we want to use the new tax powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts and invest in education instead."

Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said: "This will be welcome news for Scotland's teaching profession which has had to bear the full brunt of the SNP's successive cuts to teacher numbers since 2007.

"It has been abundantly clear for some time that Scotland has too few professionally-trained teachers particularly in some core subject areas and we know that several local authorities have found it impossible to fill key vacancies with the obvious costs to education in the classroom.

"The key test is not only the provision of more teacher training places but an improvement in the employment rates for newly-qualified teachers.

"Scotland cannot afford to lose its talented pool of teacher trainees nor can it allow the SNP to fail again in its workforce planning."

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