Classroom concerns highlighted

Last week I highlighted concern over falling teacher numbers during question time in the Parliament.

Scottish Government statistics show that between 2007 and 2011 the number of primary teachers in Edinburgh fell by 122 while numbers in Midlothian and East Lothian also fell at a rate above the national average.  Across Scotland there has been a reduction of 978 primary teachers since 2007.

These figures will be concerning to teachers currently undertaking their probationary year and who face an uncertain future in the jobs market.

Prior to the 2011 Scottish Parliament elections, the Scottish Government stated that they had reached agreement with local government to deliver sufficient teaching posts for all probationers who successfully complete their probation in summer 2011.

However, figures from the General Teaching Council for Scotland show that the number of post-probation teachers able to find full time permanent work fell from just over 40% in 2006-07 to just over 20% in 2009-10. Over the same period, the number of post-probation teachers not in work or on supply doubled to 16% and 25% respectively.

The increasing number of qualified teachers unable to find work is hugely disappointing.  Instead of putting their training to good use too many new teachers are being forced to turn away from the profession.

As well as falling teacher numbers, I also raised concerns over class sizes. During the last Parliament, the Scottish Government aimed to deliver class sizes of 18 or less in p1-3 and introduced a statutory maximum class size of 25 in p1.

Despite initial progress in Edinburgh, the percentage of p1-3 pupils in classes of 18 or less is currently 15.3%, a fall from the high-water mark of 16.5% in 2010.  Meanwhile, over 50 primary 1-3 classes in the city currently have 30 or more pupils.  Across Scotland, the percentage of p1-3 pupils in classes of 18 or less has also fallen in the last year.

Given these figures I was disappointed that the Minister dismissed my concerns, and those expressed to me by constituents.