SNP urged to consider incentives to bring teachers to Edinburgh

Seamus Searson said low salaries created problems for Edinburgh teachers. Photograph: Jon Savage
Seamus Searson said low salaries created problems for Edinburgh teachers. Photograph: Jon Savage
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Education Secretary John Swinney has been urged to consider introducing financial incentives to encourage teachers to work in Edinburgh in an attempt to solve the staffing shortages in the capital’s schools.

Union leaders and politicians have suggested something similar to the “London weighting” scheme which sees extra cash paid to public sector workers to compensate for the high cost of living there.

The call was made at the end of a week which saw the head teacher of Trinity Academy appeal for help from parents after failing to recruit two maths teachers.

Edinburgh may not be as expensive as London, but the cost of living in the Scottish capital is considerably more than elsewhere, with higher rents and property prices.

With Scotland facing a shortage of maths and science teachers, Councillor Iain Whyte, the leader of the Conservative group on Edinburgh City Council, suggested financial incentives could be used for teachers of certain subjects, but warned it would need Scottish Government funding.

“This is certainly something that could be looked into,” said Whyte.

“I am certainly happy that it is looked into as a possibility to get us round particular shortages – perhaps in particular fields of expertise and teaching specialities. But I would be very wary of a blanket policy because it might have unintended consequences.”

Whyte warned that such a policy would have to be looked at carefully, because it could create pressure for other public sector workers to be treated in the same way, which could build further inflation into house prices.

Seamus Searson, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, said low salaries of £22,000 for new teachers created challenges for those wanting to live in Edinburgh.

Asked about extra cash for Edinburgh teachers, Searson said: “They have the same thing in London – the inner London allowance, which depends on how close you are to the centre. That does help and you can’t argue with that. In London it is something like seven thousand pounds extra because of the cost of living there and I suppose Edinburgh is not that far behind, compared to other parts of Scotland.”

He suggested an accommodation allowance of around £1,000 could be looked at, although his ideal solution would be a pay rise across the board.

“I think it should be considered, but I think for that to work it is going to need a fair bit of investment.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Teacher recruitment is a matter for local authorities and we recognise that some challenges remain. We have taken decisive action to help recruit and retain teachers through our Teaching Makes People campaign, focusing specifically on attracting new teachers and career changers.”