Edinburgh teachers leader warns cash for extra staff 'not nearly enough' for Covid recovery and closing attainment gap
Extra funding to recruit over 100 new teachers and support staff in Edinburgh schools is "not nearly enough" to recover from the pandemic and close the attainment gap, a union leader has warned.
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An additional £50 million for local authorities across Scotland was announced by the Scottish Government earlier this week to pay for 1,000 extra teachers and 500 pupil support assistants (PSAs).
Now it has published the allocations for each authority. Edinburgh will receive £3,628,000 to recruit 73 additional teachers and 36 classroom assistants. East Lothian gets £1,042,000 for 21 new teachers and 10 PSAs; Midlothian £930,000 for 19 teachers and nine assistants; and West Lothian £1,919,000 for 38 teachers and 19 assistants.
But Alison Murphy, Edinburgh secretary for Scotland’s largest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), said more was needed to address the problems faced in schools.
She said: "Whilst all increases in staffing are welcomed, this is clearly a drop in the ocean.
"If we are serious about closing the attainment gap, and about long-term Covid recovery, then we need: meaningful reductions in class sizes, so that pupils can get the individualised attention they need; teachers to get more time for planning, preparation and assessment; more PSAs to support pupils with additional needs; and for those PSAs to have time for planning and training.
"None of this can happen without many more teachers and PSAs in all our schools. What's more, we need that funding to be permanent, so we can end the scandal of teachers unable to find secure employment, and being driven from the profession because of this.
"And we need to properly value our PSAs, both in terms of pay, and in their training and career progression.
"This recovery funding will help, but is not nearly enough. The EIS will continue to press both local and national government to ensure their rhetoric about education being a key priority becomes a reality.”
Callum Laidlaw, Tory education spokesman on the council, said: "So many of our schools are at full capacity, we’re struggling to deliver the range of subject choices that pupils and parents want – while any extra money is welcome, in a city like Edinburgh with huge demographic pressure, I’m not sure this will make a tangible difference.
"The figures for Edinburgh have shown the attainment gap between the richest and poorest pupils grow and Covid has exacerbated that, but what I think is important is making sure there is that full access to subject choice and teaching.
"What has made that gap grow is the fact pupils have been out of the classroom and pupils from less advantaged backgrounds don’t have the facilities at home even when technology is provided. I’m very ken to see a much broader curriculum offered across our schools and if we can recruit more teachers that helps but I don’t think that can be solved with the amounts of money we’re talking about here.”
Education convener Ian Perry said: "We know all teaching staff have been under enormous pressure during the pandemic and this extra funding is extremely welcome. I’m really pleased to say we can push forward and use this much-needed funding now so anyone interested should look out for adverts to recruit for around 70 teachers and approximately 30 PSAs in permanent roles shortly.”