Students drafted in to help solve maths crisis at Edinburgh school

Trinity Academy in Edinburgh. Picture: Jon Savage
Trinity Academy in Edinburgh. Picture: Jon Savage
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University students are being drafted in to help teach maths at an Edinburgh secondary school after a job advertisement to fill two vacancies failed to find anyone suitable for interview.

A Freedom of Information request by the Evening News reveals that Trinity Academy – whose maths teaching crisis led to angry exchanges between First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson at First Ministers Questions in the Scottish Parliament – received fewer than five applications.

Larry Flanagan

Larry Flanagan

It also showed none of the applicants “fulfilled the criteria looked for, in one or two areas”.

In the meantime, the school has implemented a range of measures including using third year maths students from the University of Edinburgh to teach S2 and National 5 level pupils, getting specialist external help when obtainable, and using non-specialist internal class cover to which headteacher Bryan Paterson is contributing.

The closing date for the posts when first advertised was 28 September. They were readvertised with the new closing date next Monday.

The school’s maths crisis emerged in September when Mr Paterson contacted parents for help in filling the posts, saying that the major cause was Scotland’s national shortage of teachers in subjects such as maths, science, technology, business and home economics.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said: “Deploying as yet unqualified student teachers to cover vacancies is unfair on the student teacher and unacceptable as a means of addressing teacher shortages.

“While we would not comment on staffing-related matters at any individual school, it is clear there are teacher recruitment challenges in a number of geographical and subject areas.

“It is essential sufficient numbers of qualified teachers are deployed to ensure consistency and quality of provision across the country.

Mr Flanagan added: “The solution to these recruitment difficulties must include actions to make teaching a more attractive career to highly qualified graduates – including a reduction in excessive workload pressures and significant improvements to teachers’ pay following a decade of salary erosion.”

Liz Smith, Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary, said: “The SNP’s disastrous approach to workforce planning means pupils across the country are getting shortchanged, harming their long-term education prospects.”

Ian Perry, the city council’s education convener, said: “We have been working closely with the school over filling the vacancies and will continue with the various measures put in place, which has the support of the Parent Council, to minimise disruption to the pupils’ learning.

“Our priority remains ensuring that the curriculum continues to be delivered to the highest possible standard.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We have taken decisive action to help recruit and retain teachers through our Teaching Makes People campaign, including recently announcing the introduction of £20,000 bursaries, starting from August 2018, for eligible career changers, to allow them to undertake an initial teacher education course and qualify as a teacher in one of the STEM shortage subjects which includes maths.”