Trinity Academy’s teacher shortage top of agenda at Holyrood

Nicola Sturgeon answers questions during First Minister's Questions. Picture: Getty
Nicola Sturgeon answers questions during First Minister's Questions. Picture: Getty
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THE crisis over maths teachers at the Capital’s Trinity Academy made it to the Scottish Parliament yesterday when Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson raised it at First Minister’s Questions.

Two days after the Evening News revealed how the school had appealed to parents to help plug the gap, the shortage of teachers dominated the weekly clash between party leaders at Holyrood.

Ms Davidson said: “This week, we learned that at Trinity Academy children are having to be taught maths by teachers from other subjects, and that the situation is so bad that the school has written to parents to ask them to help out – all because of the government’s failure to train enough new staff.

“We know that that has happened in Perthshire and we now know that it is happening in Edinburgh. Can the First Minister confirm that the situation is not more widespread and that it is not happening anywhere else?”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the vacancy rate across Scotland was just over one per cent of the total number of teachers last month.

But she said the government had increased the student teacher intake for six years in a row, had recently launched the next phase of the teacher recruitment campaign and was seeking to recruit teachers from outside Scotland.

Ms Davidson claimed there were 4000 fewer teachers than when the SNP came to power in 2007 and 40 per cent of Scottish teachers were thinking of retirement within the next 18 months.

She cited the case of a maths teacher from England who had moved to Scotland but had been told he could not teach here without a full year’s training. She said: “He is not alone. More than 550 qualified teachers from outside Scotland applied to teach here but were told by the government to go back to school themselves.”

However, Ms Sturgeon said the rules had changed and teachers from outside Scotland could now take up teaching posts while working to meet the minimum requirements.

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie also raised the Trinity Academy situation, asking whether Ms Sturgeon had any doubts about her education policies over the past decade.

She said there were “many strengths” in Scottish education, including a 30 per cent increase in Higher passes.

Meanwhile, the city council said no parents had come forward as a result of the appeal from Trinity headteacher Bryan Paterson, who wrote to parents saying he was unable to fill two maths teacher vacancies.

Mr Paterson won backing from parents for his approach.

One father of a sixth-year pupil said: “My first reaction was it was a good example of open and honest communication by the headteacher of a difficult matter.

“I thought it was very sensible to take the opportunity to try to tap into the parent network to see if any of them knew any suitably qualified teachers.

“Both the school and parents would have preferred these vacancies to be filled, but I am happy that the school is doing all it can.”