NEARLY 400 extra primary school teachers are to be trained despite the sector's recent recruitment crisis.
The Scottish Government will spend £2.9 million creating 370 new teacher training places at universities across the country, bringing the total to 2770 for 2013/14.
Teacher unemployment has been one of the biggest problems facing the Scottish Government in recent years with councils cutting numbers to save money despite an SNP pledge to retain staff to reduce class sizes.
At the same time, teachers who were expected to retire stayed on as their financial future became more uncertain during the recession. That resulted in many new teachers being unable to secure jobs with many others leaving Scotland to pursue a career in England or overseas.
Now, however, the Government believes the time is right to train more staff, with teacher unemployment at its lowest level since 2007 and a predicted rise in primary school rolls.
Education Secretary Michael Russell said the Government had addressed teacher unemployment by cutting numbers on postgraduate courses and providing extra money to councils to increase jobs. The teacher workforce planning group, which advises the Government, has also recommended an increase in training places.
Mr Russell said: "I want every person who commits to teaching our children and young people to have job opportunities at the end of their study. Universities across Scotland will offer places and I know our councils will continue to meet their commitment to maintaining teacher numbers in line with pupil numbers."
However, teaching unions issued a warning over the importance of providing meaningful full-time permanent jobs, rather than short-term contracts, which have been on the increase.
Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said: "Over the past few years, the lack of secure jobs, coupled with changes to the pay and conditions of supply teachers, have combined to force many new teachers to seek employment elsewhere.
"We need a renewed commitment from local authorities to employ teachers in secure posts, plus the restoration of supply pay and conditions, to ensure better opportunities for Scotland's newly qualified teachers."
Alan McKenzie, acting general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association, also highlighted the importance of permanent posts. "It would be interesting to look at the number of teachers who have left the profession after failing to secure a meaningful sustainable permanent post," he said.
"It is irrelevant to rejoice at increased trainee figures because what is needed is increased permanent posts."
Ades (Association of Directors of Education in Scotland), also expressed concerns over the future at a time of budget cuts.
John Stodter, general secretary, said: "Many councils are nervous about budget cuts in the years to come with expenditure on teachers a very significant part of what is spent on education."
However, council body Cosla said the 2012/15 spending review with the Scottish Government included a commitment by local authorities to maintain teacher numbers in line with pupil numbers. "With pupil numbers in some areas beginning to rise, under the terms of the current deal, teacher numbers in primary schools may well see a corresponding increase, where this is deemed by councils to be necessary," a spokesman said.
The total number of teachers in Scotland is 51,257 including 23,929 secondary staff and 22,714 working in primary.
Census data released in December shows that in 2011 there were 293,000 children aged under five, an increase of 6% from 2001.