FLEXIBLE and family-friendly working practices are "further exacerbating" Scotland's teacher shortage, according to the body representing education leaders.

The Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES) said some local authorities are "forced to refuse requests for a reduction in hours in order to ensure that there are sufficient teachers for all classes".

It comes amid rising concerns over teacher shortages in Scotland, with figures released earlier this month showing 507 permanent vacancies in secondary schools.

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ADES insisted that if five teachers requested a reduction to part-time working, ten teachers would be required to plug the gap.

It said: "Some local authorities report that the increasing demand for flexible working arrangements and the legislative and cultural drive towards more family-friendly work patterns (while admirable in principle) are further exacerbating the teacher shortage problem."

But Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS – Scotland’s largest education trade union – insisted difficulties in teacher recruitment could be sorted by reducing workload, boosting pay and “making teaching a more attractive career option for highly qualified graduates”.

He said: “There are difficulties in teacher recruitment at all levels across Scotland, with the problem being particularly acute in some geographical and curricular areas.

“The recruitment of headteachers is a long-standing issue, as many teachers do not view the additional management responsibilities, loss of direct working with pupils and excessive bureaucratic requirements of the post as desirable career steps.”

In written evidence to a Holyrood committee, ADES said it was "particularly frustrating that the shortage of teachers has coincided with the injection of significant additional sums of money into the system through initiatives such as the Scottish Attainment Challenge (SAC) and Pupil Equity Fund (PEF)".

Both government initiatives aim to close the attainment gap between pupils from deprived and better-off backgrounds.

But ADES said many councils and schools “would have chosen to spend a proportion of their SAC and PEF funding on the recruitment of additional teachers but were unable to do so because these teachers simply did not exist or were only available in very small numbers."

The body, which was submitting evidence to Holyrood’s Education and Skills Committee on behalf of councils across Scotland, insisted it was "very concerned about the current teacher shortage".

It said it first raised the issue three years ago “when it became clear that teacher shortages were having a detrimental effect on educational provision”.

Schools in the north and north-east were particularly badly hit, it revealed, with a "growing recruitment crisis in relation to head teacher posts, especially in the primary sector".

It added: “For several years, there has been a significant tension between the Scottish Government’s expectation that teacher numbers across the country would be maintained and the extreme difficulties being experienced by local authorities in filling vacancies.”

However, ADES said there was “continuing evidence of a slow but steady improvement in performance in National Qualifications” and a “growing evidence base of increased achievement by young people”, as well as “high satisfaction rates” among pupils and parents.

But it added: “Unless solutions can be found as a matter of urgency, it is difficult to see how a negative impact on the quality of education in Scottish schools can be avoided.”

Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary Liz Smith said the SNP “only has itself to blame for Scotland's teacher shortage”.

She added: "Its boom and bust approach to recruitment was short-sighted, and has left glaring gaps all over the country.

"It's no wonder experts are beginning to question the Scottish Government's overall strategy on this matter."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Although teacher recruitment is a matter for local authorities, we recognise some areas have faced challenges filling vacancies.

“This is why we have invested £88 million in 2017 only, resulting in 253 more teachers recruited last year – the first substantial increase since 2007.

“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 into STEM and other subjects.”