THE number of teachers in Scotland has risen to its highest level for seven years.

There are now 51,513 teachers in primary, secondary and nursery schools after an increase of 543 compared to 2016.

However, there are still more than 3,500 fewer teachers than there were in 2007 when the SNP came to power.

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Ministers said the increase had been made possible because of the introduction of the Scottish Attainment Fund which targets additional cash on schools in poorer areas with headteachers in control of where the money is spent.

John Swinney, the Education Secretary, said: “We can now see that our decision to give headteachers more money and more power to decide for themselves how to close the attainment gap is paying off.

“Hundreds of additional teachers are now in classrooms benefitting pupils the length and breadth of Scotland as a result of that decision.”

Kenneth Muir, chief executive of the General Teaching Council for Scotland, said the increase was made possible by more flexibility over entry requirements for staff from other countries.

He said: “Over the last three years we have seen consistent increases in the number of teachers registering from outside Scotland.”

However, Ross Greer, education spokesman for the Scottish Greens, said the increase was only a fraction of the number of teachers lost since 2007.

He said: “An increase in teacher numbers, however small, is welcome, but it’s also very clear that schools have only been able to reverse a fraction of the cuts of the last decade and they’ve had to use their attainment funding to do it.

“This funding is for targeted interventions to reduce the attainment gap, not to firefight the worse damage from ten years of budget cuts.

“Giving schools the funds to reverse a small fraction of budget cuts isn’t a success and the SNP should not portray it that way.”

Iain Gray, education spokesman for the Scottish Labour Party, said schools were being forced to use attainment fund money to cover cuts to core budgets.

He said: “It was the Labour Party who led the debate on targeted spending to close the attainment gap, but the SNP approach has been to introduce it while slashing core education budgets, forcing schools to use what is supposed to be additional money to plug gaps in provision.”