THE number of Scots teachers has dropped for the first time in five years despite ministers sanctioning spending over £200m of public money in the past three years on recruitment.

Official figures seen by the Herald has reveals that the proportion of first year probationers remaining in the profession has hit a 12 year low.

The EIS, the country’s largest teaching union, said the decline in teachers, old and new, as the number of pupils in Scottish schools has soared from 693,251 to 705,874 between 2018 and 2022 was a “national disgrace”.

The decline has come despite the fact that over £200m was to be ploughed in by the Scottish Government to recruit teachers during the pandemic lockdown till now.

Official figures show that the number of teachers in publicly funded schools fell from 2630 to 2606 in 2022.

Meanwhile the number of probationer teachers securing a proper post the following year has dropped to 70% for the most recent 2021/22 intake - the lowest since the 2010/11 cohort, and down from the 80% of last year.

In early August, funding worth £65m to recruit up to 1,000 new teachers and 500 teaching assistants was announced by the Scottish government.

It was to be made available to councils in this academic year and annually to help schools return full time to face-to-face teaching after Covid.

Ministers also pledged that temporary Covid recovery funding of £80 million that helped to recruit 1,400 teachers and 250 support staff was also to be made permanent.

It meant that from April, last year the sum was to be allocated annually to the local government settlement.

EIS general Secretary Andrea Bradley said, “The first decline in the number of teachers employed across Scotland in five years is a cause of significant concern. With the overall increase in the number of pupils in our schools, any decline in teacher numbers is unacceptable.

“This is particularly worrying, given that the Scottish Government allocated an additional £145M to local authorities specifically to support the recruitment of extra teachers.

" We are still in the early stages of education recovery following the pandemic, and the number of young people with additional support needs has risen significantly, so we need more teachers in our schools in order to provide education and support young people. It is, in this context, quite remarkable that we now have fewer teachers despite the funding that was specifically provided to support the employment of more teachers.”

HeraldScotland:

The EIS said the decline in the number of teachers across Scotland highlights the need for an improved pay deal to help recruit new teachers and retain experienced teachers in the classroom.

It has already announced national strikes on January 10 and 11 followed by 16 consecutive days of action - split across every council in the country - beginning the following week.

Members of the NASUWT will also walk out in primary schools on January 10 while secondary teachers will walk out on January 11.

Teachers have rejected a deal which would see most staff in classrooms receive a 5% pay rise, although the lowest earning teachers would get a 6.85% increase.

NASWUT is calling for a fully funded pay award of 12% for 2022/23 after rejecting Cosla’s improved offer, worth up to 6.85%.

It said the current pay offer tabled amounts to a real-terms pay cut, as inflation reached 10.7% in November.

Ms Bradley added: “There has also been a marked decline in the number of probationer teachers securing a teaching post the following year – a 10% reduction from 80% last year down to 70% this year. This is a national disgrace given the desperate need for more teachers in our schools to support young people in education recovery and it is a waste of the efforts made by almost a third of the Initial Teacher Education graduates who went on to complete their probation years.

"It is also further evidence that precarity is a growing issue in Scottish education and that Scotland’s teachers deserve and need a properly funded pay increase since salary levels and job security are currently insufficient to recruit teachers for the long-term who will have other career opportunities open to them – often better paid, and with less workload and lower levels of stress.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Local authorities are responsible for teacher recruitment and they have autonomy to provide incentives to attract teachers to their area.

“We will continue to do everything we can to help them maximise the number of teaching jobs, including permanent posts. In 2022-2023 we will provide councils with specific funding of £145.5 million per year to support the school workforce and help provide sustained employment to teachers."

A Convention of Scottish Local Authorities  spokesman said:  "Scotland’s councils are fully signed up to the probationer teacher scheme in the same way that they are committed to the education and learning experience of our young people. Notably more probationers are this year in permanent full-time work and councils continue to bring in both student placement teachers and probationer teachers through the system, preparing them for the classroom.

"By the same token councils are also committed to open, fair recruitment processes and can only meet the need and requirements that exist.

"With a changing demographic of teachers and also of the pupil population, recruitment is not an exact science and sometimes the numbers for both of these elements do not exactly align. Councils remain committed to getting probationer teachers into jobs where there is a need and to employing all teachers in and on the right type of contracts that meet the local needs of our children and young people."