A DEAL has been struck in a bid to alleviate the current crisis in supply teaching in Scottish schools.

Unions and councils have agreed to improve the pay of short-term supply staff after reported shortages across the country.

The measure is part of a wider pay deal for Scottish teachers that will see salaries rise by 1% this year and by a further 1% the following year.

However, the deal will not be implemented until after the completion of a separate ballot of teachers on changes to their terms and conditions. If teachers reject the changes -which give local authorities greater flexibility over their working hours - then the pay deal could be in jeopardy.

The developments follow the drawing up of a controversial package of cuts by the Scottish Government and council body Cosla two years ago in which pay rates for supply teachers were reduced as part of measures to save councils £45 million.

The move, which was backed by the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) teaching union at the time, meant short-term supply staff had to work at a rate of £78 a day for their first five consecutive days before their pay rose to the normal rate of £145.

The Government said the deal was the best that could have been done and that it protected frontline teaching jobs.

However, a subsequent survey by the Scottish Labour Party found 84% of councils did not fill all requests for short-term cover in 2011.

Under the new deal, the lower rate of pay for short-term supply staff would only apply for the first three days of employment, rather than the current five.

Larry Flanagan, EIS general secretary, said: "We entered into pay discussions with the priority of making progress on the pay and conditions of short-term supply teachers.

"After much hard negotiation, a final offer has been received that represents a significant improvement on the short-term supply issue, without impacting on the 1% pay offer to all employees that was previously announced by Cosla."

Mr Flanagan said the pay offer "may well be all that could be achieved" through negotiation in the current financial climate.

However, he stressed the EIS was clear the increase would not reverse the "real-term decline in teachers' pay".

"At some point action will need to be taken to ensure that teaching remains an attractive profession for young graduates to join," he added.

A Cosla spokesman said: "We have made an extended offer of a further year which is consistent across all pay bargaining groups. The ballot is part of their process and we await the outcome of that ballot."

The treatment of supply staff has been one of the most controversial issues in Scottish education over the past two years.

In 2011, the Scottish Government accepted the deal had contributed to classroom shortages.

Michael Russell, the Education Secretary, told an audience of primary headteachers, who raised concerns about the availability of supply staff, that it was an issue that "needed to be returned to".

"It is not consistent across Scotland and there are supply teachers, but there are probably fewer of them and we need to look at it to see if there is a problem emerging," he said at the time.

The issue also provoked anger between the EIS and rival union the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association who said schools were treating supply teachers like "staff in a burger bar".

Greg Dempster, general secretary of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland, said: "Since the pay change was introduced there seems to be a very real problem with getting supply staff into schools."