THE quality of Scotland’s trainee teachers has been criticised by council education officials.

The Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES) said local authorities had recorded an increase in the number of probationers having to repeat a year who were not seen as being of an appropriate standard.

The concerns over so-called “retrieval” students is highlighted in a submission to the Scottish Parliament’s education committee which is looking at the current teacher recruitment crisis in Scotland.

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The submission states: “Some local authorities also report concerns about quality in relation to student and probationer teachers, with an increase in the number of requests from universities for local authorities to accept 'retrieval' students and probationers who, in the opinion of their host school supporter and mentor, do not meet the required standards.”

ADES said another side-effect of the shortage of subject teachers in secondary schools was that some schools were struggling to offer places to student teachers and probationers because there were not enough experienced teachers to mentor them.

Figures from the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) back up the ADES claim showing record numbers of retrieval students.

In 2013/14 there were 155 retrieval students, but the figure for the current year has climbed to 237 – the highest on record.

However, Ken Muir, director of the GTCS, said retrieval students should not be seen as failing the course.

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He said: “The non-completion can be for a range of reasons such as ill-health, family circumstances or failing to complete the work as required. We do not keep data on reasons for retrieval.

“Each student has a further year to complete their course and can join the teacher induction scheme the following year if they do so.

“It is important this is not seen as a failure of students. They may not have completed their studies for a host of reasons and while there has been an increase this year, there was a drop the previous year.”

The concern arose as it emerged that trainee teachers are reporting gaps in their knowledge of basic skills such as literacy and numeracy.

A survey of probationer teachers published by the Scottish Government shows many would like more training on key subjects.

One stated: “I received very little training or education on early literacy and the mechanics of learning to read.”

In numeracy 15 per cent said they lacked confidence in their own knowledge with 27 per cent lacking confidence in their ability to teach it.

Many trainees had positive experiences, but one said: “No examples of lessons or how to teach ... mental or written mathematical strategies was taught.”

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Other probationer teachers felt that they were also “learning on the job” and were finding it difficult to cater for all needs within their classroom.

The report goes on to recommend that universities review their entry requirements to ensure applicants are of the highest quality.

It also suggests more practical examples of the delivery of curriculum skills are embedded in initial teacher education.

The report states: “Probationer teachers indicated that they are very confident in their readiness to teach in most areas.

“However, they expressed some concerns regarding knowledge gaps in key areas, particularly in the teaching of phonics and reading, and some mathematical concepts.

“All groups reported that a lack of time, priority, lack of opportunity and lack of support are barriers to the further development of skills in literacy, numeracy ... and their ability as student teachers to generate and analyse data to support the progress of students.”

The survey found 14 per cent of primary probationer teachers did not agree that they they were confident in their knowledge of

literacy while 20 per cent disagreed with the statement that they were confident to in the ability to teach it.

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The report states that some students commented that they found initial teacher education too theoretical, expressing a preference for more practical experiences in teaching literacy.

Teaching reading was highlighted by a number of probationer teachers as an area in which they were less confident.