THE number of specialist teachers in secondary schools has plummeted over the past decade amid claims heavy workloads and static pay are driving staff away.

Unions claims stagnant pay has also seen teaching become a less attractive career and politicians said the chaos surrounding the implementation of the new Curriculum for Excellence added to a lack of morale.

New statistics show there has been an 11 per cent decline in subject specialists since 2008 with numbers dropping from 24,418 to 21,707 in 2017.

While secondary school teacher numbers have risen slightly over the last two years, the figures highlight significant decline in a number of key disciplines.

The number of English teachers has dropped by almost 20%, those teaching mathematics have dropped 15% and general science teachers have declined by 11%.

Most modern languages have also seen numbers decline steeply with a 32% drop in French teachers and a 44% drop in German teachers.

Liz Smith, education spokeswoman for the Scottish Conservative Party, warned the "substantial decline" would have a "significant negative effect" on the level of education pupils receives.

She said: "Despite the SNP claiming the teacher shortage is diminishing because of extra recruits taken in in recent months, these statistics show the number of teachers is still dramatically lower than in 2008.

“We all know that the confusion and chaos during the implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence has driven many teachers away and this is further evidence that a generation of pupils are being badly let down by the SNP."

The NASUWT teaching union also attacked the decline saying many experienced teachers were leaving the profession because of concerns over workload and stagnant pay.

A spokeswoman said: "Teachers are dealing with ever rising workloads driven by oppressive marking and assessment regimes and administrative tasks and uncompetitive salary levels as a result of years of cuts, caps and freezes.

“Teacher burnout manifesting itself in spiralling levels of mental and physical ill health.

“Unless ministers accept the mounting evidence, grasp the nettle and take action to address effectively the problems they have created, the position will only deteriorate further.”

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS union, added: “We believe a National Staffing Standing should be implemented, in order to ensure consistency of provision in schools in all parts of the country. Wider issues such as severe teacher workload, lack of opportunities for career progression, and declining levels of teachers’ pay must also be addressed if the growing challenge in teacher recruitment is to be overcome.” –

The figures are the latest to highlight teacher shortages in key subjects such as mathematics and English.

A Scottish Government report in November last year identified 71 permanent vacancies in maths compared to 53 the previous year. The figures also show there are currently 65 vacancies for English teachers compared to 49 in 2016/17.

Other subjects with unfilled vacancies include home economics, business studies and physics. Overall, there are 507 permanent teacher vacancies in secondary.

The situation has arisen after a larger number of teachers then expected left the profession in recent years with concerns over bureaucracy, workload and static pay.

The Scottish Government also reduced the number of teachers being recruited because of a previous oversupply.

Targets for teacher recruitment have now been increased and ministers hope to increase supply with the development of new fast-track options. The government also launched a campaign to encourage graduates into so-called Stem subjects such as science and maths with bursaries for those wishing to retrain.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Teacher numbers – including secondary teachers – are increasing. The fact is there are more secondary teachers than at any time since 2014 and the ratio of pupils to teachers is at its lowest since 2010.

“We have taken decisive action to help recruit and retain teachers including though the Teaching Makes People campaign, focussing on attracting new teachers and career changers into STEM and other subjects including English and Home economics.”