MORE than a thousand teachers under the age of 40 have quit the profession in the past two years fuelling Scotland’s school recruitment crisis.

Official figures show 649 teachers between the ages of 21 and 40 dropped off the teaching register in 2018 - while 641 left the previous year.

Professional watchdog the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) said reasons given included taking a job abroad, taking a career break or leaving teaching altogether.

This summer, research by The Herald showed 700 teaching posts across the country were unfilled before pupils returned from their holidays.

Ken Muir, chief executive of the GTCS, said there had been a welcome reduction in the number of teachers disappearing from the register in all age groups.

But he warned younger teachers were being lured away either by offers of permanent contracts in England or by lucrative offers from overseas.

Teachers who have completed their probationary year in Scotland earn £27,438, but teaching jobs in Dubai are being advertised with tax-free salaries up to £35,000.

Mr Muir said: “Posts in the Middle East, the Far East and in England continue to be advertised and there is an issue about the inability of teachers in Scotland, even in some of the shortage areas, being offered full time permanent posts.

“Authorities will offer fixed term contracts, or they may be taken on a permanent basis on a supply list, but councils south of the border are much quicker at offering full time permanent posts.”

Mr Muir said such posts were a “big attraction” because of the stability and guaranteed salary levels.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said restoring historic levels of pay was vital to resolve the issue.

He said: “Following more than a decade of austerity and real-terms pay cuts teachers have had enough.

“The message to councils and the Scottish Government is that if you truly value education, you also need to value teachers by paying them a professional salary.”

Seamus Searson, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, called for a review of workload.

He said: “Probationers are being asked to cover absent colleagues, to set and mark work for them, to take on registration duties and attend additional meetings. They feel unable to refuse and as a consequence are overworked and burnt-out.”

John Swinney, the Education Secretary, said teacher registrations could lapse for a number reasons, including maternity leave or career breaks.

He said: “We are putting in place new career pathways to provide opportunities for teachers to diversify their career and support high quality teaching and learning.”

He added: “Our education reforms are focussed on giving schools and headteachers more control of the important decisions on curriculum, staffing and budgets in their schools.”

Councils facing some of the most acute shortages include those in the North East such as Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray as well as rural areas such as the Highlands.

The figures also highlighted shortages in key subject areas such as science, maths, computing, music, languages, physical education and home economics.

To combat the shortages the Scottish Government has proposed a number of fast-track teacher training options to get new staff into schools more quickly.

Ministers are also offered £20,000 bursaries to those wanting to switch career and teach in shortage Stem subjects - as well as increasing the number of teacher training places.

However, teaching unions argue the main problem is pay and conditions with the increasing workload of staff putting off recruits at a time when salaries have declined in real terms.