TRAINEE teachers could be sent to rural communities to help solve chronic school staff shortages.

Members of a government-backed body set up to improve teacher training have discussed the move as part of a wider debate about teacher shortages in areas such as Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Argyll and Bute, the Western Isles, Highland, Moray, Orkney and Shetland.

Seamus Searson, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association and a member of the Strategic Board for Teacher Education (SBTE) said the postings could last for up to two years.

And he said more experienced staff could also be used to plug gaps - although no details of how the scheme would work are available.

READ MORE: More than 1,000 teachers under 40 quit the profession

Mr Searson said: “There has been discussion along the lines of everyone doing their probationary period, which could be longer than one year, having to spend at least a year or two years in a rural setting.

“They would gain experience of having to be in a small school where they would be expected to have to do far more than they would in a larger school.

“It would be beneficial to them because it would give them more opportunities.”

Mr Searson said the idea was not necessarily a “golden bullet”, but it would make a big difference to rural school staff shortages because once staff are in post they often stay.

He said: “We know that if people do go to a rural setting there is a big chance they won’t come back.”

READ MORE: Teacher recruitment crisis: Scottish schools facing nearly 700 vacancies

SBTE papers, published this week by the Scottish Government, said there was an “increasing challenge” to recruit and retain staff in rural settings with some schools being forced to close.

In one example, the documents said shortages had led to the mothballing of Longhaven School, in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire.

They also said there should be more emphasis on professional development for rural teachers.

The report recommended an increase in digital training methods, given that island teachers taking time off for courses could lead to schools being closed for up to three days.

North East Conservative MSP Peter Chapman said rural communities were being let down by a failures within the teacher recruitment process.

He said: "More school closures could follow unless chronic teacher recruitment issues are solved.

“That will require the government to do more to work with education authorities to attract more teachers to some of the most beautiful parts of the country.”

Last summer, research by The Herald showed 700 teaching posts across Scotland were unfilled before pupils returned from holiday.