More than 2,600 teachers have dropped or lost their professional registration over the last five years, sparking fears of a classroom crisis as schools battle to recover from Covid-19.

According to figures from the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS), 1,101 primary and 1,506 secondary teachers have unregistered after being added to its record in the period since January 1, 2016.

This compares with a total of 13,175 probationers who were awarded full registration via the Teacher Induction Scheme between that year and 2020.

The statistics come after more than 1,700 teachers wrote an open letter to Nicola Sturgeon in which they said they were unable to secure permanent work because of local authority policy and practices.

They also warned many colleagues had been driven away from the profession by “instability of employment”.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon warned teachers are being driven away

The GTCS stressed there was a range of reasons, such as retirement, that could explain why individuals lapse or come off the register, while the SNP said teacher numbers were the highest they had been since 2008.

The new figures also include those who achieved full registration and then used their qualification to work abroad.

But critics said the loss of so many teachers from the official record in a relatively short period of time pointed to serious underlying issues around retention and job security.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) warned there was a problem with councils being unwilling to create permanent posts using temporary funding.

HeraldScotland: EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan.EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan.

General Secretary Larry Flanagan said: “In truth, politicians have been quick to talk up the need for education to lead the way in the nation’s recovery from the pandemic, but less quick to commit to delivering long-term investment and resources to ensure that this can be achieved.

“It is quite scandalous that currently one in 10 teachers are on temporary contracts or ‘zero hours’ supply staff lists. This is one of the reasons why we lose qualified teachers who struggle to get permanent posts in their chosen career.

“From the 2020 graduation group, for example, over 500 newly qualified teachers are no longer registered with the GTCS. The challenge around education recovery is immense, however.

“Scotland needs more teachers to ensure that students receive greater targeted support in smaller classes; that specialist provision for young people with additional support needs is improved; and to support our pupils and young people who have suffered a traumatic experience during the pandemic, particularly young people already facing disadvantage caused by poverty.

“Temporary funding streams inevitably lead to temporary posts – we need guarantees on teacher recruitment and teacher numbers.”

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon urged to set deadline for closing attainment gap

Scottish Conservative education spokesman Jamie Greene, whose party obtained the new figures, accused the SNP of presiding over a “decade-long workforce crisis when it comes to keeping enough teachers in our classrooms”.

He added: “It is hugely concerning that thousands of teachers are leaving the profession within a matter of years. Even before Covid, it was clear our hardworking teachers were overburdened with their workload, due to the failures of the SNP to cut class sizes and ministers ignoring their concerns.

“Teaching is a fantastic career, but thousands of teachers leaving the profession is no record for Nicola Sturgeon to be proud of and one which ought to ring major alarm bells. The Scottish Conservatives are committed to not just recruiting 3,000 extra teachers for classrooms but putting retention at the heart of that plan too.”

HeraldScotland: Jamie Greene of the Scottish Conservatives is concerned.Jamie Greene of the Scottish Conservatives is concerned.

A GTCS spokeswoman said: “There are a range of reasons as to why individuals may lapse or come off the register each year, including retirement. The recruitment and retention of teachers in Scotland is a complex and dynamic issue.

“GTC Scotland is involved in a wide range of work with partner bodies, including the Scottish Government, to seek to ensure we have an appropriate number of teachers in Scotland and that teachers are retained within the profession.

“This includes working with universities and other providers to develop new and innovative routes into teaching and college lecturing, as well as working with partners to ensure that there are opportunities to grow and develop within the profession.”

READ MORE: Almost 300 teachers unregistered in independent schools in Scotland

An SNP spokesman said: “We recognise the challenges being faced by teachers and the increased workload imposed by the pandemic. That is why we have had a recruitment drive and recruited an additional 1,400 teachers over the pandemic. The number of teachers in total is the highest it has been since 2008.

“While teacher numbers in Scotland have risen in every year of this parliament and are now 3,000 higher than at the start of the parliament, they have fallen under the Tories in England by more than 3,000 since 2015/16.”