A £47,000-a-year “lead teacher” position is set to be rolled out across Scottish schools, sparking hope that gaping trainee recruitment shortfalls in core subjects can be plugged.

The new posts will allow staff to establish themselves as specialists in particular areas of learning, pedagogy or policy, with opportunities also planned at the local authority and regional/ national level.

Crucially, those taking up the roles will not be considered part of school management, meaning they should be able to move up the hierarchy while still developing teaching expertise.

They will also be given a reduction in weekly class contact to allow them to carry out additional duties.

Union bosses hope the change will provide richer career progression possibilities and attract trainees in shortfall-hit areas such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

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Provisional figures published earlier this year indicated that intake to initial teacher education through a secondary-level graduate diploma (PGDE) and other routes had fallen well below target in a number of subjects, including chemistry and physics.

The statistics led to warnings that failure to maintain a steady inflow could increase the likelihood of classes being led by staff whose main qualification is in another discipline and who may not have the same degree of expertise, passion or interest. This creates the risk that young people lose enthusiasm for the subject before they reach the senior phase, potentially depriving the economy of scientists, engineers and mathematicians.

Seamus Searson, General Secretary at the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association union, said lead teachers would provide crucial additional expertise and could help boost staff retention. But he stressed that significant investment would be required to embed the change.

“This role should be about continuing as a teacher,” he told The Herald.

The Herald: SSTA General Secretary Seamus Searson has high hopes for the new lead teacher post.SSTA General Secretary Seamus Searson has high hopes for the new lead teacher post.

“One of the things the SSTA wants is for every school to have a lead teacher in every subject, a specialist who rolls up their sleeves and works alongside the other teachers – although the fear is that that headteachers, if they’re paying more money, will want these teachers to have management responsibilities.

“I see the lead teacher position as something that will mean improvement for probationers and new teachers coming into the profession, since it will give them a ‘go to’ person for subject-specific help or advice, and also something that could help keep more experienced teachers.

“This new position could really help not just with recruitment of trainees, but also retention - and not just in STEM but in all subjects.”

Salaries will range from just over £47,000 to nearly £67,000 depending on whether posts are at the school, council or regional/national level. But Mr Searson added: “Unless there’s proper funding, it’s not going to happen. I hope this isn’t something that just sits on the shelf because there’s no money for it.”

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A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We want to recruit and retain the best possible teachers to educate our children and young people, so it’s important that those in the profession have career pathways that offer opportunity and progression.

“The Lead Teacher role is being introduced into the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers (SNCT) structure in response to a recommendation of the Independent Career Pathways for Teachers which reported in May 2019.

"The role will make use of the expertise held by teachers to provide policy leadership on specialist areas and provision for pupils with additional support needs.”