Nearly 700 teaching vacancies in Scotland 'an unwelcome figure', says Swinney

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Education Secretary John Swinney has admitted there are "challenges" recruiting teachers as he confirmed there are almost 700 vacancies in Scotland's schools.

He pledged the Scottish Government and local authorities would "work hard" to fill the posts, adding that councils - who are responsible for the day to day running of schools - expect staff to be in place by the end of the this term.

He spoke out as a campaign to recruit more teachers was expanded, in a bid to encourage more English and Home Economics (HE) specialists into the classroom.

Swinney said the Scottish Government and local authorities would work hard to fill the vacancies
Swinney said the Scottish Government and local authorities would work hard to fill the vacancies (PA Archives)

The Teaching Makes People initiative was initially set up to recruit more teachers in the key areas of science, technology, engineering and maths - the so-called STEM subjects.

And Mr Swinney said "thousands" more undergraduate students were considering a career in the classroom as a result of that.

But he told BBC Radio Scotland: "There are quite clearly challenges in different parts of the country about recruitment of teachers and I want to make sure that we have a strong teaching profession available in every school in the country.

"Of course 690 vacancies is an unwelcome figure around the country, but it represents 1.3% of the total teaching complement in the country.

"We've got to work very hard to make sure we fill these vacancies and I was pleased to hear Scotland's local authorities say they expect to be able to fill these vacancies in the course of the school term."

The Deputy First Minister told the Good Morning Scotland programme: "We've got to make sure that we focus on the interests of young people, on making sure they can fulfil their educational potential by gaining access to the courses in which they are interested.

The Education Secretary has seen an increase in the number of teachers the last 12 months
The Education Secretary has seen an increase in the number of teachers the last 12 months (Andrew Milligan/PA)

"In the specific areas of the STEM subjects we have had some challenges in this area in the past, which is why last year I initiated the Teaching Makes People campaign.

"We've seen an increase in the number of teachers in our schools in the last 12 months, there was 253 more teachers in our schools in the last teacher survey than there was the year before, so we're seeing a rising number of teachers in our classrooms."

He accepted that "some local authorities are facing challenges recruiting the right number of teachers for their classrooms".

But Mr Swinney stated: "That is why we are expanding our successful Teaching Makes People campaign which highlights the opportunity for a hugely rewarding and inspiring career with the chance to make a real difference in the lives of children and young people.

"Thousands more undergraduate students are seriously considering teaching as a career as a direct result of the first phase of our campaign.

"We want to build on that momentum and reach even more people who may not have considered it as an option, with a particular focus on STEM, English and HE."