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New staff 'on target'

Ministers have dismissed claims by MSPs that they are well short of their target of 53,000 teachers by 2007.

Robert Brown, Deputy Education Minister, speaking during a debate on quality teachers, said that the Scottish Executive remained on target, even in priority subjects.

In maths, 146 students entered teacher training in 2003-04, compared with 250 this year. In English, the figure rose from 184 to 364 and in chemistry the numbers were up from 46 to 116. "Those are substantial increases," Mr Brown maintained.

One-year primary postgraduate courses at university continued to attract large numbers, with 706 joining in 2003-04, rising to 1,023 last year and 1,464 this year. At secondary level, the figure rose from 982 in 2003-04 to 1,340 last year and 1,767 this year, Mr Brown revealed.

However, Fiona Hyslop, the SNP's education spokeswoman, said that serious problems remained. "Scotland appears to be already 1,200 teachers short.

Vacancies in maths have doubled; vacancies in English and in modern languages have more than trebled," Ms Hyslop said. That is despite almost 3,000 teachers going through the probationer induction programme.

"Meanwhile, we hear stories of teachers who cannot get jobs. There is a real danger of a probationer bottleneck."

Rosemary Byrne, Scottish Socialists, disputed the Executive's figures.

"Sixty per cent of young people sit in maths classes whose size is above the national average; 54 per cent are in S1 English classes of sizes that are above the national average. We are not being fooled," the former teacher said.

Ms Byrne alleged the national recruitment campaign was falling short. "The target was 325 maths teachers, and 370 English teachers should start this autumn. But only 238 maths places and 192 English places have been offered to students in Scotland," she said.

Peter Peacock, Education Minister, said that over the past three years 312 maths teachers and 377 English teachers had entered the classroom. Targets for cuts in class sizes and increased teacher numbers were also being met by the rise in the number of teachers from outwith Scotland who wanted to work in post-McCrone classrooms and the sharp cuts in school rolls that would release others.

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