The number of teachers working in pre-schools in Scotland has dropped by 40 per cent over seven years.
Back in 2010, there were 1,543 nursery teachers working in Scotland, but by last year that figure had fallen to 921, according to a Tes Scotland analysis of Scottish goverment statistics. In 2016, there were 985 nursery teachers.
Scotland's largest teaching union, the EIS, said the drop was "a matter of serious concern" and called on the Scottish government to address the issue.
EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “Teachers are vital in ensuring a high-quality educational experience for young children in early years establishments. There is a substantial amount of evidence, from Scotland and from other countries, that highlights the importance of qualified teachers in the nursery sector.
"The current drive to reduce the impact of poverty and to raise attainment make it even more important that sufficient numbers of qualified teachers are deployed in the early years sector across Scotland.”
The news comes as the Scottish government prepares to almost double the number of free nursery hours three and four year olds and some two year olds are entitled to 1,140 per year by 2020.
The SNP has said the change is “this government’s most transformative infrastructure project” and that the quality of places will be key if the increase is to improve children's outcomes and improve the attainment of disadvantaged children.
However, a Scottish government spokesman argued that teachers now formed “only part” of the whole early learning and childcare (ELC) graduate workforce.
For the first time last year, the Scottish government recorded the number of other graduates working in pre-school education – for instance those with a BA Childhood Practice – and found they totalled 2,316.
The spokesman said: “We recognise that the ELC graduate workforce has changed in recent years. Teachers now form only part of this, with a much higher proportion having the BA in Childhood Practice and the specialist early years expertise and knowledge that comes with this.”
This is an extract from an article due to be published in tomorrow's edition of Tes Scotland.