Primary teacher numbers at highest in over a decade

Gradual upturn in secondary teachers since 2017, but concerns over ASN and large drops in English and maths teachers since 2008

Emma Seith

Primary teacher numbers hit highest level in over a decade

The total number of primary school teachers working in Scotland is at its highest level in over a decade, official figures published yesterday reveal. However, the number of secondary teachers has fallen over the same period – 2008 to 2019 – by 8.7 per cent, a sharper drop than the fall of 3.9 per cent in pupil numbers.

Maths and English experienced some of the largest drops in teacher numbers over the 11-year period: 16.7 per cent and 15.2 per cent respectively.

However, the figures also show that in the shorter term, since 2017, the number of secondary teachers working in Scotland has been rising, albeit gradually.


Background: Subjects ‘disappearing’ amid staff shortages

News: Budget fears over 'substantial' fall in teacher numbers

More figures: Half of recruits drop out of new route into teaching


The number of specialist teachers supporting those with additional support needs (ASN) in primary, secondary, special schools and centrally has also decreased, from 3,840 teachers in 2012 to 3,464 in 2019, a decline of 376 – or almost 10 per cent.

The drop, which comes at a time when the number of children with additional support needs is rising, prompted the charity – the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) – to question how the presumption of mainstreaming could be “functioning properly”.

It called on the Scottish government to provide the resources necessary to support “some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society”.

Here are some of the key statistics:

8% - Rise in the number of primary teachers between 2008 and 2019 (there were 23,171 primary teachers in 2008 as compared to 25,027 in 2019 and 24,899 in 2018).

8.7% - Drop in the number of secondary teachers between 2008 and 2019 (there were 25,767 secondary teachers in 2008, as compared to 23,522 in 2019 and 23,317 in 2018).

3,464 - Number of specialist ASN teachers working in Scottish schools and councils in 2019, down from 3,840 in 2012.

16.7% - Drop in English teachers since 2008 (there were 2,992 in 2008 as compared to 2,491 in 2019 and 2,473 in 2018).

15.5% - Drop in maths teachers since 2008 (there were 2,787 maths teachers in 2008, as compared to 2,362 maths teachers in 2019 and 2,364 in 2018).

4.6% - Rise in the number of history teachers since 2008 – one of the few secondary subjects to see a rise in teacher numbers.

15.9 - Pupil-teacher ratio in primary in 2019, as compared to 16 in 2008.

12.4 Pupil-teacher ratio in secondary in 2019, as compared to 11.8 in 2008.

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Emma Seith

Emma Seith

Emma Seith is a reporter for TES Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Emma_Seith

Latest stories

Will teachers fight a 'catch-up' extended school day?

Will teachers fight a 'catch-up' extended school day?

LONG READ: Longer school days are predicted to be key to a 4-year Covid recovery plan due to be unveiled by the PM next month. William Stewart examines whether this means a bust-up with teachers' leaders.
William Stewart 18 Apr 2021