MSPs have voted to demand more teachers to help schools contend with Covid-19.
After a debate in the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish government has now been defeated for the second time in three weeks over calls for more teachers to be hired.
The defeat follows MSPs instructing the government, in a non-binding vote last month, to recruit a minimum of 2,000 additional full-time teachers.
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A Conservative motion, expressing “disappointment” that ministers have not yet brought forward proposals to achieve this, and calling again for the extra teachers to be recruited, was passed by 59 votes to four, with 61 abstentions.
Opposition parties have accused ministers of failing to act and have again called for more to be done to hire more school staff to deal with the “crippling” workload amid the pandemic.
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Opening the debate, Scottish Conservative education spokesman Jamie Greene said the Scottish government has been “oddly silent” about respecting the will of the Parliament after losing votes.
He added: “Increasing teacher numbers delivers three clear benefits.
“One, it can help reduce class sizes and the obvious benefits that brings.
“Two, it increases the school resilience to deal with absences, and three, it helps increase subject choice.
“We know that this week an FOI [freedom of information request] we submitted shows that since 2014 average SQA course entries per pupil are down in 31 out of 32 local authorities.
“But the importance of teacher numbers is a principle we’ve already agreed in this Parliament and, to date, no definitive plan has emerged on how the government will honour that agreement.”
Education secretary John Swinney responded by saying that the Scottish government had allocated £80 million and hired 1,400 additional teachers, as well as 246 support staff.
“This additional resource is bringing much-needed resilience to schools and the education system,” Mr Swinney said.
“Decisions about school staffing have been raised with local authorities and I continue to discuss their ongoing needs and aspirations around staff numbers in providing education during the Covid-19 crisis.”
Scottish Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said: “Only last month, Parliament explicitly told [Mr Swinney], in that Green motion, that teachers had to see enhanced measures that allay their safety fears, but he has not listened.
“There are no more additional teachers, beyond those he was claiming a month ago when we had that debate, so no smaller classes.
“There is no funding for improved ventilation so schools are still sitting with the windows open.”
Greens MSP Ross Greer said it was “disappointing” the Scottish government had not acted on Parliament’s call for more teachers to “ease the crippling workload pressures currently faced”.
He added: “High staff absence rates will continue well into the new year, and to say the teachers are at breaking point would be an understatement.
“But today’s budget update made no mention of additional funds for teacher recruitment, so we can only presume the government is not going to do what Parliament has instructed.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart said: “Additional school staff need to be recruited and ready to deal with the new problems that arise in the new year. The patchwork hiring that has been reported so far, with nine local authority areas adding no new additional support staff, is not good enough.”