The 1999 school census taken last September, and published this week, confirms the combination of a declining birth rate and investment in staffing is cutting pupil-teacher ratios, particularly in primary where the average stood at 19.1, against 19.4 the previous year. Average primary class sizes dipped from 24.9 to 24.6.
In secondary, the pupil-teacher ratio fell marginally from 13 to 12.9, although almost 1,100 extra pupils were in the sector. An additional 360 full-time equivalent (FTE) teachers were employed.
The longer-term decline in primary numbers is evident in the P1 figures. Some 1,700 fewer pupils entered, down from 60,544 to 58,844. Figures released in early summer by the Scottish Executive suggest that by the middle of the decade the P1 roll will continue to fall by 8 per cent to around 54,000, prompting further closures of nurseries and primaries.
Government policies on cutting P1-P3 class sizes and early intervention have driven up the number of primary teachers by 150, although the total number of primary pupils fell by 5,500. In almost 4,700 classes, teachers enjoyed support from non-teaching staff.
Overall, the number of FTE teachers in all sectors rose to 52,295, up 1.2 per cent on 1998.
Independent school rolls fell marginally in primary and secondary. Just under 3.9 per cent of the school population were in the fee-paying sctor, a static figure despite the withdrawal of the assisted places scheme.
The census also reveals that a quarter of the 27,621 primary teachers were working part-time. Among unpromoted staff, 95.5 per cent of whom were women, the figure of part-timers rises to one in three. But part-time working was uncommon for primary heads, deputes and assistants.
Male teachers continue to show up disproportionately in leadership positions in primary schools. Only 7 per cent of all FTE teachers were men yet 22 per cent were heads. Of the 1,553 male primary teachers, 501 were heads, 81 deputes, 50 assistants, and 220 senior teachers.
Of 26,100 secondary teachers, 53 per cent were women but they also constituted almost two-thirds of unpromoted staff. Around one in three were principal teachers, one in five depute heads and only 11.5 per cent headteachers.
Some 13 per cent of secondary teachers worked part-time, mostly unpromoted staff.
In the special school sector, pupil and teacher numbers continued to rise. There were 8,311 pupils attending 195 schools with 30 per cent of pupils considered to have moderate learning difficulties. Nearly three out of 10 had complex or multiple impairments. Two out of three pupils were boys and more than three out of four of all pupils had records of need.
There were just under 2,000 teachers working in special schools last September, 84.1 per cent of whom were women.
Overall, there were 38,185 children with special educational needs in all sectors.