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Staffing fears grow

The number of teacher training places is to rise by 9 per cent next year - but will students find jobs?

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Despite rising teacher unemployment, the Scottish Government has raised its recruitment target for next year.

Ministers continue to insist that cutting class sizes to 18 in P1-3, combined with 6,000 teachers leaving the profession each year, will provide jobs for new teachers.

Funding is being provided for 4,357 places in teacher education institutions in 2009-10, which is 343 more than this year. By 2016, the plan is to be training 5,310 new teachers, which is 1,000 more.

The increase comes despite evidence that new teachers are struggling to find permanent posts after their probationary year. The TESS reported last October that the number of Scottish teachers claiming JobSeekers Allowance had hit a three-year high and had doubled in the previous year alone.

Now there are fears that next August will again see cuts to staffing formulae in some authorities.

Irene Matier, president of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland, said she was concerned by the increase in teacher training numbers.

"A lot of the information is still anecdotal, but we are seeing youngsters who are concerned about jobs. We know there are teachers working in Saudi Arabia because they can't get long-term supply work here.

"The Government must think there's going to be a huge exodus. In my own school, we will be losing four members of staff. And rolls are still dropping so, if local authorities have not got the money, they are going to cut staffing."

Jim Conroy, dean of education at Glasgow University, said he believed Scottish Government officials were far more accurate in their predictions than those working in any other area in the UK. He served on the teacher employment working group, set up last year by the Education Secretary to review teacher workforce planning.

Professor Conroy welcomed the guidance from Scottish Ministers to the Scottish Funding Council that future increases in numbers should be concentrated on the four-year BEd primary degree (up from 957 to 1,500 in 2016), because these students would be graduating in four years' time when demographic analysis showed there would be large numbers of people retiring.

John Stodter, general secretary of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, said he believed the increase in teacher training numbers would have been even higher, had the teacher workforce planning experts not factored in the expected downturn in council spending.

Government guidance also outlines the secondary subjects for which it anticipates "high and sustained demand" - maths, English, chemistry, technological education, modern languages, biology, geography and history.

Leader, 22.

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