Teachers have accused the Scottish government of obscuring the truth when it comes to the level of vacancies in schools, saying some teaching posts are proving so impossible to fill that subjects are being “discreetly removed” from the timetable.
Teachers discussing the staff shortage in Scotland on the Tes online community forums this month said that subjects such as home economics (HE), computing and technological education had disappeared in some schools, after multiple job adverts yielded no results.
Scottish government figures on teacher vacancies recently revealed that there had been “significant reductions in jobs advertised for more than three months” in Scottish schools, compared with a year previously.
However, the teachers on the forums said some vacancies were going “below the radar” because the subjects were no longer being offered.
One teacher said: “Some of these subjects are discreetly removed and will go below the radar.
“In my place, we can’t get HE teachers after three of them retired, so the subject is effectively being removed from the timetable – other subjects get an increase in time instead. Our [headteacher] wouldn't advertise three times for the same job – they look for other options.”
Another teacher said their school had found it impossible to recruit technological education teachers, so the subject was removed and now “pupils get an extra period of another subject”.
Another contributor said many students were leaving school “having never experienced a computing lesson”, which was “scandalous”.
According to the teachers, the “lack of a decent wage and worsening conditions” were making teaching “a very unattractive proposition in Scotland”. They highlighted “massive discipline problems”, inclusion and a lack of career prospects as some of the issues.
The Scottish government says that, wherever possible, schools should ensure that pupils can choose their preferred subjects. When this is not possible, national guidelines are supposed to encourage flexibility so that schools can look at alternative approaches, such as collaboration with colleges, universities and other schools.
A Scottish government spokesman said: “Teacher numbers are now the highest since 2010, with primary teachers at the highest level since 1980.
“We want to keep people in the profession and to attract new entrants into teaching. That’s why we have increased targets for recruitment into initial teacher education, created new routes to make it more practical and flexible for people to access courses and run a teacher recruitment marketing campaign.
“There are also fewer teaching vacancies across the country, including significant reductions in jobs advertised for more than three months, demonstrating the impact of our investment in attracting new talent to the profession.”