Universities have called for the Scottish government to increase funding for teacher training after it emerged that spending was now £13 million lower than seven years ago – despite the ongoing recruitment crisis.
The government has sought to reassure the public over recent teacher shortages, stressing that it has increased spending on initial teacher education (ITE) every year for the past five years.
And it has been quick to highlight its investment in new routes into the profession, including redundant oil workers retraining as secondary teachers.
However, figures obtained by TESS that span the past 10 years show that spending on ITE has fluctuated wildly over the period and is now substantially lower than it was a decade ago.
For the 2016-17 academic year, the teaching grant stands at £25.6 million – £13 million lower than in 2009-10 when £38.6 million was spent on teacher training.
The figures also show that between 2009-10 and 2010-11, funding for ITE was cut by around a quarter (£10 million), from £38.6 million to £28.6 million.
The cut was a measure to cope with rising numbers of unemployed teachers, but funding for ITE has never fully recovered, despite recent teacher shortages.
At the time, teaching unions, parents’ groups and politicians criticised the move and warned that it could lead to a shortage of teachers in future years.
Universities are calling for the government to increase its investment in ITE because schools of education are being forced to fall back on associate tutors employed on precarious contracts.
Dr Rowena Arshad, head of the University of Edinburgh’s Moray House School of Education, said: "The impact on schools like mine can be quite turbulent if there are significant spikes or downturns [in funding].
"This is because we will have staffing in place, or not, and will have to respond to those spikes or downturns. Employing new staff, or losing staff, is not a quick process…I suspect that all stakeholders are agreed that a yo-yo scenario is not a good one."
A Scottish government spokesperson said that more than £2 million funding was being made available to train an extra 260 teachers in the coming academic year, and the target for 2016-17 was 66 per cent higher than 2011-12.
This is an edited article from the 26 August edition of TESS. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week's TESS magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here