MINISTERS have found pound;2 million in their budgets from "end-of-year flexibility" to pay for training an extra 200 primary teachers next year.
This will be the first step towards honouring the Scottish Executive pledge, in the coalition partnership agreement between Labour and the Liberal Democrats, to recruit another 3,000 teachers by 2007.
The primary posts will be used to cut P1 class sizes from 30 to 25. The Executive has also committed itself to reduce S1-S2 class sizes in English and maths from the current maximum of 33 to 20.
Peter Peacock, Education Minister, commented: "Cuts in class sizes at key stages will allow teachers to focus more attention on pupils' individual learning and development needs. This will help improve attainment, particularly in literacy and numeracy, and help close the unacceptable divide between those who succeed and those who fall behind."
The number of full-time teaching posts was scheduled to fall from 51,200 next year to 50,000 by 2007 as a result of falling rolls. The pledge on numbers means there will now be 53,000 posts in four years' time.
The additional trainee students in the coming academic session will push the number on the one-year primary postgraduate course up from 475 to 675, distributed among the six teacher education institutions (TEIs).
The TEIs will now have to find the staff to cope with the extra numbers, but they are unlikely to have any problems finding the extra students.
Strathclyde University's Jordanhill centre had more than 700 applications for its initial 139 places on the primary postgraduate course for next session. It will be able to recruit another 58.
"We don't anticipate having any problem since we were able to offer places to only the very best," Graham White, head of primary education, said. "The major challenge will be finding the additional placements in schools which are already taking students under the new induction scheme as well as from the primary BEd course."