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What’s happening to teacher numbers in Scotland?

Today official teacher number statistics have triggered attacks over a drop in secondary specialists - we take a closer look

The Tories have attacked a drop in secondary specialists in Scotland, here we take a closer look

Today official teacher number statistics have triggered attacks over a drop in secondary specialists - we take a closer look

The Scottish Conservatives have today hit out at the Scottish government for the “completely unacceptable” drop in the number of English and maths teachers in Scottish schools over the past decade, from 2008 to 2018.

Here, we examine the figures published in the 2018 teacher census today.

  • The Tory claims about secondary teacher numbers falling are correct, but at the same time as teacher numbers have been falling so have pupil numbers – the problem is that teacher numbers have been falling faster
  • The teacher census shows that, since 2008, more than 500 fewer Scottish secondary school teachers have English as their main subject, a drop from 2,992 to 2,473.
  • In addition, there are over 400 fewer secondary maths teachers, a declined from 2,787 to 2,364.
  • Secondary school French teachers have also dropped by nearly 400 over the same period (1,070 in 2008; 688 in 2018), and the number of Stem-related teachers in Scottish schools is also down with cuts to the numbers of physics teachers (887 in 2008, 806 in 2018), chemistry teachers (989 in 2008, 948 in 2018), computing teachers (766 in 2008, 595 in 2018) and technical education teachers (1345 in 2008; 1225 in 2018)
  • Overall, there has been a drop of around 10 per cent in the number of secondary teachers working in Scottish schools, from 25,767 in 2008 to 23,317 last year
  • Over the same period, the number of secondary pupils has fallen but only by around 6 per cent, from 303,978 pupils in 2008 to 286,152 pupils last year
  • The upshot is a rise in the pupil-teacher ratio from 11.8 pupils to every secondary teacher in 2008, to 12.3 pupils per teacher in 2018.  
  • The picture for primary is quite different because teacher numbers and rolls have been rising, not falling, and they have been doing it at approximately the same rate
  • Primary rolls rose from 370,839 pupils in 2008 to 400,276 in 2018 – a rise of around 8 per cent
  • Primary teacher numbers also rose from 23,171 in 2008 to 24,899 in 2018 – a rise of around 7 per cent
  • The primary pupil-teacher ratio, therefore, has remained more stable, with 16.1 pupils per teacher last year, as compared to 16 in 2008
  • The number of nursery teachers continues to plummet and has now halved in a decade. In 2008 there were 1,672 teachers working in pre-school, that figure is now 821.

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