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Aberdeenshire head teachers have "lost faith" in a scheme to bring new staff to the north-east

By Kirstie Topp - Local Democracy Reporter

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Headteachers across Aberdeenshire have “lost faith” in a scheme aimed at bringing newly qualified staff to the region’s secondary schools.

Director of education Laurence Findlay made the revelation while discussing Aberdeenshire Council’s experience with the Teacher Induction Scheme (TIS).

Laurence Findlay
Laurence Findlay

He also said that the area of most concern for the local authority is the ongoing trouble recruiting secondary subject teachers which is reaching “crisis point”.

Across the region, there is a particular shortage of teachers for subjects including english, science, technical, mathematics and home economics.

However, teacher numbers in primary schools continues to be stable.

The issues were brought up as members of the education and children’s services committee recently discussed an annual report on teacher staffing.

In the last school year, Aberdeenshire Council made a request for 65 secondary probationers, but only 18 were allocated.

However, this number dwindled to just 12 after some decided to drop out.

In December Mr Findlay, council leader Gillian Owen and education committee chairman David Keating met with Cabinet Secretary for Education Jenny Gilruth to discuss the problem.

During the “positive” meeting it was agreed that this year’s probationary allocation as part of the teacher induction scheme would take place manually.

Mr Findlay hopes that this will lead to a “fairer share” of secondary teachers being placed in Aberdeenshire schools for August compared to this year.

He said: “Sadly, some of our secondary head teachers have lost faith in the teacher induction scheme due to recent experience.

“But we have been encouraging them to make requests for newly qualified teachers in the hope that this manual allocation will result in more probationers being placed.”

Education minister Jenny Gilruth
Education minister Jenny Gilruth

This year, Aberdeenshire Council has requested allocation for 44 probational teachers and they are hopeful to meet this figure.

Mr Findlay told the committee that the council is in “regular dialogue” with the cabinet secretary and her team.

Aberdeenshire’s school parent councils have written to the cabinet secretary to raise their own concerns about staffing levels too.

Since the meeting late last year, Ms Gilruth has offered to visit the region but a date is still to be decided.

She has also agreed to hold an in-person meeting with worried parents.

Mr Findlay added: “Having previously been a teacher in Moray once upon a time, she’s very much aware of the of the challenges being faced in rural Scotland.”

Meanwhile, the council is continuing to struggle with a high number of advertised teaching posts not being filled.

Teaching numbers across the region were lower in September 2023 compared to the same period in 2022.

In some cases, not having enough staff in secondary schools leads to some subjects being removed from the curriculum.

Latest figures for January 2024 revealed that 36 posts were advertised for secondary teaching posts, but none of these were filled.

The council has said it will continue to work closely with partners at Aberdeen University to look at what can be done locally to support initial teacher education.

It also hopes to be able to retain probationers who successfully complete their probationary posts in Aberdeenshire.

Banchory Academy teacher Billy Bilsland was thankful for the efforts that have been made to push for secondary teachers and more TIS allocation.

He said: “I think the induction scheme overall has been a hugely positive thing for teachers and bringing new teachers on, we wouldn’t want to see any risk to that.

“The impact of those shortages is huge on teachers’ time to take up the slack and more importantly on pupils and inconsistent teaching.

“We are getting to the point where school curricular models are being decided on staffing shortages rather than learning and teaching.”

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