Pupil numbers across Scotland have risen while there has been an overall decrease in the number of teachers – with a particularly large decline in primary school teachers.
New school census data has confirmed that the first overall decline in teacher numbers in more than five years has taken place over the past year.
Scottish Government statistics for 2022 showed that the number of full-time equivalents (FTE) fell by 92, to 54,193 FTE.
Andrea Bradley, general secretary of the Educational Institute for Scotland (EIS), has hit out at the figures, calling the decline “unacceptable” and asking for a “properly funded pay increase” for school staff.
Ms Bradley said the fall in the number of teachers was a “cause of significant concern” to the union, and added the drop showed that: “Scotland’s teachers deserve and need a properly funded pay increase, since salary levels and job security are currently insufficient to recruit teachers for the long term.”
It comes after teachers rejected a pay deal which would see most staff in classrooms receive a 5% pay rise, although the lowest earners would get a 6.85% increase.
Members of the EIS and two other unions are now due to strike on January 10 and 11, with the action coming just days after pupils return to school following the Christmas break.
Meanwhile, the EIS is also planning 16 days of industrial action spanning January and February.
Ms Bradley said issues with staffing were “particularly acute” in primary schools, and added: “With the overall increase in the number of pupils in our schools, any decline in teacher numbers is unacceptable.”
She described the situation as “particularly worrying” as ministers had allocated an additional £145m to councils to recruit more teachers, while the number of youngsters with additional support needs has risen.
“We need more teachers in our schools in order to provide education and support young people,” Ms Bradley insisted.
“It is, in this context, quite remarkable that we now have fewer teachers despite the funding that was specifically provided to support the employment of more teachers.”
Education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “In Scotland we still have the most teachers-per-pupil compared to the rest of the UK, and education spend per person is higher than England and Wales.
“Last year we announced that local authorities would be given £145.5m of annual funding to ensure the sustained employment of additional teachers and classroom assistants – which was the biggest increase to support teacher recruitment since 2007.”
On the issue of teacher pay, she stressed ministers “remain committed to a fair, sustainable settlement”, and would continue to engage with teaching unions and the local government body Cosla to try to reach a deal.
The education secretary said: “We will continue to work with Cosla and local authorities to ensure that we maximise the value from that spend, including the number of jobs available for teachers.”