SNP councillors are set to press for the reinstatement of Principal Teachers in Moray’s primary schools when the local authority considers its new budget this week.
The main opposition group had opposed cutting Principal Teachers, predicting that it would reduce leadership capacity in schools on delivery of Curriculum for Excellence.
The move came as a Labour councillor asserted the issue could be solved by the Scottish Government providing more training places – while Moray’s MSP emerged from talks with Moray Council saying that the answer could come from some “out of the box” thinking.
Moray Council were the first in Scotland to remove Principal Teacher posts at primary schools two years ago – prompting subsequent claims by school managers that workloads had become “unmanageable” and important tasks were being neglected in schools.
More recently concerns have been raised about the impact on teacher recruitment by removing teaching career progression opportunities.
The SNP opposition group say that since the removal of Principal Teachers those concerns have been repeated by Head Teachers and Classroom Teachers and inspections of schools have pointed to leadership capacity challenges.
Speaking ahead of Thursday’s budget meeting SNP Opposition Leader Cllr Pearl Paul said: “The SNP opposed cuts to Principal Teachers previously and our concerns about the impact on leadership are proving to be correct.
“We need to reverse this situation and SNP Councillors will propose the reinstatement of Principal Teachers for primary schools with nurseries attached and primary schools with more than 150 pupils. This will get leadership support back into schools that are under severe pressure.
“I urge councillors from other parties and Independent Councillors to get behind this and help our schools deliver the curriculum and the best possible outcomes for children across Moray.
“In addition to supporting schools, improving the advancement opportunities for teachers may encourage more teachers to look to Moray as a positive career choice. That, alongside other work, could help encourage teacher recruitment.”
Meanwhile Moray Labour councillor Sean Morton continued to lay the blame for Moray’s teacher shortage with the Scottish Government. He said: “I want to be absolutely clear that Moray Labour remains fully committed to maintaining teacher numbers.
“We want all young people to have a fighting chance in life. The difficulties we face in achieving this are entirely due to the shortage in teacher supply.
“We currently have over 70 teacher vacancies across primary and secondary schools in Moray because we have been unable to recruit to these posts. Other authorities like Fife are in a similar position.
“That is without a doubt down to a failure on the part of the SNP Scottish Government to accurately predict the future demand for teachers and to provide sufficient training places.
“I am shocked but hardly surprised that John Swinney has chosen to walk away from discussions with Cosla on such an important issue and now seems intent on demonising local authorities for something that is mostly beyond their control.
“We have all these vacancies but these teachers are nowhere to be found – they don’t exist. And now it seems we are being threatened with a loss of grant for something that is not our fault.”
Last night Richard Lochhead MSP issued a statement following his meeting with Moray Council to discuss the teacher recruitment crisis. The MSP said he had made a number of proposals which led to agreement of a five-point plan to aid the recruitment of more teachers to Moray:
- Explore whether more teaching training places can be offered in Moray, and whether the Scottish Government can intervene through use of the preferential waivers for newly qualified teachers.
- Incentives could be offered to those who relocate to take up a teaching posts in Moray.
- Establish a public relations campaign to promote Moray.
- Council to show that education is a priority and is valued.
- Through workforce planning, ensure there are opportunities for a career path and promotion in Moray.
Describing the discussions as “positive”, the Moray MSP welcomed assurances from the Council that action on some of these proposals is already under way, as well as their commitment to accelerate some of the work which has already begun. Mr Lochhead will now be writing to the Education Secretary on the issue.
Mr Lochhead said: “I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet with The Moray Council today to discuss the teacher shortages in our schools, to hear what action is already under way and what the next steps should be to help recruit more teachers to Moray.
“It’s important that progress is made soon to fill these vacancies, as clearly the shortage is also putting additional pressure on our hard working teachers.
“Our meeting was constructive and filling these vacancies may require some thinking outside the box. Moving forward I will be working with the Council and my SNP Councillor colleagues to progress this action plan.”