Probing questions are being placed in the direction of the Cabinet Secretary for Education over Moray Council’s warning that schools may be forced to close because of teacher recruitment difficulties.
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant has expressed her dismay at the teacher shortage in Moray being highlighted today at a meeting of Moray Council’s children and young people’s services committee. However, an SNP councillor is laying the blame for the crisis squarely on the current council administration.
Ahead of that meeting Moray Council officials this week highlighted that 70 teaching vacancies existed in Moray with £35,000 having been spent by the local authority in advertising throughout the country but with very few applicants, in particular for posts at rural schools.
Confirming that she had written to the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Angela Constance MSP, Rhoda Grant said: “The issue here seems to be a lack of available teachers and this must be a direct result of the limited numbers of available places on suitable training courses for people wanting to go into this profession.
“This is of course a national problem we are told and therefore one that the Government should be tackling and dealing with head on. The Government have recently stated that they are ploughing £2million into teacher training and are making available an extra 250 teacher training places.
“However, if these places are to be allocated for the whole of Scotland, that is not a lot of places. Why have they waited until the issue has hit crisis point before acting?”
The MSP also questioned if Moray Council had been advertising the vacancies on the best platforms, saying: “The added issue here is one that most organisations and businesses are finding in the North of Scotland and that is one of attracting the right applicants to these parts.
“The Highlands Islands and Moray are great places to work, live and visit and I ask, is enough being done to promote these areas. What are we doing to attract people to come and work here?
“ I have written Angela Constance asking what the Government are doing to address this very real crisis affected us here and now. In this day and age it is unbelievable to think that children can be sent home from school because there is not enough teachers to teach them.”
Fochabers/Lhanbryde councillor Sean Morton said that he had warned the council chamber a year ago that a crisis was looming: “The Government is telling councils they have a duty to provide the teachers but aren’t providing them with the extra resources they need to recruit. The SNP are abandoning rural areas to their fate.”
Blame laid at door of Council Administration
However, the opposition group spokesman on education at Moray Council, Mike Shand, laid the blame for the crisis at the current Independent administration.
He said: “SNP Councillors in Moray have expressed our concerns about changes in school management structures, which we feel have been detrimental to staff morale, particularly in primary schools. This adds to the already challenging problems associated with teacher recruitment.
“We previously voted against the removal of numerous Principal Teacher posts by the Council’s Tory/Independent Administration, which we believed would be detrimental to both pupil attainment and to the morale of staff.
“Since then the strong view we get back from teachers is that leadership capacity in our schools has suffered significantly causing the impacts that we were concerned about.
“Teachers need proper support in the workplace if Moray Council aspires to be an attractive employer for them and that support is sadly lacking in some aspects. We fully intend to keep pressing the Council’s Administration on this issue.
“On the issue of some High School subjects which are more difficult to recruit for, it is worth noting that some students already access courses at Moray College UHI. This may well be worth exploring further to see if still more benefits can be achieved from closer partnership working.
“In addition to these issues Moray also needs to sell itself better as an attractive place to live and work.
“Too many people still consider Moray to be too far from some of the bigger cities when, in fact, we have a broad range of services and facilities across the region, great communities, a fantastic environment and amongst the highest quality of life you can find.”