In its call to hire more teachers to help schools cope with the coronavirus pandemic, the Scottish Government has suffered a setback.
It is the second loss in three weeks since the Scottish government was required by MPs to employ at least 2,000 new full-time teachers in a non-binding vote last month.
A Conservative motion expressing “disappointment” that ministers have not yet presented plans to reach that goal was passed by 59 votes to four, with 61 abstentions, and again calling for the recruitment of additional teachers.
In Holyrood, opposition parties accused ministers of neglect and again called for more to be done to hire more school workers to deal with the “crippling” workload.
Scottish Conservative education spokesperson Jamie Greene opened the discussion by saying that when it comes to upholding Parliament’s will after losing elections, the Scottish government has been’ oddly quiet.’
He added: “The increase in teacher numbers has three clear advantages.”
Second, it will help to decrease class sizes and the obvious advantages it brings.
Second, it increases the school’s resilience to cope with absences, and third, it helps improve the choice of topics.
We know that the FOI we submitted this week shows that average SQA courses per pupil have fallen from 31 out of 32 local authorities since 2014.
“But the importance of teacher numbers is a principle we’ve already agreed to in this Parliament, and to date no definitive plan has emerged on how the government will deliver on that agreement.”
Education Secretary John Swinney answered that £ 80 million had been allocated by the Scottish government and 1,400 new teachers and 246 support staff had been employed.
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“These additional resources will bring much-needed resilience to schools and the education system,” Swinney said.
“Decisions on school staffing have been discussed with local authorities and I will continue to discuss their ongoing needs and aspirations for staffing in the delivery of education during the Covid 19 crisis.”
Iain Gray, Scottish Labour’s education spokesperson, said, “Only last month, in that Green motion, Parliament specifically informed (Mr. Swinney) that teachers needed to see increased measures to address their safety concerns, but he did not listen.”
“There are no additional teachers, beyond the ones he called for a month ago when we had this debate, so no smaller classes,” he said.
“There’s no funding for improved ventilation, so schools are still sitting with the windows open.”
Ross Greer, MSP of the Green Party, said it was “disappointing” that the Scottish government had not acted on the parliament’s call for more teachers to “ease the crippling work pressures currently faced.”
High staff absence rates will continue well into the new year, Mr. Greer said, and it would be an understatement to say that teachers are at breaking point.
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“But today’s budget update made no mention of additional funding for teacher recruitment, so we can only assume the government will not do what Parliament has ordered.”
Additional school staff need to be recruited and ready to deal with the new problems that will emerge in the new year,”Additional school staff need to be recruited and ready to deal with the new issues that will arise in the new year. The patchwork approach so far in recruiting nine local authorities that are not taking on new additional support staff is not good enough.”