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Warning as Shire secondary school staffing levels hit "crisis...

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Aberdeenshire Council’s director of education has warned that secondary teaching numbers in the region are “close to crisis point”.

At a meeting of the children and education services committee today, Laurence Findlay said the area was not receiving the number of teachers it needs.

Across Aberdeenshire, there are particular shortages in english, maths, science, technical and home economics.

At the end of January, 47 secondary posts had been advertised but none were filled.

Mr Findlay even suggested that some subjects are at risk of being removed from the curriculum if a solution can’t be found.

He told the committee that schools will do everything they can to provide cover.

This includes relying “heavily” on retired teachers and senior management in schools.

In some secondary facilities, headteachers and deputy staff are “covering significant timetables” which is taking them away from dealing with other work.

But there is a worry this will have an impact on the quality and standard of education over time.

However, Mr Findlay said these were just “short-term fixes” and work needed to be done nationwide to attract people into secondary teaching.

Earlier this week, Mr Findlay met with officials from the teacher workforce group to help address the problem.

He noted there was a desire to review the Teacher Induction Scheme as the local authority was not getting the benefits from it that it used to.

Mr Findlay explained: “People are selecting their preferential five local authorities.

“Very few people are putting Aberdeenshire as their first or second choice, unless they come from here or have connections.

“We are seeing the central belt authorities being advantaged because of that.”

Meanwhile, he revealed that teachers currently working in more remote schools, such as Banff Academy, are applying for jobs closer to Aberdeen.

Mr Findlay believes the cost-of-living crisis is responsible for staff choosing not to commute further away or move closer to their workplace.

And he also voiced a concern about the lack of future teachers applying to university.

“We heavily rely on the University of Aberdeen for our crop of new teachers,” he said.

“The numbers applying next year across core subjects are way down and nationally 42 per cent of spaces are unfilled.

“It’s really quite worrying.”

Committee chairwoman, councillor Gillian Owen, described the situation as “precarious”.

She has written to the cabinet secretary for education and skills, Shirley-Anne Somerville, twice to get some assistance.

Ms Owen said that vacancies in key subject areas would cause staff to make really difficult curriculum decisions.

She explained: “Headteachers have shown to be creative in addressing these challenges but the situation is worsening in some schools.

“What’s equally concerning is that universities are still not filling all their places on teacher education programmes, this shows there’s no sign of it improving soon.”

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