The Scotsman today headlined:
‘The bill for supply teachers in Scotland has topped £81 million, sparking calls for the Scottish Government to review its deal on teacher pay.’
This was based on a Freedom of Information request by the Liberal Democrats and showed that Scotland’s local authorities spent £81.5 million on supply teachers. The implication in the headline and the report was that the fault lies with the Scottish Government and, in particular, with its pay deal failing to attract and retain teachers.
However, a quick search revealed that the situation in Scotland is clearly being better managed than that in England where £1.2 billion was spent on supply teachers in roughly the same period. This suggests spending was approximately 50% higher than in Scotland. An investigation by ITV found the above figure and noted that this was an increase of 42% over the last three years. The Sun picked up on the report and headlined it
‘SHAMBOLIC’ SCHOOL SERVICE: Recruitment agencies rake in millions as schools spend £1.26bn hiring supply teachers to cover sick staff’
Explaining the difference in the spending is easy. Scottish schools are better staffed and have less need of supply cover.
There are now 543 more teachers in Scottish schools. In 2017, only 631 P1 pupils were taught in classes of more than 26 compared to 16 845 in 2006 at the end of the Lab/Lib Dem coalition.
There are 51 500 teachers in Scottish schools and the pupil/teacher ratio is now 13.6 pupils per teacher, down from (better than) 13.7 in 2016. This ratio is an important indicator of the time teachers have to engage with pupils and is likely to have played a major part in narrowing attainment gaps.
In England, there were 457 300 teachers in 2016, up by 400 from 2015. The pupil/teacher ratio in 2016 was 17.6 pupils per teacher. England’s population is almost exactly ten times that of Scotland, so you might have expected there to be around 515 000 teachers there. The increase of 400 teachers, in England, from 2015 to 2016, is small when compared with the Scottish Government’s increase of 543 between 2016 and 2017 in a country with a tenth of the population.
Finally, there is no evidence that the Scottish pay deal is failing to retain teachers. See: