Despite Scotsman scare story, English schools spending 50% more on supply teachers than better-staffed Scottish schools.

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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.

SNP Government increases teacher numbers to create far superior pupil/teacher ratios and much smaller attainment gaps than in England

Finally, there is no evidence that the Scottish pay deal is failing to retain teachers. See:

Scottish Teachers Less Likely to Consider Quitting


6 thoughts on “Despite Scotsman scare story, English schools spending 50% more on supply teachers than better-staffed Scottish schools.

  1. Alasdair Macdonald December 28, 2017 / 2:37 pm

    This is one of these decontextualised ‘exposes’ in which a seemingly big sum of money is revealed to be being spent on some supposedly bad entity like ‘supply teachers’.

    Supply teachers are needed because, teachers like any other working group have members who get ill, ave babies, suffer bereavements, have to go on training courses, have to attend case conferences, etc. In order for children to continue to be taught, then supply teachers have to be engaged, if the amount of contingency slack within routine staffing is insufficient. Surely, that is a ‘good thing’?

    It only becomes a problem if the level of absence amongst teachers is abnormally high or if the rate of pay for supply teachers is excessive. These are questions worthy of regular monitoring.

    To simply state a headline figure and bleat BAAAAAAAAAD! Is ridiculous.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Ludo Thierry December 28, 2017 / 5:57 pm

    One of El Coronel’s guardsmen caught asleep on duty (from the Cumnock Chronicle):

    Cumnock MP Bill Grant looked asleep in Parliament
    Stephen Bark

    CUMNOCK MP Bill Grant has been slammed for appearing to fall asleep during a debate in Parliament.
    A picture passed onto the Chronicle appears to show the Conservative MP pictured sitting behind Moray MP Douglas Ross with his eyes closed, fast asleep during the debate on pensions equality for women.
    Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley MSP Jeane Freeman has hit out at the MP for disrespecting the plight of the Women Against State Pension Inequality.
    The SNP MSP said: “Not only did Bill Grant MP refuse to sign the WASPI pledge to support WASPI women in their fight for pension equality a few months ago, he fails to give the WASPI debate in parliament the attention it deserves by falling asleep on the job.”
    However, Mr Grant has claimed that he wasn’t sleeping during the debate on pensions equality for women and that, instead, he was “listening intently”.

    Does El Coronel demand the Death Penalty? – or does she dispense mercy on the solid grounds that many people experience the exact same effect when faced with listening to Douglas Ross MP?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ludo Thierry December 28, 2017 / 8:46 pm

    More boring than the bold Oliver Mundell? – That’s a philosophical impossibility, surely?

    Noticed on beeb Wales site that The Col’s bestie (and choice for Party Leader and PM) Stephen Crabb MP has come through the Tory party procedure with only a slap on the wrist regarding his ‘unorthodox’ texting habits involving a teenage girl who had applied for a job in office. See below:

    Referring to Mr Crabb’s case, a Conservative Party spokesman said: “Following an investigation, a panel headed by an independent QC has concluded that Mr Crabb’s behaviour did not constitute harassment.

    “However, it found that his behaviour in this matter was inappropriate and fell short of the standards the party expects.

    “The party chairman has reminded Mr Crabb of the need to adhere to the spirit and letter of the code of conduct at all times. He accepted this unreservedly and has made a full apology.”

    The married MP, who was Welsh secretary between 2014 and 2016, was one of several contenders for the Tory leadership who lost out to Theresa May.

    Curious isn’t it that the beeb/msm still haven’t asked The Col. for a comment on the whole business?


    • johnrobertson834 December 28, 2017 / 9:33 pm

      She is the last remaining hope for the Union so must be protected for Indyref2?


    • Alasdair Macdonald December 29, 2017 / 8:29 pm

      Ludo, there is the msm convention that THE COLONEL does not get asked questions other than those which enable her to make the points she intended to make. Asking about Mr Crabb is strictly off limits.


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