Herald’s statistics fail to create believable crisis in Scottish teacher supply


Today’s headline with opening text is:

‘More than 1,000 teachers under 40 quit the profession. MORE than a thousand teachers under the age of 40 have quit the profession in the past two years fuelling Scotland’s school recruitment crisis. Official figures show 649 teachers between the ages of 21 and 40 dropped off the teaching register in 2018 – while 641 left the previous year.


So, it’s only 649 in the last year but ‘more than 1 000’ makes a ‘better’ headline, eh? However, is 649 a lot or not a lot? The Herald goes on to suggest a staffing crisis.

There were 51 513 teachers in Scottish schools last year.


I don’t know how many were aged 40 and under, but 649 is only 1.25% of the total. If half of teachers are 40 or under, then it would still be only 2.5%. Would that make a crisis?

Anyway, how does the number of teachers per capita in Scotland compare with that in, say, England? There were 51 513 teacher FTEs in Scotland last year and 457 300 thousand FTEs in England:


So, Scotland has 10% of the population but 11.3% of the teachers.

Finally, how do the pupil teacher ratios compare? From the same sources, we get 13.6 to 1 in Scotland, 15 to one in English secondaries and 20 to 1 in primaries. So, not surprisingly, Scotland has a better pupil teacher ratio

Crisis what crisis?


4 thoughts on “Herald’s statistics fail to create believable crisis in Scottish teacher supply

  1. Alasdair Macdonald October 6, 2018 / 2:31 pm

    A paradigm example of the misuse of statistics. What was the Herald’s justification for adding the numbers for two successive years together? As the Scottish Government document has done, such data are usually given per annum. To give a sense of context, such data can be expressed, as you have done, as a percentage of the entire workforce. The percentage is fairly low and a proper report would place this in the context of a historic trend. The data which the Herald has chosen to misuse, indicates that the 2017 percentage was broadly the same as the 2016 figure.

    If you go a few sections further in the SG data, there is a breakdown of the age profile of the teaching force, and, by interpolation, those under 40 represent about 48% of the total teaching force. So your estimate of 50% is not far off the mark.

    Had the Herald been a proper ‘paper of record’ which is facilitating informed democratic debate, it would have looked at ‘reasons for leaving’. These would include things like left for maternity reasons (teaching is very largely, a FEMALE occupation), moved to elsewhere in the UK or overseas, struck off, left for other employment, etc. Art, Music and Home Economics teachers, often move in and out of the teaching profession, because they sometimes have periods of self employment’.

    This is a classic ‘isn’t public education failing under the SNP?’ bit of hackery. It is probably not unconnected with the fact that negotiations for teachers pay have broken down, and, in such circumstances the default position of the teacher unions is to shriek that there is ‘anarchy in our schools’. And our privately educated editors who attended ‘top’ or ‘leading’ schools lap up any opportunity to be scathing about the public sector.

    PS since public education began in 1873, more than 50 000 teachers under 40 have left the profession!!!!!

    PPS have a look at the Labour (mainly England) site Left Foot Forward, which has an article about why no tuition fees in Scotland has been a total disaster, in encouraging children from areas of high SIMD, into HE. You have proved such stories to be the lies they are each year the the COLONEL and her Scottish Labour acolytes flag it up with the publication of the UCAS data. As UCAS always points out that a high proportion of young people in Scotland use the FE route and enter HE as older students and do not use the UCAS route. The story is mendacity and shows how little the Labour Party in England actually knows about Scotland. Despite their trumpeted internationalism, the Labour Party in England are English/British colonialists. Irish, Scottish and Welsh, to them are simply trivial badges of ‘identity politics’ and a distraction from Labour attaining it’s manifest English/British destiny.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Legerwood October 6, 2018 / 4:07 pm

    I am not entirely surprised by the Herald’s story. About a day or so ago the Guardian had a story about the problems with teacher retention in London – see below. Anything like this usually sparks ‘news’ items along similar lines appearing in the Scottish press but based on manipulation of dubious merit..


    For England as a whole there is this from The Guardian in May 2018 which quotes a figure of 40,000 teachers leaving the profession in 2016, the last year for which figures were available. From the article:

    “”Welcome to England’s classrooms in 2018. Every teacher knows someone who has left the profession, retired early, had a breakdown, or been signed off work with stress. Just under 40,000 teachers quit the profession in 2016 – the latest figures available – representing about 9% of the workforce, according to government figures. And not enough of them are being replaced – there is now a shortfall of 30,000 classroom teachers, particularly at secondary level, where 20% of teacher training vacancies are unfilled.””



    • johnrobertson834 October 7, 2018 / 6:05 am

      Very useful links
      Post delayed by WordPress’s caution with url links


  3. Mr W October 7, 2018 / 1:33 pm

    This is a classic case of lies, damned lies, and statistics.

    For what it’s worth there is a definite crisis in our schools. What your focus on statistics misses is that we are real teachers facing real shortages. My department is 3 teachers under, and almost nobody is applying for the posts. Teachers are demoralised thanks to our salary being reduced by about 25% over the past 10 years, we are demoralised about the introduction of the new tests despite all the empiric evidence to show they are not a good thing for very young pupils, we are consistently vilified by parents and the press who expect us to deliver what is effectively ‘private’ education using very few of the resourcing in terms of materials and staff enjoyed by the private sector.

    In short, while you can manipulate the figures to show bias all you like, teaching and education in Scotland need a massive investment if you are to retain teachers at any level. FWIW: I applied for a job driving trains because I’d be £10,000 a year better off. I was not successful, so am stuck with teaching until I retire.

    My real fear? Nicola Sturgeon has, very foolishly, made Education her yardstick measure and, on current progress, it could be used to bring her down. If that happens, we lose Indy for more years than I have left.

    Forget the point scoring (valid as it is) and start supporting teachers, schools, and most importantly of all, the pupils for they are the ones with most to lose if we are stuck in the damned U.K.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s