Teacher Recruitment and Retention (Aberdeenshire)

Dennis Robertson (Aberdeenshire West) (SNP):  To ask the Scottish Government when it last met Aberdeenshire Council to discuss the recruitment and retention of teachers. (S4O-04133)

The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning (Angela Constance):  The recruitment and retention of teachers was one of a number of matters that were discussed when I met representatives from Aberdeenshire Council on Monday 16 February to discuss the commitment to teacher numbers. Specifically, I met Councillor Isobel Davidson, Maria Walker, who is the director of education, and Jim Savege, the chief executive officer. Aberdeenshire Council wrote to the Deputy First Minister on 20 February to confirm that it will maintain teacher numbers.

Dennis Robertson:  I thank the cabinet secretary for that information. She is probably aware that many of the schools in my constituency of Aberdeenshire West are quite rural. There used to be a threat that some smaller schools would be closed because of a lack of pupils. Obviously, we want to ensure that we do not have any school closures because of a lack of teachers in rural schools. Will the cabinet secretary confirm that everything possible will be done to retain teacher numbers in rural communities, as schools are the heart of such communities?

Angela Constance:  Yes. The Government is particularly alert to the challenges for rural Scotland. For the past four consecutive years, student teacher intake targets for universities have been increased. The University of Aberdeen has received a disproportionate increase in the number of additional places for primary school teachers, taking its target intake up from 161 to 208. We are funding the University of Aberdeen to work more closely with local authorities to train existing employees, such as classroom assistants, through a part-time postgraduate diploma in education course that is done through distance learning. Those are employees who would not otherwise have given up their jobs to train full time as teachers. I know that Aberdeenshire Council has employees who are following that route into teaching.