Nicola Sturgeon has defended her Government’s record on education, saying there are now as many primary school teachers as there were when she was a child.
During First Minister’s Questions, Labour leader Richard Leonard cited the comments of two teachers, who are purportedly SNP members, describing “a crisis where schools are understaffed”.
Mr Leonard said a teacher in North Lanarkshire called Esther wrote in the Scottish Educational Journal: “Despite what you have said yourself on many occasions, it is becoming clear that education is not a priority for this Government.”
There are 3,000 fewer teachers than when the SNP came to power, Mr Leonard said.
The First Minister responded: “We saw just last week a rise of almost 500 in the number of teachers in our schools, that follows a rise in the year before and the year before that as well.”
“The number of primary school teachers is at the highest level since I was at primary school in 1980,” added Ms Sturgeon.
Mr Leonard said: “There are 3,000 fewer teachers in our classrooms, no progress has been made in closing the attainment gap, and Scotland is facing its first teachers strike since Margaret Thatcher was in Downing Street.
“Nicola Sturgeon told us that education is her top priority, but parents don’t believe that, teachers don’t believe that, and now even her own party members don’t believe that either.”
Scottish Government statistics last week indicated schools employed the full-time equivalent (FTE) of 51,138 teachers.
The total of 24,899 FTE primary teachers is the highest since 1980, the Government said.
Overall teacher numbers, including those working in early learning and childcare centres, are the highest they have been since 2010 at 51,959.
As a result, the teacher workforce in 2018 is 447 higher than it was the previous year.