Aberdeenshire Council says it remains committed to filling teaching vacancies after it was revealed it spent £19 million on supply teachers during the past three years.
The stark reality of the well-documented teaching shortfall was highlighted by figures revealed in a Freedom of Information request by the Liberal Democrats.
They showed that between them, Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen City, Angus and Dundee have spent just over £30m on supply teaching staff since 2016, with Aberdeenshire accounting for the majority with £19,015,208 spent during the three-year period.
Public sector bodies have struggled over a number of years to recruit staff to the area where the higher cost of living – largely attributed to the oil and gas industry – deters many potential candidates from heading north.
Commenting on the figures, Lib-Dem MSP Mike Rumbles said: “Hundreds of teaching posts across the North-east are going unfilled.
“Years of teacher shortages across Scotland has put a huge pressure on schools, especially in rural areas, and our local authorities have been forced to spend millions of pounds on supply staff just to get by.
“What make matters worse is that pupils’ choices, and therefore their ambitions, are being limited by the lack of permanent teachers.”
He said it came as “no surprise” that Aberdeenshire was struggling more than most to fill key teacher places.
Mr Rumbles commented: “Along with Aberdeen City the council has consistently received the lowest funding per head of population from the Scottish Government for over a decade.”
An Aberdeenshire Council spokesperson said: “There is a well-documented national challenge in recruiting teachers which is reflected in the use of supply teachers.
“Like every Scottish council, we are doing our utmost to ensure as many vacancies are filled as possible.
“We have received awards for our innovative recruitment strategies which have been recognised as best practice nationally.”
Councillor Gillian Owen, chair of the council’s Education and Children’s Services Committee, added: “Supply teachers play a vital role in ensuring children and young people in Aberdeenshire receive a great education when there are gaps required such as maternity cover or long-term illness.
“We now live in a world where we work flexibly. Supply teaching gives a teacher looking to adjust their working hours the opportunity to use their skills in a pattern that meets their needs.”
By Ken Duncan
Local Democracy Reporter