Class sizes remain unchanged as teacher and pupil numbers rise

The number of teachers working in Scotland's schools has risen in the last year, but this has been balanced out by a rise in the number of pupils.
The number of teachers working in Scotland's schools has risen in the last year, but this has been balanced out by a rise in the number of pupils.

The number of teachers working in Scotland’s schools has risen to its highest level in the last decade.

But the EIS, the country’s biggest teachers union, insists this has been balanced out by the rising number of pupils.

Primary school teacher numbers are at their highest level since 1980 and total teacher numbers have risen by 288, according to the latest statistics.

The overall number of teachers rose to 52,247, an increase of 1530 since 2015 and the highest level since 2009.

Separate figures show the proportion of primary pupils assessed as achieving the expected levels in listening and talking, reading, writing, and numeracy has continued to improve.

Performance among S3 pupils has remained stable, with almost nine out of 10 achieving the expected levels in listening and talking, reading, writing and numeracy.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “These latest statistics demonstrate that our reforms are working and education in Scotland is moving in the right direction.

“I am delighted to see teacher numbers continuing to increase, with levels at their highest in a decade and the number of primary teachers being the highest since 1980.

“Since 2006 there are now fewer P1-P3 pupils in large classes of 31 or more, which is particularly important as helping children in the early years is crucial if we are to close the attainment gap between the most and least deprived.”

Larry Flanagan, EIS general secretary, agreed there was much to be welcomed in the statistics.

He highlighted the increased percentage of pupils meeting or exceeding expected Curriculum for Excellence levels, saying this was a positive development and a credit to Scotland’s pupils and teachers.

But on teacher numbers, Mr Flanagan said: “Whilst the headline number of teachers working in Scotland’s schools is up, slightly, on last year, this is balanced out by a rise in the number of pupils in our schools.

“The end result is that pupil/teacher ratios are at a standstill and average class sizes remain unchanged.

“If we are to address the excessive workload burdens that are currently being placed upon Scotland’s teachers, we need to employ more teachers in our schools in order to reduce class sizes and enhance the learning environment for pupils.”

Mr Flanagan also expressed concern that fewer probationer teachers were moving into full-time permanent posts.

He said steps should be taken to recruit and retain more newly-qualified, post-probation teachers on full-time permanent contracts.