Claims from Liberal Democrats that Fife schools are facing a teacher recruitment crisis have been dismissed by education bosses.
Willie Rennie MSP, the party’s leader in Scotland, and Councillor Tim Brett, Fife group leader, warned that as pupils prepared to return to classrooms next week many teaching posts remained unfilled.
They blamed the SNP government for a shortage of teachers, and hit out at falling exam pass rates, and declining standards in literacy and numeracy.
But Councillor Bryan Poole, Fife’s education spokesman, suggested it was the Lib Dems who had a few lessons to learn as their claim of 37 teaching vacancies in Fife was wide of the mark.
He accused Mr Rennie and Cllr Brett of mis-using and mis-interpreting information sent to them in an attempt to score cheap political points.
Cllr Poole said: “If they want to play politics with the SNP Government, then they can go ahead, but leave Fife’s teachers, headteachers and pupils out of it.”
This week, Mr Rennie claimed many schools did not have the staff they needed to ensure pupils got the education they deserved.
He said: “A recruitment crisis would only increase the pressure on other teachers and make life more difficult for pupils who need the most support.”
Cllr Brett added: “The SNP are constantly asking teachers to do more with less, and consquently the system is creaking at the seams.
“It’s no surprise that teacher morale is reportedly at rock bottom and we are struggling to fill vacancies.”
According to the Council’s education service, there are 14 vacant teaching posts in Fife – nine in secondaries and five in primaries – and interviews are planned to fill some of these.
Cllr Poole said: “Given that Fife Council has a teacher workforce of around 3500 and there is a national shortage of teachers, I think Fife is looking not too bad.
“My message is clear to Mr Rennie – there is no recruitment crisis in Fife.”
Cllr Poole also hit back at claims of falling standards and declining exam pass rates.
“Literacy levels in Fife are at record levels and last week’s SQA results showed a 40 per cent increase in pupils gaining a Higher in English – an improvement way above the Scottish average,” he said.
“Pupils gaining Higher Maths was up 17 per cent on last year, and again an improvement above the Scottish average, with very encouraging signs elsewhere in the curriculum.
“Fife’s education service is in a good place. Could we do better? I’m sure we could and, as always, we will start the new session afresh, determined to do the best we possibly can.”
Jobs advertised in Gulf States
Fife Council has undertaken a “robust and wide-ranging” process this year to recruit teachers, advertising posts across the UK and Ireland.
It has carried out a recruitment exercise in Germany and advertised in the Gulf States to encourage teachers abroad to come back to Fife.
The council has also worked with the Scottish Government to secure as many probationer teachers as possible.