The number of teachers dropping out of the profession before completing their probation year has risen by almost three quarters since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister, new research by Scottish Labour has shown.

Dumbarton Constituency MSP Jackie Baillie, said the additional stress of teaching during Covid-19 is likely to exacerbate the situation, and has called on the Scottish Government to address staff shortages and class sizes as a matter of urgency.

In 2013/14, the last academic year before Nicola Sturgeon took office, the cumulative number of probationer teachers no longer in post by the end of the summer holidays was 54. By the end of the last academic year (2019/20), 95 probationer teachers had dropped out. This represents a 76 per cent increase.

In secondary schools, the number rose from 23 in 2013/14 to 38 in 2019/20 – the highest level in a decade. The figures were obtained via a Freedom of Information request from Scottish Labour.

Jackie Baillie MSP for Dumbarton Constituency said:

“These figures expose the scale of the challenge facing schools in West Dunbartonshire and Argyll & Bute when they re-open this week. Just as the Scottish Government left Scotland unprepared for the public health crisis, it also left Scotland unprepared for the resulting education crisis.

“This drop-out level is a real concern for maintaining adequate staffing levels in the coming academic year, it also underlines the fact that SNP ministers have failed to address workplace stress among teachers. With the added challenges of Covid-19 and the Scottish government’s shambolic handling of the education crisis, these drop-out levels could get worse.

“It’s time for the SNP Government to get a grip, and take urgent action to increase staffing, reduce class sizes and relieve stress among teachers.”

The average primary school class size in 2019 was 23.5 pupils, this is the highest since 2013 and is up from 22.8 in 2007. The proportion of P1-P3 pupils in small classes has decreased from 15.3% in 2007 to 12.3% in 2019, despite the SNP pledging to reduce class sizes to 18 or less more than a decade ago.

Jackie Baillie MSP said the failure to properly resource schools since the pandemic hit Scotland would also exacerbate the problem.

Jackie added:

“Even in the face of a major education crisis, the Scottish Government is not taking the issues of class sizes and staff shortages seriously.

“The additional teachers announced last week amount to less than half a staff member per school, and West Dunbartonshire & Argyll & Bute council like others across Scotland were given just two weeks to recruit them.

“If ministers had set out a route map for schools at the time they closed them, rather than making it up as they went along, they could have run this recruitment programme on a more realistic timetable.”


FOI response to Scottish Labour here.

Additional teachers amount to half a staff member per school:

Class size figures:

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