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SNP ministers not sorry enough for human cost of 3,000 lost teachers

August 28, 2011 9:00 AM
Originally published by Scottish Liberal Democrats

Scottish Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Liam McArthur has urged the Education Secretary, Michael Russell to face up to the scale of the government's failure over teacher numbers.

Recent figures show that recent from the General Teaching Council in Scotland show that 16% of probationer teachers have not found permanent employment in Scottish schools, up from 13.5% in 2008 / 2009.

The figures prompted the Education Secretary to utter the word 'sorry' earlier this week, but it was equally clear that the so-called apology was nothing more than a thinly veiled attack on his opponents.

Commenting Mr McArthur said:

"The Education Secretary's 'apology' this week will have struck many as too little too late, given the scale of the SNP's failure on the issue of teacher numbers over the last four years.

"The fact that Mr Russell's 'apology' was an excuse to again shift the blame for his failures and those of his predecessor, Fiona Hyslop, onto local authorities and political opponents shows that this particular leopard is as spotty as ever. More seriously, it sends a worrying message about the Minister's willingness or ability to get to grips with problems he and his government have created.

"The SNP Government inherited record numbers of teachers when they came into power in 2007. Thanks to reckless promises and a determination to duck and dodge responsibility, SNP Ministers allowed this number to crumble by over 3,000 in four years. Somehow losing 3,000 teachers without noticing is incompetence of a high order.

"Bad as this situation is, though, there is still the potential for it to get worse. Mr Russell's response, meanwhile, is to offer yet more cast iron assurances, this time to probationary teachers. His track record, though, and that of the SNP government in this area does not augur well for the future.

"Scottish Liberal Democrats recognise that teachers need to be at the heart of shaping a world class Scottish education system. That is why the human cost of the SNP's failures on teacher numbers is so galling.

"The waste of enthusiasm and vigour from so many keen young teachers, the loss of their talents to children in our schools, and the useless spending of public money to train them without matching them with classroom places is a scandal.

"The problem that Mr Russell and his colleagues may find with the 'wisnae me' attitude to ministerial responsibility is that it hardly inspires confidence that, when things go wrong, Ministers are in the right frame of mind to put them right.

The SNP Government have had charge of this for almost five years. The pathetic explanation that it is someone else's fault does not wash".