MORE than £450 million has been spent on supply teachers in the last four years in Scotland, figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives have revealed.
In that time – from 2008 to 2011 – around 15,000 supply teachers a year have been used across Scotland to cover shifts caused by absence, holidays or staffing shortage.
The statistics reveal the rising cost to the taxpayer for schools providing temporary staff cover, and they also show huge variations between various local authorities across Scotland.
It is likely that the total spend will actually be higher as one of the country’s largest authorities – Edinburgh – was not able to submit a total.
Scottish Conservative local government spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell said: “Quite simply these figures show the growing extent of many councils’ dependence on supply teachers and it puts into a stark light just how weak the SNP’s workforce planning has been in recent years.
“Supply teachers are worth their weight in gold in many classrooms, but it is very worrying that we are seeing such an extensive financial burden being placed on the taxpayer especially at a time when so many young qualified teachers are finding it impossible to get teaching posts.
“The more the SNP allows this imbalance to continue the more Scotland will lose out when it comes to attracting the brightest and best recruits to the profession.
“That is simply not an acceptable situation for these teachers or for our pupils.
“Not only do the results from this FOI show just how much use is being made of supply staff in many schools across the country, but also the very worrying disparity between some of the figures.
“For example, Glasgow and North Lanarkshire employed a similar number of supply teachers in 2010/11, but Glasgow’s total spending on these teachers was three times greater.
“The public will struggle to understand why this should be the case and it is time we got some answers.”