Scots workers who leave their current careers to become teachers in key subjects will be offered cash bursaries, as the Government attempts to plug gaps in Scotland’s skills landscape. It is hoped that the grants, valued at £20,000, will woo graduates with relevant degrees in STEM subjects to become teachers.
The announcement comes in light of the news that several Scottish councils, such as Fife, North Lanarkshire and Moray, have struggled to attract teachers. A spokesperson for the Scottish Government has since confirmed that there will be no limit for the number of bursaries that will be given out, commenting: “We’re not going to turn anyone away.”
Education Secretary John Swinney conceded in his address to the SNP Conference, “In schools in some parts of our country and in some subjects we know we have a shortage of teachers”. However, a spokesperson has also confirmed that the Government expects up to 100 applicants per year, costing the scheme at around £2 million. Subjects eligible for the bursaries include maths, computing science and physics, but the list is apparently flexible according to need.
Applicants will still have to go through the usual training processes before entering into their new roles, with the money tiding them over through the process. Mr Swinney noted: “Because we understand that they have to balance family and financial responsibilities that new graduates may not face, we understand that the prospect of giving up a salary for a year while they do their teacher training is a real barrier for them.”
The initiative has been welcomed by leaders in rival parties. Scottish Conservatives Leader Ruth Davidson called the move a ‘good one’, while Labour’s Education Spokesperson Iain Gray expressed hopes that pressure would be eased on Scotland’s schools which had been ‘blighted’ by resource shortages of late.
But Larry Flanagan, General Secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland told DIGIT that there exists a need to address current worries, as well as future ones. As the nation’s largest education trade union, the EIS plays a central role in the management of teaching in Scotland. Mr. Flanagan warned: “Whilst the EIS welcomes this investment in the recruitment of new teachers, and the recognition of the recruitment challenge that exist across Scotland, there remains a need for Scottish Government to address the concerns of existing teachers. That means delivering a decent pay rise and addressing the excessive workload agenda. Retention is as important as recruitment.”