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30 November 2016, 12:42 | Updated: 30 November 2016, 12:47
Education Secretary John Swinney has unveiled plans for a £1 million drive to recruit more than 200 new teachers.
The proposals include fast-track teacher training for graduates in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects, courses for former teachers who want to return to the classroom, and measures to attract unemployed teachers from Ireland.
Under the plans, more joint degrees in teaching and specialist subjects such as physics and chemistry will be offered and more primary teachers trained in specialisms such as numeracy, additional support needs and Stem subjects.
The plans, put forward by the Scottish Council of Deans of Education, will be backed by more than £1 million from the Scottish Government's Attainment Scotland Fund, set up with the aim of narrowing the gap between pupils from poorer and wealthier backgrounds.
Speaking on a visit to Dundee, Deputy First Minister Mr Swinney said the proposals will help tackle teacher shortages but will not undermine the standard of teaching in schools.
He said: ''Teachers are the bedrock of Scotland's education system and I want to ensure we do everything we can to attract talented graduates to a career in teaching. The quality of teaching is key to helping pupils achieve and to our aspiration of closing the attainment gap.
''These innovative proposals are designed to do just that while, crucially, maintaining the traditionally high standard of teaching in Scotland. We will not change the standard we expect new recruits to attain before they become fully-fledged teachers, but we are determined to broaden the routes into the classroom and speed up the process.
''This is exactly the sort of collaborative approach we need if we are to realise our ambition of achieving excellence and equity in Scottish education, and I am pleased to support it with #1 million from our Attainment Scotland Fund.''
Dr Morag Redford, chair of the Scottish Council of Deans of Education, said: ''The Scottish Council of Deans of Education is delighted that the Scottish Government is funding the development of 11 new routes into teacher education.
''The eight Scottish universities who provide initial teacher education programmes have worked with the Scottish Government to design programmes to offer new ways to enter the profession. The 11 programmes use the expertise in each university to provide a national approach to teacher education.''
Ken Muir, chief executive of the General Teaching Council Scotland, said: ''Flexibility is crucial when trying to attract new people into the teaching profession and to address the issue of teacher shortages.
''As the accrediting body for teacher education programmes in Scotland, GTC Scotland has the important role in ensuring that these new routes maintain and enhance the high standards of teaching and teacher education expected within our graduate teaching profession.''
Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), said: ''The EIS is supportive of the drive to attract more graduates into the teaching profession, and welcomes much of the Scottish Government's thinking in this regard.
''The proposals announced today include many elements which are sound, where they are building on established good practice in teacher education and recruitment.''
But he added: ''Where the EIS would have serious concerns is over the suggestion that postgraduate teacher education and the subsequent school-based induction period be compressed into a single year.
''Our consistent view is that one-year of postgraduate training followed by a one-year induction period is the minimum period for any individual to become fully comfortable with both teaching theory and its practical application.''
Scottish Labour's education spokesman Iain Gray MSP said: ''The SNP has cut over 4,000 teachers from our schools, and axed hundreds of millions of pounds from the council budgets which fund them.
''Whatever the merit of some of these schemes, £1 million diverted from the Attainment Fund is not going to solve our teacher recruitment crisis, or address falling standards in literacy, numeracy and science, technology, engineering and maths subjects.''
Green education spokesman Ross Greer MSP said: ''Recruiting more teachers is essential. 4,000 posts have gone since 2007, so if the plans announced today do result in 200 new teachers that still falls well short of what's needed.
''Investing just 0.13% of the £750 million Attainment Fund suggests Scottish ministers haven't yet grasped how important it is to give teachers more time to teach.''