School chiefs in Dundee are spending millions of pounds on supply teachers each year, with critics claiming a lack of permanent staff is squeezing the city’s education system.
Dundee City Council spent £1,274,481 on temporary staff in the 2018/19 school year.
Across the last three years, a total of £4.1m has been spent on cover staff, according to figures obtained through freedom of information requests.
The cost last year worked out at an average of £69 per pupil – but in neighbouring Angus Council the amount spent was a fraction of that amount, at £18 per head.
Supply teachers are hired when schools cannot fill a teaching post either due to staff absence, illness, or, in some cases, vacancies.
Earlier this month, the Tele revealed 10 teaching posts were left vacant in Dundee at the end of the school year, including two supply positions to provide cover.
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Official figures show the number of teachers in Dundee schools has fallen by 208 in the last 10 years, while the number of pupils to each teacher has risen by 22% across primary and secondary schools.
The figures were obtained by the North East Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles.
He said: “Years of teacher shortages across Scotland has put a huge pressure on schools, especially in rural areas, and our local authorities have been forced to spend millions of pounds on supply staff just to get by.
“What make matters worse is that pupils’ choices, and therefore their ambitions, are being limited by a lack of permanent teachers.”
Dundee City Council says it makes use of supply teachers to plug vacancies – something local government body Cosla warns against.
A council spokesman said: “The children and families service closely monitors teacher numbers in all the city’s schools and takes prompt action to fill vacant posts.
“Supply teachers have been used consistently over the years as part of this process.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “Overall, teacher numbers in Scottish schools are at their highest since 2010 but we recognise the teacher recruitment challenges.
“That is why we have increased targets for recruitment into initial teacher education and created new routes to make it more practical and flexible for people to access courses.”