More teachers for Falkirk schools - but spike in pupil numbers could bring more problems

SNP candidate for Falkirk East, Angus MacDonald.

The Scottish Government has paid for additional teachers in Falkirk but it still faces a massive spike in pupil numbers when 2020 rolls around.

Thanks to the education funding, Falkirk now has 15 more teachers than it had in 2016 – 1605 to 1620 – and this has been praised by Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald who said it showed the SNP’s commitment to education.

Just last week Falkirk Council admitted there were staff shortages at Falkirk High School, after parents raised concerns about the situation having an adverse effect on their children’s education.

The local authority stated: “Currently there is a shortfall in the number of teachers able to temporarily fill the various vacancies we have at Falkirk High and we are using the available resources as widely as we can across the school.”

To make matters worse the Falkirk Council area will reportedly have to cope with an extra 800 secondary school pupils by the 2020/21 term.

New research carried out by public sector procurement firm Scape Group, in a report entitled the Secondary School Places Challenge, states Falkirk will see a 9.2 per cent increase in pupil numbers – the equivalent of 27 full classrooms, or one full school, in just over two years’ time.

If those forecasts are true the Scottish Government funding, which provided an additional 543 teachers across the country in 2017, may not be enough.

Mr MacDonald said: “These increased teacher figures prove the SNP Government’s approach is working for schools across Falkirk district and throughout Scotland. The SNP is delivering funding aimed at increasing teacher numbers and cutting the attainment gap – and this is already bearing fruit.

“We now have 15 more teachers in Falkirk district than we did this time last year, and an additional 543 across Scotland. With this record of delivery, it is no surprise pupils are performing strongly across reading, writing, listening, talking and numeracy.

“The SNP has made closing the attainment gap a key priority of this parliament – and these latest statistics show our efforts are making progress on this, with 666 full-time equivalent teachers across Scotland being funded by the Attainment Scotland Fund.

“It is important we don’t get complacent and keep working to improve education in Scotland.”

Despite the additional teachers, the parent to pupil ratio in Falkirk still stands at 13.5 – the same figure as 2016.

Stirling lost 17 teachers in 2017, down from 942 to 925, while Clackmannanshire lost 15, from 528 in 2016 to 513 in 2017.

According to Scape Group’s report it is not just an increase in teachers that is needed in two year’s time, but additional classrooms and even schools.

Mark Robinson, Scape Group chief executive, said: “Secondary school pupil numbers are set to rise significantly and there is a real risk if we do not increase the output of new secondary school classrooms there will be significant pressure on places across the country.

“Such is the scale of the projected increase in secondary school pupils the government should develop a National School Building Strategy that brings together the department of education, local and regional government, and industry to ensure a joined-up approach which can deliver schools quickly and cost-effectively.”

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