Education Secretary Michael Russell has welcomed figures that show national class size targets agreed with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) have been exceeded.
Almost 22 per cent of P1 to P3 pupils are now in classes of 18 or fewer (or the equivalent). The agreement reached with COSLA in December 2009 set a target of 20 per cent, including classes of up to 36 pupils where two teachers work simultaneously.
The figures also show that the downward trend in teacher numbers has slowed significantly, providing a solid foundation for the deal on teacher employment agreed with COSLA leaders as part of last month’s draft Budget.
This agreement guarantees a probationer place for every newly-qualified teacher in August 2011, sufficient posts for all those finishing their probation in summer 2011 and a reduction in the total number of unemployed teachers.
Today’s statistics also show that school leavers’ chances of going onto further education, training or employment are higher than ever before. A record proportion (86.8 per cent) of this year’s school leavers entered ‘positive destinations’.
Mr Russell said:
“These figures show we have turned the corner, that things are getting better and that our policies are having a real and positive impact. But of course statistics only tell part of the story and it is what I see happening in schools day in, day out which really tells me that while there is still much to do we are definitely moving in the right direction.
“When I became Education Secretary one of my first priorities was to work with our partners in COSLA and find a way to make further progress, within the challenging economic climate, on the number of P1 to P3 pupils in classes of 18 or fewer.
“I am pleased to see that not only has our agreement been delivered, it has been exceeded. This means that more Scottish pupils are benefitting from the increased time with their teacher that goes hand in hand with smaller pupil teacher ratios.
“What’s more, the Scottish Government is building on this by protecting frontline education services in next year’s Budget. This includes a new agreement with COSLA leaders that will see pupil teacher ratios protected to maintain this new record low on class sizes.
“This new agreement also puts in place a framework to deliver real improvements in teacher employment with a commitment of enough posts for every probationer and post-probationer and a real reduction in teacher unemployment. This will sustain and build on the year-on-year reduction that we’ve already seen in Scottish teachers claiming job seekers allowance.
“I will continue to do everything I can to make sure as many Scottish teachers as possible are putting their skills and talents to good use in our classrooms. This is a key part of our work to make sure Curriculum for Excellence builds on the existing strengths of our system and gives our young people the best education possible.”
Commenting on the school leaver figures, Mr Russell added:
“I am pleased that, despite tough economic conditions, the chances of a school leaver going onto further study, training or employment is higher than ever before – a clear sign that our schools are delivering for our young people.
“This also clearly shows Scottish Government initiatives, which include the #6.5 million Step Forward Scotland campaign, 34,500 training places and the protection of college and university places, are working in this challenging financial climate.
“And again, this year more young people are staying on at school for S5/S6. This is the highest percentage for a decade and shows Curriculum for Excellence is meeting the diverse needs of our senior pupils, with financial support also guaranteed through our pledge to keep Educational Maintenance Allowances.”