By Martin Kelly
New figures released by Scotland’s Chief Statistician have revealed that a record number of pupils are being taught in better building conditions while pupil attendance is higher than ever.
The figures also show local authorities have maintained the overall pupil to teacher ratio at 13.5 while more probationary teachers are in jobs and exclusions from school are at their lowest level on record.
However there was mixed news for pupils in the first three years of primary school with the average class size increasing 0.6, from 22.6 in 2012 to 23.2 in 2013. The overall average class size in primary has increased from 22.7 in 2012 to 23.2 in 2013. The figures also showed that 99 per cent of P1 pupils were in classes of 25 or fewer.
Some of the main findings are:
• In 2013, the pupil teacher ratio in all publicly funded schools remained the same at 13.5. In primary schools the PTR was 16.5 (up from 16.3 in 2012). In 2013, in secondary schools the PTR remained the same at 12.2.
• 79 per cent of teachers on the 2012/13 Probationer Induction Scheme were in permanent or temporary employment in publicly funded schools in September 2013, an increase from 75 per cent the previous year.
• In September 2013, 83.5 per cent of ante-pre and pre-school children attending centres had access to a GTCS registered teacher during census week, down from 85.7 per cent the previous year.
The figures sparked claim and counter claim from the Unionist parties and the SNP.
Scottish Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale said the figures were “embarrassing” and added:
“Despite the abject failure to meet his own targets and with fewer teachers in our classrooms, Mike Russell proclaims this as a success. It can only be so in the parallel universe of the SNP.
“It isn’t good enough for Mike Russell to simply ignore his own targets and declare success when he is so abjectly failing against his own measurements.
“Parents, teachers and our children deserve better than this.”
The slight increase in class sizes for primary pupils was also seized on by BBC Scotland as the broadcaster focussed on the missed target describing it as a “key issue” which would become a “political row”.
However commenting for the SNP, MSP Clare Adamson, who also sits on the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture committee, said:
“These are positive figures which should be welcomed.
“The SNP Government is committed to ensuring our pupils learn in top quality accommodation and that pledge is paying off as these statistics show 84 per cent of pupils are now in buildings that are in good or satisfactory condition, compared to 61 per cent in 2007.
“It is testament to the hard work and dedication of our teachers that exclusions from school are at their lowest level on record and attendance higher than ever.
“It is also encouraging to see councils have maintained their overall pupil to teacher ratio in line with their agreement with the Scottish Government.
“However Labour must explain why at the councils where they are part of the administration, teacher numbers have declined dramatically. In contrast councils with the SNP in administration teacher numbers are up.
“The figures show for councils with a Labour-only administration, a total of 189 teachers have been lost, while at SNP-only administrations, total teacher numbers are up by 18.
“Our excellent teachers work each day to inspire, encourage and motivate their pupils learning and that is why the SNP continues to support our teaching workforce, which now has more probationary teachers in jobs and the lowest level of teacher unemployment across the UK.
“Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence is the most significant improvement to school education in generations, but this will only be effective if we continue the progress shown in today’s figures. We want to see a Scotland where all our children are given the best chance in life to succeed whatever direction they take on leaving school.”