The number of primary school teachers has fallen under the SNP's tenure
As schools across Scotland return today from the summer break, first minister Nicola Sturgeon will deliver a speech in defence of the SNP’s record on education.
She will do so against an abysmal set of statistics showing the abject failure of her party to achieve its key goals.
In its manifesto for the 2007 election, which it won as a minority administration, the SNP pledged to ‘reduce class sizes in Primary 1, 2 and 3’ – the early stages of primary education in Scotland – ‘to eighteen pupils or less to give children more time with their teacher at this vital stage of their development’.
Laudable aims, yet the Scottish government’s own statistics show that whilst the percentage of pupils in class sizes of 18 or fewer increased from 15.3 per cent in 2007 to 21.6 per cent in 2010, it has since fallen dramatically.
The most recent data shows that as of 2014, just 12.9 per cent of children in Primary 1, 2 and 3 were in classes of 18 or fewer pupils.
Over the same period, the proportion of such pupils in class sizes of 19-25 increased from 53.6 per cent in 2010 to 60.4 per cent in 2014. The proportion in classes of more than 25 pupils increased over this period from 24.8 per cent to 26.7 per cent. This is despite 2010 legislation that made class sizes above 25 illegal.
Overall, the average primary school class size in Scotland stands at 23.3 pupils, higher than the 22.7 average size at the time of the last elections to Holyrood in 2011.
And what of teacher numbers? According to the official data, the total number of teachers based in early learning and childcare, primary, secondary and special schools, or visiting specialists, was 50,814 in 2014, a ten-year low.
During the course of the current SNP government’s tenure alone, which began in 2007, the number of such teachers has fallen by 4,285.
Little wonder that the SNP is under such pressure to explain how, as a party supposedly committed to education as a route to social mobility, it could be presiding over such a dreadful record.
Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor at Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter
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