Education Secretary John Swinney said he is “very focused” on trying to secure additional teachers to fill vacancies in the north-east.
The Deputy First Minister made the remarks during a visit to the north-east yesterday to see for himself the progress being made on the £55 million Inverurie Community Campus project as the final beam was put into place.
It was revealed this month teaching vacancies across the north-east have hit 140 – with a total of 85 empty posts still to be filled in Aberdeen and 55 needed in Aberdeenshire.
Speaking to The Evening Express, Mr Swinney said vacancies are “unacceptable” but added they were at a “very, very low level” compared to other countries.
He said: “We will do a survey of vacancy rates in September. This is our annual survey.
“But the most recent information showed we had vacancies running at about 1 to 1.5% in Scottish education.
“So clearly where we have vacancies it is unacceptable but it is at a very, very low level compared to many of our international peers.
“Obviously there’s a whole range of different measures being taken to expand the pool of teachers available.
“We’ve expanded recruitment into initial teacher education, we’ve created nearly a dozen new routes to make it more practical and flexible for individuals to gain access and indeed one of those routes is very focused on the north-east of Scotland through the partnerships that exist in that respect.
“I’m very focused on trying to identify how we can secure the additional teachers into the teaching profession and to work closely with local authorities in the north-east of Scotland to make sure that vacancies are filled.”
Councillor Leslie Dunbar, vice-convener of Aberdeen City Council’s education operational committee, said: “The Scottish Government has said that education is their top priority – however, for a number of years now we have seen a huge shortage of teachers in Aberdeen.
“Thankfully the council has brought in measures to try and combat teacher shortages through various initiatives.
“Despite being the lowest-funded council in Scotland, this administration has tried to mitigate against teacher shortages by investing in 60 new pupil support assistants.”
The Inverurie Community Campus is one of the biggest school construction projects in the country.
Once complete, it will be home to Inverurie Academy and St Andrew’s School, and will include community sports and leisure facilities such as a six-lane swimming pool, multi-use games area and two all-weather pitches.
The new building will be operational in March 2020, and the overall project completed by spring 2021.
Mr Swinney said the “topping-out” ceremony marked a “great and bold day” for the town, adding it would add to the creation of “really outstanding leisure and education facilities” for the community.
Provost of Aberdeenshire Bill Howatson said he was “delighted” to welcome Mr Swinney to the facility.
He added: “Our aim is to provide community spaces and to help our children and young people have the brightest possible future.
“This will improve opportunities for everyone, and it is a demonstration of Aberdeenshire Council’s commitment to investing in Inverurie; maintaining what makes this a great place to live and work in through the construction of modern multi-purpose spaces.”