North-east schools could have half-day Fridays in bid to tackle teacher shortage

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A shake-up of school hours is being considered in a radical move to tackle teacher shortages across north-east.

Newly released figures reveal there were 59 teacher vacancies across the region on January 22.

Of those, 37 were in primary schools and 22 across secondaries.

The figures have risen since September last year, when there were 47 unfilled posts, with a new report to councillors claiming the situation continues to be “challenging”.

Education bosses at Aberdeenshire Council have put forward a raft of new measures, which could be looked at in the future, including the introduction of an asymmetric week for pupils.

An asymmetric week means that instead of each school day being the same length, four could be a little longer, with every school finishing earlier on one of the days.

Schools in the Scottish Borders made the switch in 2014, suggesting a Friday lunchtime finish would reduce staff costs and increase opportunities for e-learning and shared teaching.

They also said it would allow for training and development sessions to be held during the pupil-free afternoon, allowing teachers more time in class rather than in meetings.

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Councillor Alison Evison, education spokeswoman for the opposition, said: “Teacher recruitment remains challenging in Aberdeenshire, due largely to geographical and economic factors.

“There has been much creative work to address the issue but such work does require investment.

“Previous budgets proposed by the SNP/Labour and Communities Partnership have recognised this.

“Any initiatives must be in conjunction with the teaching unions and should retain a focus on developing and supporting quality learning for our pupils.”

She added: “Those of us living here know what a tremendous place Aberdeenshire is to live in and we must continue to promote it as a very welcoming place.”

Other measures being considered include exploring ways in which teachers can access a mortgage support scheme, to allow them to secure housing in the area, and the use of bursary schemes to financially support those seeking to gain a teacher qualification.

Work would also continue for the council to “grow its own” teachers including promoting teaching as a career to school pupils and making use of the BP Tutoring Scheme where Robert Gordon University students gain experience in schools.

A report to members of the council’s education and children’s services committee said the shortages continue to be in primary schools in north Aberdeenshire, particularly in Banff, Fraserburgh and Peterhead.

There are also shortages across Aberdeenshire for certain subjects, such as science, technical, maths and home economics.