Education chiefs have begun drafting in dozens of extra teachers in north-east schools to cope with Covid-19 absences and provide support for pupils.
Both Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire councils have begun the process of hiring more staff to work in schools across the region.
It follows concerns over the possible effects of staff having to take days off work due to testing positive or having to self-isolate – as well as pupils having to “catch up” having missing out on direct support at the end of the last academic year.
The Scottish Government has awarded funding to local authorities across the country to help them hire school staff – and both councils have now confirmed they are taking up the opportunity.
A union leader praised the move and said it would help children whose learning was impacted due to the lockdown.
Aberdeen City Council has been awarded enough funding to hire 26 full-time staff.
A spokesman said: “As is the case with all local authorities, we are in receipt of Scottish Government funding for additional teaching staff to cope with potential Covid-19 related absence, and we are currently in the process of recruiting.”
Meanwhile, Aberdeenshire Council hopes to hire 40 teachers and six pupil support assistants.
In a letter to parents, the local authority’s education director Laurence Findlay said: “We are carefully monitoring staff attendance levels and supply availability to ensure service continuity over the months ahead.
“This year we plan to employ additional teaching staff through additional funding received from Scottish Government.
“Indeed, this recruitment is already underway with additional teachers already appointed in some areas. Additional support staff have also been recruited to support schools.”
It is not yet clear whether the extra teachers will be placed in specific schools or whether they will be added to a “bank” to be deployed where they are most needed.
Union chiefs have previously called for extra teachers to be hired to allow schools to implement smaller class sizes.
They say this would allow social distancing in the classroom – and claim it would help pupils because they would be able to spend more one-to-one time with teachers.
Ron Constable, secretary of the Aberdeen City branch of the teachers’ union EIS, said: “We have always campaigned to increase the number of teachers in schools in Aberdeen. It is important in terms of the recovery for the children, especially those with additional support needs and those who were significantly impacted by the time off in lockdown.
“It is great to have these teachers in place. If there are more teachers available, there is an opportunity to implement smaller class sizes and that would give greater ability for social distancing which is something the EIS believes in strongly.
“Smaller classes would also give teachers more opportunities to interact directly with the children and give them a better learning experience.”
Gillian Owen, chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s education and children’s services committee, said: “It’s really positive that additional teaching and non-teaching staff are already being recruited into Aberdeenshire’s schools to intensify the support available to children and young people at this difficult time.
“We know colleagues go above and beyond on a daily basis to ensure positive outcomes for Aberdeenshire’s young people and we’re extremely thankful for that. Additional team members will provide a welcomed additional resource.”