History teacher supervising Edinburgh school computing class amid staff shortages

7 March 2018, 19:05 | Updated: 7 March 2018, 19:06

alex cole hamilton

A school has had to draft in a history teacher to supervise computing classes as it has so far been unable to recruit a new computing sciences expert, MSPs have been told.

Liberal Democrat Edinburgh Western MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton challenged Education Secretary John Swinney on the situation at Queensferry High in his constituency.

Mr Cole-Hamilton told how he had been contacted by a parent at the South Queensferry school who was concerned that the computing science teacher had left the school in February and had not been replaced.

The Lib Dem said: "She was the only such teacher at the school, so all computer classes are currently going without."

To deal with this, he said, "the measures adopted by the school include pupils following a set of powerpoint lesson plans under the supervision of a history teacher".

However, the Lib Dem questioned how pupils will gain "vital qualifications if there is no-one there to explain coursework to them when they get stuck".

Mr Swinney said he had previously acknowledged the "challenges that we face in the recruitment of individual teachers into particular subjects across the country, adding that there were "acute challenges" in finding teachers for science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM subjects).

In a bid to increase the number of STEM teachers, the Scottish Government announced a £20,000 bursary for suitably qualified people working in other industries to train as a teacher.

Would-be students will be able to apply for the bursaries from April 3, the Education Secretary said, adding this would "fill some of the vacancies Mr Cole-Hamilton raised in his question".

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS teaching union, said: "The EIS welcomes initiatives to attract more highly qualified graduates into teaching, particularly those designed to support experienced professionals retraining as teachers.

"Challenges in filling some places in teacher education programmes extend beyond STEM subjects, however. The most effective solutions to attracting greater numbers of qualified people into teaching are actions to reduce excessive workload and the delivery of significant improvements to teachers' pay."