Concerns have been raised about teacher numbers in Aberdeenshire after Alford Academy revealed some classes are being taught online due to a lack of staff.
MSP Alexander Burnett has written to both Aberdeenshire Council and the Scottish Government amid concerns that north-east pupils are not being given the same educational opportunities as those in other parts of the country.
In an update given by Alford Academy at its parent council meeting, the school said some business studies classes are having to be covered online due to teacher shortages.
In one case, a class is having to be taught by two teachers due to the large numbers of pupils which have been combined as a result of a lack of staff.
Alford has also been left without a principal teacher for maths after the current head of department was recalled having been seconded from another school. Despite interviews to fill the post, the school has not been able to appoint a replacement.
He said that over the last year, Aberdeenshire Council requested 66 secondary probationary teachers. They were allocated just 18, which by head of population is lower than any other authority in Scotland. And only 12 turned up, because six dropped out.
In his letters, Mr Burnett voiced concerns that the current predicament is “not a sustainable situation in the long-term” for both pupils and staff.
Mr Burnett, said: “The recruitment struggles experienced by schools such as Alford Academy are deeply concerning.
“Every child in Scotland should have the same educational opportunities, regardless of where they live, but these issues in subjects such as maths and business studies highlight that this isn’t the case for pupils living in Aberdeenshire.
“Rural students deserve the same attention, resources and funding from the Scottish Government as those in urban areas, however it’s clear that teacher numbers are plummeting faster in Aberdeenshire than in other parts of the country.
“There is a fear that some rural schools will end up removing certain subjects from their curriculum because they cannot get teachers which would be catastrophic for pupils.
“The Scottish Conservatives’ New Deal for Teachers would address this shortage by encouraging professional development and launching a review into teachers’ career structure, along with an initiative to attract candidates from other careers into the profession.”
Councillor Sarah Brown, who represents Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Donside, said: “I’m grateful for Alford Parent Council flagging the challenges faced by the school in recruiting teachers.
“It is completely unacceptable that rural children’s education must suffer more simply because of where they live.
“Aberdeenshire is being forgotten about by the SNP Government who must give us our fair share of funding which would help boost rural education while tackling teacher shortages in places like Alford.”
An Aberdeenshire Council spokesperson said: “Last month we met with the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills following the council’s concern around the lack of secondary probationary teachers for the region.
“There are further discussions planned this year to explore solutions to recruitment issues that affect some schools in Aberdeenshire and we look forward to working positively with government to seek solutions.
“We will continue to work with colleagues in the Northern Alliance and universities, to share good practice and improve the situation in difficult to recruit subject areas.
“Our head teachers continue to work extremely hard in challenging circumstances to ensure all pupils access learning right across the curriculum.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government recognises the particular challenge in Aberdeenshire and will work with the council – who are responsible for the employment of teachers in the local area – to help resolve issues around the recruitment and retention of teachers.
“The cabinet secretary has met recently with the council regarding teacher recruitment and looks forward to further engagement on this important issue.
“Pupil teacher ratios across the country remain at near record levels. Scotland also has the most teachers per pupil and the highest paid teachers in the UK – showing how much the Scottish Government values the profession.
“We have received the letter from Mr Burnett and will respond in due course.”