'FOLLOWING the long summer holidays, pupils returned to school in Fife last week and many of them arrived to find teachers missing in key subject areas.

Twenty-two schools across Fife are currently advertising for teaching posts, amongst the job adverts there are five missing English teachers, three vacant spots in Maths and a Deputy Head required. Schools in the Kingdom have the third highest number of vacancies in Scotland with only Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire behind in this regard.

We have known for some time that there are issues over recruitment and retention, but the Scottish Government look out of ideas and impetus when it comes to handling this. As a result, class sizes are up and teacher morale is down.

Just last week, Education Secretary John Swinney was attacked in a BBC radio phone in from an angry teacher who had clearly run out of patience when it came to listening to his excuses. The numbers suggest that schools are haemorrhaging teachers with fewer and fewer staying the course in what is an increasingly pressurised and difficult profession.

In addition to clear recruitment issues there are also concerns, from parents and educators, about new primary one testing. The Scottish Government is attempting to introduce standardised testing from the age of 5, with children being assessed for literacy and numeracy. Whilst most would agree that measuring performance is a necessity, doing so at such a young age has the potential to distress and upset what are very young children.

As Parliament returns from recess we will be calling on the Scottish Government to scrap these tests.

However, it’s not just in primary education that the Cabinet Secretary for Education is facing difficulties. Exam pass rates at National 4/5 and Higher are flat lining and even falling away in some key subject areas. There has been a significant drop in the number of pupils studying foreign languages at National 4, 5 and Advanced Higher. In addition to this, there has also been a steady drop in the number of National 4 and Higher entries to STEM subjects (Biology, Chemistry, Computing, Maths and Physics). From an economic perspective, I don’t need to explain why this is so concerning.

One of the key issues causing these problems has been a lack of proper subject choice.

Across the country, the decline in subject choice is being raised by parents as a problem. Something needs to change, and quickly, if this situation is to improve.

All in all this makes for difficult reading. As pupils go back to school, its perhaps time for the Scottish Government to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new plan to see off teaching shortages, testing issues and problems with the curriculum.'