TALKS are under way to ensure pupils in East Ayrshire's schools are properly taught and supported after new figures showed a drop in teacher numbers in the area.

East Ayrshire Council issued a statement after Scottish Government statistics were published showing a year-on-year drop in the number of 'full-time equivalent' (FTE) teacher posts across East Ayrshire's schools and early years centres.

The government's figures revealed a 2.7 per cent fall in FTE teacher numbers in East Ayrshire from 2022 to 2023.

The number of FTE teaching posts in the area dropped from 1,243 in 2022 to 1,206 last year, according to the stats.

The total for 2023 was the lowest in East Ayrshire since 2018, when 1,198 FTE teachers were employed in the area.

The government's figures also reveal that East Ayrshire had the joint seventh highest pupil-to-teacher ratio of Scotland's 32 local authorities, with one teacher for every 13.5 pupils, though this excludes early years centres.

Cumnock Chronicle: Numbers dropped in East Ayrshire.East Ayrshire Council said that the reduction in teacher FTE numbers in East Ayrshire is "due to factors out with the control of the council".

A local authority spokesperson added: "The four main areas leading to these reductions have been discussed with the Scottish Government. 

"The previous classification of East Ayrshire as a Scottish Attainment Authority (SAC) council saw significant funds allocated to the council.

"However the SAC funding has been reallocated to all 32 Scottish councils, meaning that there has been a substantial reduction in this funding, which was predominantly used by East Ayrshire to recruit teachers.

"The lack of probationers assigned to the council fell significantly short of our requested figures.

"[There has been a reduction in overall Scottish Government grant funding to the council to deliver children’s services, in line with the reduction in our school population.

"Teachers' pay increases mean that schools are not as able as previously to recruit staff using PEF [Pupil Equity Fund] monies.

"It is important to note that discussions on teacher numbers are continuing with the Scottish Government in order to ensure that the council receives the appropriate funding to support the children and young people in East Ayrshire schools."

Cumnock Chronicle: East Ayrshire Council said discussions are ongoing with the Scottish Government.East Ayrshire Council said discussions are ongoing with the Scottish Government. (Image: East Ayrshire Council)

The Scottish Government said £145.5 million was being provided to Scotland's councils in its 2024-25 budget settlement to protect teacher numbers across the country.

A spokesperson said: “We have also informed councils that funding to protect teacher numbers will be issued in the form of grants next year requiring local authorities to commit to maintaining teacher numbers.

“Councils have statutory obligations in respect of education, and have a shared commitment with the Scottish Government to deliver the best outcomes for people and communities under the Verity House Agreement.

“There are undoubtedly some geographic challenges in teacher recruitment in parts of the country.

"However it is important to note that Scotland has the most teachers per pupil and the highest paid teachers in the UK – showing how much the Scottish Government values the profession.”