A NATIONAL shortage of teachers is being blamed for a large underspend of £444,000 in the Inverclyde education budget.

A meeting of the education committee heard that the cash was sitting in the coffers because of difficulties finding staff for certain subjects.

Council leader Stephen McCabe says the Scottish Government must urgently address the issue of encouraging more people to join the profession.

He told the Telegraph: “We don’t want an underspend, we want teachers in the classroom educating our children.

“There is a national shortage of teachers at primary and at secondary level in particular subjects.

“It is increasingly difficult to get teachers with specialisms and supply cover.

“It is something that the government needs to address.

“The situation in Inverclyde is not as acute as in other areas such as the north east of the country but it is very concerning, there needs to be action.

“We allocate a budget to pay for the amount of teachers we need but we are not able to secure these teachers, some move on to other posts and we find it difficult to replace them.”

During the education meeting Tom Tracey, secretary of the local association of the EIS, said that the situation was becoming critical.

He said: “We’re getting to crisis level, not only in Inverclyde.

“At least Inverclyde is making efforts to solve the problem.

“The Scottish Government needs to attract people onto the profession.”

Head of education Ruth Binks has assured councillors there are enough teachers currently in place but she referred to the national teacher shortage and said the challenge was to attract as many people as possible.

But Mr McCabe pointed out that problems may arise if teachers leave, or become ill.

He said: “All it needs is a few of these teachers who start in August to be offered jobs in other authorities.

“And there may be absence through ill health.”