Scottish teachers spend more time in the classroom than most of their counterparts across the developed world, according to new figures.
A survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found school staff here spend an average of 855 hours a year teaching, more than any other country apart from New Zealand, Mexico and the United States.
In addition, the report by the OECD also found classroom teachers in Scotland were the eighth best paid in the developed world, the same as last year.
Countries ahead of Scotland – where non-promoted teachers can earn up to £34,000 – are Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany, Korea, Ireland, the Netherlands and Japan.
Teaching unions said the figures highlighted the long hours teachers were already working in the classroom at a time when some local authorities want them to do even more.
Last month, The Herald revealed the leader of Glasgow City Council wants teachers to work longer hours to stave off crippling budget cuts.
Gordon Matheson (Labour) said increasing the amount of time teachers spend teaching by 30 minutes a day – at the expense of preparation time – would save money and prevent cuts to frontline education services.
A few days later, Jenny Dawe (Lib Dem), the leader of Edinburgh City Council, spoke out in favour of the suggestion.
Teaching unions immediately criticised the proposals, which they said could diminish the quality of education while also meaning teachers needed to do even more at home.
Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said: “The amount of time that Scottish teachers spend actually teaching classes has come under misinformed attack in recent weeks.
“As this publication clearly shows, in no other country do teachers spend more of their working day teaching classes than in Scotland, yet Scotland continues to rank far lower in terms of the salaries paid to our teachers.
“In addition to the extremely high percentage of class contact time, Scottish teachers also rank very highly in terms of overall teaching hours. Scotland’s teachers continue to work some of the longest teaching hours in Europe, which is a credit to their professionalism and their desire to deliver the best outcomes for their pupils.”
However, Mr Matheson said: “I am well aware of the number of hours teachers in Glasgow spend in the classroom and how hard they work to achieve the best results for our children.
“However, the fact remains we are facing extremely difficult budget choices and I still believe that what I am requesting is reasonable. The fact that asking teachers to spend an additional 30 minutes in the classroom per day would save us £15million is not one I can ignore in the current economic climate, and that is why I have asked the Scottish Government to reopen the McCrone Agreement.”
The 2001 McCrone Agreement states that teachers work a 35-hour week but only 22.5 hours are spent teaching, with the rest protected time to allow for lesson preparation, marking and other administrative work.
Although no figures have been produced for Edinburgh, Glasgow said the change would save it £15m a year because fewer teachers would have to be employed.