Commenting on the latest figures - Teachers in Scotland, 2004 - education minister Peter Peacock said the real winners were Scotland's pupils.
Scotland has 51,287 full-time equivalent (FTE) school-based teachers - up 324 from last year
There are also an extra 138 FTE visiting specialist teachers
The average pupil:teacher ratio now stands at 14.6, down from 14.9 last year
Pupil:teacher ratios have fallen in all sectors - primary (17.6:1, down from 18.2), secondary (12.7, down from 12.8) and special (3.7, down from 3.8).
Mr Peacock, who met trainee teachers today during a visit to Edinburgh University's Moray House Faculty of Education, said:
'Our decision to break the link of teacher numbers being tied to falling school rolls is now paying dividends - teacher numbers are up and pupil:teacher ratios are down.
'The student teachers I am visiting today are part of an army of almost 700 extra teachers about to graduate this year compared to normal.
'But this is just the start of the process. We plan to have even more teachers in training and, over the next two years, we'll continue to increase teacher numbers to allow us to decisively cut class sizes. This will ensure pupils get the best possible start in life and the chance to realise their full potential.
'Our unprecedented investment in Scottish schools - from teachers and support staff through to school buildings and better meals - means we have an education system that we can rightly be proud of and which is fit for the challenges of the 21st century.'
The Executive is committed to increasing teacher numbers to 53,000 by 2007, enabling class sizes to be reduced to a maximum of 25 in P1 and 20 for maths and English in S1/S2.
Currently there are 2,356 teachers on post-graduate certificate of education (PGCE) courses - up from 1,722 in 2003/04. These students are due to enter the workforce in August 2005. A further 736 students on Bachelor of Education courses are also due to graduate this year.
The number of students on full-time PGCE courses next year will increase even further to 3,350.
The number of teachers joining and leaving the profession - along with vacancy rates - is monitored as part of the teacher workforce planning exercise which is designed to ensure sufficient students enter training.
Teachers Census Results September 2004
This statistical publication notice provides results of the first full teacher census in publicly funded schools in Scotland since 1998.
The main findings for September 2004 are:
The total number of teachers based in primary, secondary and special schools was 49,554, which is 324 more than in 2003. Numbers may also be affected by a change in local authority reporting procedure this year.
There were also an estimated 1,733 teachers in the pre-school sector in the January 2004 census, making a total of 51,287 teachers based in schools and pre-schools.
Changes in local authority recording practices make it difficult to distinguish between increases in teachers who are based in schools and those who are centrally employed. There were a further 2,165 centrally employed visiting specialists and peripatetic teachers involved in similar roles but not based in schools. This is an increase of 138 from 2003.
Overall there has been an increase of 463 teachers from 2003. This reflects changes in class contact time under the Teachers' Agreement. Most of the additional teachers being trained to meet the Executive's commitment of 53,000 teachers by 2007 had yet to enter the workforce.
There were a further 21,488 school based staff and 2,278 centrally employed staff identified in the staff census as providing support to the education system.
There were 22,577 teachers in primary schools (22,321 in 2003), giving a pupil teacher ratio of 17.6 (18.2 in 2003). 93 per cent of teachers were female. Twelve per cent were part time.
There were 24,984 teachers in secondary schools (24,881 in 2003), giving a pupil teacher ratio of 12.7 (12.8 in 2003). 58 per cent of teachers were female. Seven per cent were part time.
There were 1,993 teachers in special schools (2,027 in 2003), giving a pupil teacher ratio of 3.7 (3.8 in 2003). 82 per cent of teachers were female. Eleven per cent were part time.
The average (mean) age of teachers remained at 44. The age profile shows a major peak in the late forties/early fifties, but with level numbers in the twenties and thirties. 16 per cent of teachers were aged 55 or over (15 per cent in 2003).
The information in this publication for 2004 is derived from the September 2004 staff census of all publicly funded primary, secondary and special schools. Information about centrally employed staff was also collected from local authorities. The census was carried out through the Scottish Exchange of Educational Data (ScotXed) project, using information from schools' management information systems. More details on the ScotXed project can be obtained from www.ScotXed.net .
Information relating to years prior to 2003 is derived either from previous staff censuses or from the annual school census, which until 2003 contained summary information on teacher numbers. Caution must be taken in making comparisons with previous years.
See the full staff census publication 'Teachers in Scotland, 2004' (link below) for more complete background notes on the data collected.
Information from the census is used to inform policy making, particularly in modelling the teacher workforce to ensure future supply of newly trained teachers, and for monitoring current policies.
All tables are available on the Scottish Executive website
Full results are available in the publication 'Teachers in Scotland, 2004' http:www.scotland.gov.uk/stats/bulletins/00416