New figures have shown a fall in the number of teachers in Scotland's primary, secondary and special schools.
There are problems recruiting male teachers
In 2003 there were 49,230 in total, which is 818 fewer than in 2002.
There were 22,321 primary teachers, giving a pupil/teacher ratio of 18.2 and 24,881 secondary teachers, meaning a ratio of 12.8.
Head teachers have complained they are struggling to fill vacancies but the Scottish Executive said the figures are broadly in line with its projections.
Ministers said that the fall in pupil numbers is having an inevitable affect on the number of teachers required in the classroom.
However, the executive has reiterated its commitment of 53,000 teachers in primary and the pre-school sector by 2007.
Deputy Education Minister Euan Robson said: "We have clear and ambitious targets to increase our teacher numbers, despite falling school rolls, and ensure our children receive the support they need in school to develop their full potential."
The executive needs to add about 3,200 teachers through recruiting more
students into teacher training over the next three years while retaining
teachers in the profession.
Mr Robson added: "This continued investment in the teaching profession will
enable us to continue to reduce class sizes and raise attainment in the critical
stages of learning in primary one and during the often difficult transition to
But head teachers say they often have to take classes themselves and sometimes employ unqualified temporary staff.
There are also concerns over the recruitment of teachers for subjects such as maths, science and home economics in secondary schools.
Problems appear to exist in attracting men into the profession and in finding staff for rural schools in areas like Dumfries and Caithness.
Figures inform policy
The executive has said that local authorities could fill some of the short term gaps by recruiting permanent floating staff.
Two years ago First Minister Jack McConnell launched a campaign which aimed to bring thousands of people into the profession.
The executive is also searching outside Scotland for staff in subjects such as maths.
In February, executive figures predicted that the number of pupils in primary and secondary schools would fall by about 15% by 2013.
There were 24,881 secondary teachers in Scotland last year
It was also estimated that teacher numbers would drop over the same period.
Information from the census is being used to inform policy making, particularly in modelling the teacher workforce to ensure future supply of newly trained teachers.
Kay Hall, president of the Association of Head Teachers in Scotland, believes filling the posts could be a struggle.
Ms Hall said: "Alongside that it's going to need an increased number of rooms, so you would hope that the practicalities of this have been thought about as well.
"If somebody's got the numbers game wrong then I'm afraid they are open to huge criticism."
Scottish Conservative education spokesman, James Douglas-Hamilton, said Mr McConnell's assurances, new pay deals and recruitment drives had not solved the problems.
He added: "When will he realise that better schools will not be delivered by central planning and ministerial targets, but by empowering parents and teachers to get on with educating our children, free from government control?
"Schools need to regain greater control over their budgets and staffing so that they can decide on the appropriate levels for their local circumstances."
And the SNP's Brian Adam said the executive should concentrate on recruiting new people into teaching, otherwise the problem would not be fully solved.
He added: "The executive has said that they are still on target to reduce class sizes, despite a fall in the number of teachers, but what they have failed to mention is that if their future projections for graduates fall short, we will be left in an even worse situation.
"While some progress has been made, the underlying problem is that there is a large proportion of teachers who are reaching retirement age and there are not enough people entering the profession to replace them."
The statistics, which were derived from a staff census collated in September 2003, also revealed that the average age of teachers was 44, with 11% aged 55 or over.