Re-advertisement of post as city fails to find headteacher

James Gillespie's headteacher, Alex Wallace, has retired
James Gillespie's headteacher, Alex Wallace, has retired
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EDUCATION chiefs are re-advertising the post of headteacher for the second time at one of Edinburgh’s top council-run schools after failing to attract a suitable candidate.

The head of James Gillespie’s High, Alex Wallace, retired at the start of the summer holidays, along with three other long-standing secondary headteachers in the Capital.

But, despite the position being first advertised in April, a permanent replacement has not yet been found and the school is being run by acting head, Jack Simpson, the head of Leith Academy.

A replacement for Lesley Johnston, who retired as head of Broughton High, has also yet to be appointed.

However, education bosses say they have been successful in filling other headteacher vacancies, and have worked hard to overcome the national shortage of headteachers.

Unions have previously warned of a growing crisis in headteacher recruitment following the publication of a report that showed that only eight per cent of teachers wanted to become a headteacher, and only two per cent were in the process of studying for the Scottish Qualification for Headship.

Councillor Paul Godzik, Labour’s education spokesman, whose Meadows and Morningside ward takes in James Gillespie’s High, said the school needed a permanent leader as soon as possible, particularly with the ongoing issues surrounding the new building.

He said: “The school is going through a great deal of change and there is a need to have someone leading it through that process.”

The city council has put in place a series of initiatives to encourage headteacher recruitment, including networking events for deputes and a mentoring scheme.

New headteachers have been appointed to Wester Hailes Education Centre and Balerno High following the retirement of Alex Wood and Rory Mackenzie before the summer holidays.

Education bosses have also filled posts at Dalmeny, Duddingston, Gilmerton and Blackhall primaries, which were all vacated at the start of the summer due to retirements.

Within the primary sector in Edinburgh, the average number of applications received per post in 2010/11 was just under 7.5, while in the secondary sector the average was just under 19.

City education leader Councillor Marilyne MacLaren said: “Given that we had a significant number of retirals last year, I’m delighted that we’ve seen this improvement in the recruitment of headteachers.

“We’ve put in place leadership development programmes and mentoring schemes to prepare our current staff for these vital roles and we’ve been able to attract top headteachers from outside the city too.

“We’re currently recruiting at James Gillespie’s and, despite unsuccessful initial attempts, the school remains well placed to attract the right headteacher.”

Alison Thornton, the Edinburgh branch secretary of the EIS teaching union, added: “Being a headteacher in the 21st century is a demanding and wide-ranging job and therefore it is important to get the best possible people into post and not rush the process.

“Edinburgh has perhaps found itself in an unusual situation in recent months with several of the secondary school heads retiring, but this was probably age related.”

gfraser@edinburghnews.com