Teacher tenure caps plan raises parents’ questions

Picture: Colin Hattersley
Picture: Colin Hattersley
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PLANS to cap the number of years headteachers spend in their posts have been unveiled in a blueprint for the future of Edinburgh’s schools.

Education chiefs said a proposed “rotation” of head teachers – limiting the length of time they spend at one school to between five and seven years – would boost opportunities for professional development and ensure the skills of the best leaders benefit as many pupils as possible.

However, parents and union leaders said the plans, outlined in the council’s draft Vision for Schools report, could mean headteachers being appointed without parents’ input.

Lindsay Law, the first parent representative on the city’s education committee, said: “You have to put your best resources in the schools that need them most.

“But the concern is that good heads could be taken away from schools and other heads parachuted in without the agreement of parents.

“Parents are really involved in the recruitment of headteachers and if you start a rotation system, I’m worried it would become lip service to the involvement of parents.”

Education chiefs stressed the proposal would be based on voluntary agreements and was one of a number of measures being considered to revamp schools.

They said greater opportunities for moving between schools could eventually be extended to all staff, with greater use made of non-teaching professionals to boost the talents and skills available in classrooms.

However, critics said rotating headteachers risked a breakdown in relations between education leaders, schools and parents.

Greg Dempster, general secretary at the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland, said: “If you know someone is only in a school for a fixed period, what happens in the last term?

“The headteacher is not going to have the same locus to move things on – and how would the parent body feel about having a change of headteacher foisted upon them when neither the staff nor the parent body want it?”

Warning any change could become bogged down in complex contractual negotiations, he added: “If the rationale is to improve opportunities for professional development then there are much simpler ways of going about it.”

Tina Woolnough, Edinburgh representative for the National Parent Forum for Scotland, fears the step could give city council education chiefs too much power. She said: “Parents feel their involvement in recruiting headteachers means you are able to get a good match for the local situation, but that would be lost because the council would effectively control which head went where.”

Education professionals believe it could be a “positive step forward”. Karen Prophet, former head of Firrhill High School and senior education manager at the council, said: “It provides for long-term professional development and would be agreed on a voluntary basis as part of a head’s professional development. This will provide teaching staff with opportunities to grow rather than stagnate in one place over a long period of time.”