Bigger say for city parents in hiring headteachers

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CITY parents have been given significant new powers to help influence the appointment of school headteachers.

Mums and dads were previously able to attend interviews but the new approach will give them a greater say over candidate shortlisting and even job descriptions.

They are helping “sift” application forms to identify top teaching talent for leadership roles at the Capital’s schools.

The move is aimed at enabling applicants to be questioned on the priorities of local families – from road safety to dinner queues – as well as ensuring they have the necessary qualifications and experience.

Parent leaders at the Royal High, currently looking for a rector to replace Jane Frith, have welcomed the arrangement.

Luke McCullough, parent council chairman, said: “We are midway through recruiting a new head at the moment.

“Jane is stepping down at the end of term, and I can confirm we did take part in the sifting of candidates, and that’s a really positive development.

“It felt like parents have been involved since the start this time and that there’s been genuine engagement with the elected parent reps.”

Mr McCullough said around 15 Royal High parents have input into headteacher recruitment from the earliest stages, with six involved in shortlisting after training on issues such as data protection and equality.

A formal interview panel typically has two representatives from the school’s parent community.

“If you look at the opportunities that parents have had across other parts of Scotland, I think some authorities were perhaps quicker to rise to the challenge of the new rules – but now parents here have all the input into the process that they should have,” said Mr McCullough.

“I understand some reservations among the teaching profession since it’s for educationalists to decide if someone has the right qualifications and is properly trained, but parents have that extra local context about challenges in their school.

“In general terms, the parent can reflect the mood of the parent body around whether there’s strong desire for change or a continuation of the current direction.”

Parents’ increased involvement in recruitment has received a cautious welcome from teaching union chiefs.

Alan McKenzie, acting general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, said: “I would not be too concerned about parents having some say as long as there’s balance.

“Parents do have a view but I think it needs to be balanced with the professional view as well. So yes, give parents a say but don’t make it an unrestricted say.”

City bosses said engaging parents throughout the process was crucial to ensuring all schools benefit from the strongest leadership.

Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “It’s one of the most important decisions for a school and greater parental involvement can only be a positive step forward. I’m sure the increased role being given to parents will be welcomed.”

Thorough vetting of candidates

VETTING candidates for the post of headteacher usually takes place

over two key stages, with the composition of interview panels changing slightly at each step.

At the longlist stage, candidates are typically quizzed by a five-strong interview panel comprising two parent representatives, two officers from the education authority and a headteacher from another school.

Shortlisted candidates are then questioned by a six-strong panel which has two parent representatives, two officers from the education authority and two councillors.