School back to drawing board for new head

James Gillespie's High School
James Gillespie's High School
Have your say

A CITY high school was blocked from appointing a new headteacher – because there were only two suitable candidates on the shortlist.

Despite there being no council policy dictating that there must be a shortlist of more than two, parents at James Gillespie’s High said they were told the criteria was different for a “school of its type”.

The shortlisted candidates were both informed they had made it to the final two and were even invited to the school to look round and meet staff.

Despite this, education chiefs pulled the plug on them at the last minute and said the job would be re-advertised.

The school’s parent council is furious and has complained to education director Gillian Tee, saying that the delay was causing “disruption” and was “demoralising” staff.

It has raised several concerns over the recruitment process and questioned why other Edinburgh schools have been able to recruit new headteachers in the same time period.

Parent council chair Ann Henderson said: “The first advertisement attracted a number of candidates, leading to a shortlist of two.

“This was rejected only after the two candidates had been advised they were on the shortlist, and had visited the school.

“At no point were our parent reps advised that a shortlist of two was not going to be acceptable, and indeed we understand that the local authority had made appointments from shortlists of two in other schools.

“At no point during the process was it said that Gillespie’s was a special case.

“The process was going along fine until we got a phonecall a few days before the final interviews to say that the post was going to be re-advertised.

“Everyone should have been told right from the start that we would need to have four or five candidates or whatever it is to move on to the next stage.”

Education bosses are now having to advertise the vacancy for a third time for the “very prestigious position”.

Despite the former headteacher, Alex Wallace, giving early notice of his retirement and despite the position being first advertised in April, the school is being run by acting head, Jack Simpson, the head of Leith Academy.

New headteachers have been appointed to Wester Hailes Education Centre and Balerno High over the summer.

In an e-mail responding to Ms Henderson’s concerns, education director Gillian Tee said: “James Gillespie’s has a unique ethos and is about to undergo unprecedented change.

“I am confident that the recruitment process will yield a headteacher of the calibre the school needs and deserves.”

City education leader Councillor Marilyne MacLaren said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on the process.

But she added: “We are committed to finding the right person for every headteacher vacancy and re-advertising this post was done with the best interests of the school in mind.”