Sharp rise in number of schools forced to share headteachers

Teachers are to be encouraged to consider headship.
Teachers are to be encouraged to consider headship.
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The number of Scottish primary schools forced to share their headteacher with another in the same area has risen by almost two thirds since 2010, an official report has revealed.

In 2017, 390 primaries across the country were sharing a headteacher compared to just 239 in 2010, the research from a group of education leaders commissioned by the Scottish Government shows.

The number of secondary schools with a shared headteacher has also risen from four to 15 over the same period, while for special schools the number increased from four to 12.

Warning that a lack of headteachers remains a “serious concern” across Scotland, the report pointed out that there are currently 412 teachers with headship qualifications who had chosen to do different jobs instead.

Holyrood’s opposition parties claimed that the possibility of having to take over the running of multiple schools was discouraging some teachers from becoming heads.

The report by the Headteacher Recruitment Working Group, which was set up to help boost the number of teachers going for top jobs, also said the role did not pay enough to make it attractive.

It added that the “sometimes marginal pay differential” between deputy and headteacher roles made some staff reluctant to seek promotion and had “lessened the appeal” of leading a school.

The panel of education experts also highlighted a survey by the Association of Headteachers and Deputes which showed that headteachers are now working an extra hour a week compared to last year. The survey carried out in June showed an “upward trend in working hours across all those in promoted posts”, the report said, with headteachers now doing an average of 55.3 hours per week.

The group set out a series of recommendations to encourage more teachers to apply to be heads, such as asking councils to select potential candidates for the fully-funded Into Headship course. The report was published less than a week after thousands of teachers took part in a march in Glasgow in support of demands for a 10 per cent pay rise by the nation’s biggest teaching union.

Education secretary John Swinney has described the current offer of a 3 per cent rise for all but the most highly-paid teachers as “generous”, but the EIS union has dismissed the deal as “divisive”.

Union officials are also furious at a letter sent to teachers by the Scottish Government and local authority umbrella body Cosla, which attempted to win their support for the pay offer.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) salaries committee condemned the letter at a meeting yesterday, with members describing it as “misleading”, “duplicitous” and “outrageous”.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said the figures in the letter were “laid out in a way that is profoundly misleading” and created a “false impression” about the impact of the rise on salaries.

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesman Tavish Scott said headteachers were not being paid enough, especially those who had to divide their time between more than one school.

“This report shows that their workload is soaring and they’re finding themselves ever more thinly spread,” he added. “No wonder the first national strike over pay in a generation is on the cards.”

His Scottish Conservative counterpart Liz Smith claimed the “increasing bureaucracy” of the Curriculum for Excellence and “confusion” over education reforms lay behind the problem.

Mr Swinney said he accepted Scotland “needs more headteachers” but pointed out that the number of teachers in promoted posts – those with extra responsibilities beyond the classroom – increased last year, while the average age of those in the top job fell.

“There is absolutely no shortage of talent or ability among the teaching workforce, but there is a need to identify, encourage and support those who are interested in rising to the challenge of the headteacher role,” he added.

“A range of partners have now agreed actions to collectively promote headship as a rewarding and attractive career and better help those teachers who are willing take on a leadership role.

“Many of the [report’s] recommendations are aimed at improving support for teachers, through improved coaching and development programmes, or by sharing best practice.

“This year, for the first time, we are supplementing our successful teacher recruitment campaign with a headteacher specific campaign.”