The idea behind the new role – which will command a salary of more than £47,000 a year – is to provide a promotion route for teachers who want to further their careers but who do not want to move into school management.
However, the general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, Seamus Searson, said the original vision that led to the creation of the role has been “stifled” and “watered down” by local authorities, who have always had “an eye on the budget”.
Staying in the classroom: How can teachers progress if they don't want promotion?
He said the introduction of the new role was welcome but if it was to take off, the new education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville needed to “take the lead” and provide funding and clear direction.
Mr Searson said: “The role has been stifled and watered down all the way through the process by local authorities who have an eye on the budget. Lead teacher will only work if there is more government support and direction, and if they actually tell councils ‘we want you to move on this now’.
“We would like there to be a directive for every subject to have a lead teacher – a specialist who teachers could go to for guidance on any changes to the curriculum or the qualifications, and who would take responsibility for mentoring new teachers.”
Mr Searson said the success of the new role was vital for teacher retention. Teachers, he said, could reach the top of the main grade pay scale in five years and if they wanted to further their careers, the only option at the moment was to move into management, where the jobs were “few and far between” owing, in large part, to the move away from subject principal teachers to faculty heads.
“People might just decide to leave the profession,” he warned.
The general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, Jim Thewliss, said headteachers had supported the creation of the role from the outset because it would “put more leadership capacity into the system”.
Mr Thewliss also said: “This has been five years now in its development. Who knows what the financial priorities will be come August? But we are going to be looking for people to lead the education recovery, so we would be very disappointed if funding was not made available [for lead teachers].”
The report that called for the creation of the lead teacher post was published more than two years ago and was commissioned by the Scottish government in response to concerns about the lack of opportunities for teachers to develop and advance their careers. There were concerns that this was making the job unattractive and contributing to teacher shortages.
When the report was published, John Swinney, then education secretary, said the creation of lead teacher roles would “represent a huge increase in the breadth of opportunities a teaching career offers”.
Teachers at the top of the pay scale in Scotland currently earn £41,412. It is envisaged that lead teachers could work at school, local authority or regional, or national level, and would command a salary of £47,013, £59,850 or £66,780 respectively.
They could potentially specialise in specific subject or curricular areas as well as in literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing, classroom practice, student or probationer support, early years and raising attainment.
The framework for the school-based lead teacher agreed by the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers, which determines teachers’ pay and conditions, says the role of a school-based lead teacher would include the duties of a classroom teacher and:
- Provide a lead role in the development of an area of specialism.
- Lead career-long professional learning opportunities on their area of specialism.
- Share, demonstrate and model effective practice in their area of specialism.
- Provide support for the professional needs of colleagues on their area of specialism.
- Collaborate through, and contribute to, local, regional and national networks related to their area of specialism.
- Keep abreast of developments in content and methodology related to their area of specialism.