Heads to lead up to 8 schools under cost-cutting plans

Headteachers would be responsible for children from preschool to upper secondary under council's plan

Emma Seith

Headteachers could lead up to eight schools under Argyll and Bute Council's cost-cutting plan

Plans to introduce “executive headteachers” responsible for up to eight schools – covering preschool to senior secondary students – have been drawn up by a Scottish local authority.

One grouping of schools being proposed by Argyll and Bute Council comprises seven primary schools and a secondary, which have a combined roll of 1,450 pupils.

The council says it has drawn up the plans – which its community services committee is being asked to approve tomorrow – in a bid “to discover if new and improved ways of working could be implemented”, taking account of the “significant geographic” challenges that the authority faces.

The proportion of schools classed as very remote rural in Argyll and Bute is 38.3 per cent, against 2.9 per cent for Scotland as a whole.

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However, the papers – which also outline £300,000 of cuts to the council’s central education management team from 2022-23 and highlight financial pressures that the council is under – say the model “could deliver potential savings”, but no further detail is given about how the savings would be made.

Plan for executive headteachers covering multiple schools

Some parents are opposing the move, arguing that they want “a dedicated headteacher” in their schools and “stability and security” for pupils.

The plans say the executive headteachers posts would be “well-remunerated posts, attracting high-quality candidates” and could, therefore, help to address problems of recruitment. The council papers state: “The challenge of filling teacher vacancies in many rural parts of the area is an ongoing issue.”

They also say that staff would “become part of a cluster and not part of a school and could therefore be moved accordingly either on a temporary basis to provide cover or on a longer-term basis to support a specific development need in one of the schools”.

It is also envisaged that pupils will move between “cluster” schools “to take advantage of the facilities best suited to particular areas of learning”.

The proposals state that increased collaboration between schools will lead to improvements for pupils, including improved educational outcomes, improved curriculum development and learning and teaching, as well as sharing of resources.

The benefits for school leaders, according to the plans, are “empowerment of school leaders, career enhancement and progression, continuing professional development opportunities and reducing the likelihood of failure to recruit”.

The proposals envisage that across the clusters there would be a principal teacher or a depute head – depending on the size of the cluster – responsible for early level (pre-school to P1); level 1 (P2-P4) and level 2 (P5-P7), as well as a principal teacher or depute responsible for "inclusion and equity".

In secondary there would be depute heads and principal teachers of support and pastoral, as well as curricular principal teachers.

The plans state: “The leadership team in a cluster of smaller schools may have a teaching commitment and in the larger clusters these posts would be non-teaching.”

In each school building there would be a promoted member of staff and the title “head of school” could be given to “leadership posts with a curricular responsibility and who also retain responsibility for a school building”.

The council is looking to introduce three “early adopter clusters” in the areas of Kintyre, Bute and Dunoon.

The proposed Kintyre cluster would one secondary and six primaries coming together, with a combined roll of 885 pupils, and all situated on the Kintyre peninsula.

The proposed Bute cluster would include the two primaries and the joint campus on the Isle of Bute, and create a cluster with a combined roll of 649 pupils.

The proposed Dunoon cluster would involve a cluster of potentially seven primaries and one secondary, with a combined roll of 1,450 pupils. The primaries would be “within or in close proximity to the town of Dunoon”.

The petition opposing the plans had attracted 468 signatures at the time of writing.

It says: “This proposal comes at a time when the focus should be on education recovery following the pandemic and, in particular, on ensuring the emotional wellbeing of our children. The proposed 'fluid and flexible' approach to the deployment of educational resources under the Education Transformation Programme is not in line with our children’s need for stability and security. We want them to continue to benefit from the existing, proven model with a dedicated headteacher in the school and trusted, familiar teaching staff around them within their usual learning environment.”

One teacher, writing about the Argyll and Bute plan on Twitter, said: "Learning is being devalued for short-sighted managerialism...No wonder our international standing is falling."

Another tweeted: "Nightmare. I’m struggling to imagine the mentality that thinks this is a good idea and a way to serve the needs of a community."

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Emma Seith

Emma Seith

Emma Seith is a reporter for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Emma_Seith

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