Parents reject final say on head

Tes Editorial

The last call on appointing heads and deputes should be with the local authorities that employ them, a parent leader said this week.

Judith Gillespie, development manager with the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, welcomed Scottish Executive plans to involve parents in far greater depth in key appointments but insisted that the process needed to be rigorous.

"At the end of the day, it should be a professional appointment. The bottom line is that you want a good headteacher and the process must have a good professional input," Mrs Gillespie said.

Peter Peacock, Education Minister, told the 57th SPTC annual conference last weekend that he intends to open a consultation later this month on extending parent involvement to the major leadership roles in schools.

Parents are likely to to be given rights to be consulted on job descriptions and specifications and on advertising strategies. They may also be involved directly in long-listing candidates and drawing up the shortleet, as well as the actual interviews.

Mr Peacock admitted he has yet to make his mind up on the balance of representation on appointment panels. Currently, the authority retains the final say.

Parents involved in appointments will receive training and Mr Peacock is considering panels of parents in each authority who would be a source of advice. New arrangements would allow for parents from several schools to be involved in cluster appointments or shared headships.

Mrs Gillespie said it was important that more uniformity was introduced into selection procedures and it was right to end the "15-minute interview"

for major leadership posts.

Professional input was important. Research had shown that, for example, school boards had a higher tendency to appoint internal candidates. "There is still a failure to understand that, for most parents, this kind of activity is in marginal time and takes second place to family issues," she said. "Professionals have not really grasped that."

There might also be problems with confidential matters raised at interview and how this information might be shared.

Bill McGregor, general secretary of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland, said: "This is to be welcomed as long as parental involvement is meaningful. Parents have to be able to influence the final decision. The present system is satisfactory in giving parents a voice but, in many authorities, the process is still a disaster area: a 25-minute interview to determine who is going to get the highest posts in the school."

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