Scotland's biggest teaching union has warned that a local authority's plans for a new role of "executive headteacher" will reduce the number of heads from 84 to 14.
The EIS union has now launched a petition against the proposals from Argyll and Bute Council.
The EIS petition says that the plan "seeks to establish school clusters" overseen by the executive heads, "which would decrease the current number of headteachers from 84 to around 14" and has led to "significant [EIS] member concern about how this will affect schools, teachers and pupils".
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The union "believes that school leadership is critical and every school and its community should have a headteacher in post", adding: "Our starting point should always be to locate leadership as close as possible to practitioner practice."
Reducing the number of headteachers
The petition states: "We believe these changes are simply a cost-cutting exercise that will not empower schools and support attainment but rather will damage educational delivery, quality and equity in Argyll and Bute."
There are various stages to the ongoing consultation, which is due to culminate with "a presentation of findings and refined proposals" in May 2022.
An Argyll and Bute Council spokesperson said: "No decisions have been made regarding the future of our education service. We are in the process of carrying out a thorough, open and accessible consultation, listening to all stakeholders, and the feedback from this will be reported to the [council's] community services committee.
"We want the best outcomes for our children and young people and they are at the heart of all our work. We would encourage everyone to get involved and give us their feedback through the consultation process."
Tes Scotland reported in June that the council planned to introduce “executive headteachers” who would be responsible for up to eight schools, covering preschool children to senior secondary students.
One grouping of schools proposed comprised seven primary schools and a secondary, with a combined roll of 1,450 pupils.
The council said at the time that it had drawn up the plans “to discover if new and improved ways of working could be implemented”, taking account of the “significant geographic” challenges that the authority faces. Council papers said the model “could deliver potential savings”, but no further detail was given about this.
The papers said that the executive headteacher jobs would be “well-remunerated posts, attracting high-quality candidates” and could, therefore, help address recruitment problems. They also stated: “The challenge of filling teacher vacancies in many rural parts of the area is an ongoing issue.”
Argyll and Bute Council papers also stated that school staff could “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 was also envisaged that pupils could move between “cluster” schools “to take advantage of the facilities best suited to particular areas of learning”.