Scottish schools spending up to three years trying to recruit headteachers

Tes Scotland investigation also shows sharp rise in heads placed in charge of two or more schools

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One Scottish council has been unable to recruit a permanent headteacher for more than a quarter of its primary schools, with some schools searching for a headteacher for longer than three years, Tes Scotland can reveal.

In response to a freedom of information request, Aberdeen City Council has revealed that 14 of its 49 primary schools are seeking headteachers, with the longest running vacancy at Culter School – which has a roll of over 300 pupils – where the council has been trying to recruit a headteacher since June 2014.

Three further Aberdeen primary schools – Kaimhill School, Kittybrewster School and Mile-End School – have been seeking headteachers since August 2014. And two secondaries are also on the lookout for headteachers; Kincorth Academy has not had a permanent head since August last year.

Aberdeen City Council said its headteacher shortage had come as a direct result of the teacher shortage that it had been grappling with for several years, and that was being felt across Scotland.

The council is now calling on the government to take action to make teaching a more attractive career.

The Aberdeen figures came to light as part of a Tes Scotland investigation into headteacher recruitment across the country.

The research also shines a light on a sharp rise in shared headships or executive headships, which involve one headteacher being placed in charge of two or more schools.

Back in 2010, Tes Scotland revealed that 17 councils had introduced shared headships; today 23 of Scotland’s 32 councils use these arrangements.

Overall, across Scotland, 190 headteachers – out of just over 2,000 nationwide – were in charge of more than one school, a rise of over 50 per cent compared with 2010.

The Tes Scotland findings have prompted opposition politicians and primary headteachers’ organisation AHDS to warn that problems with primary head recruitment could be further exacerbated by the SNP’s governance review, which will mean more responsibility for school leaders.

Greg Dempster, general secretary of AHDS, said the two barriers to headteacher recruitment were low pay and potential candidates being put off promotion because they had seen their own bosses struggling in the role - mainly due to teacher shortages.

“This really needs to be addressed – particularly as the governance review looks to be extending the expectations placed on headteachers,” he added.

A Scottish government spokeswoman said its deal with local authorities to maintain pupil-teacher ratios had halted a period of steady decline in teacher recruitment and resulted in 253 more teachers last year – the first substantial increase since 2007.

She added that the government recognised the difficulties in recruiting headteachers in some parts of the country and was investing £525,000 this year to support 175 participants on the new Into Headship qualification for aspiring headteachers.

This is an edited version of an article in the 28 July edition of Tes Scotland. Subscribers can read the full story here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click hereTes Scotland magazine is available at all good newsagents.

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