Shared headteachers not a cheap option

The proposed policy in Borders Council on shared headships (TESS June 20) is an interesting development although not new

The proposed policy in Borders Council on shared headships (TESS June 20) is an interesting development although not new. Borders, in common with other rural authorities, has had shared headships in place for a number of years.

The council has had difficulty filling headteacher vacancies. It seems the council's response is one born of necessity: if they can't fill the posts, they have to look at other options.

For some, the job of a teaching head is the best of both worlds as they have the opportunity to move into management without losing contact with pupils. Others find it extremely difficult - a significant teaching commitment without proper time for planning, preparation and marking as they also have to cram in the duties of a head. It is not hugely surprising that the posts are difficult to fill.

AHDS is not opposed to shared headships but, if they are to work properly, they must be appropriately resourced and supported. This means that the opportunity of having fewer heads should not be seen as a cheap option.

I have been asked in the past if this arrangement would reduce the stress faced by heads. The answer is no. A head running more than one school would expect to have no class commitment, so would not have the competing demands of trying to perform two different roles. But in place of that burden would be other pressures and commitments.

Crucial in the success of any shared headship arrangements will be the location of the schools (distance between them, secondary schools they feed, etc), ensuring there are staff and systems in place to allow the school to run properly without a head and local authority support for the head.

Part of this will need to be flexibility and responsiveness to allow the model to evolve once those with a shared headship are in post and have had an opportunity to better assess the challenges and opportunities the model presents.

Greg Dempster, general secretary, Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland.

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