Banks and kirk inspire new model

17th April 1998 at 01:00
Headteachers complain that over the last generation the job of headteacher has changed and greatly expanded.

Curriculum development, parent-teacher associations and school boards, responsibility for school finances, fundraising - the workload increase seems to accelerate with every new initiative, until Labour's cry of "Education, education, education" becomes more of a threat than a promise.

In small schools, often in rural areas, where the headteacher is also a classroom teacher, the demands have become almost impossible to meet. Spending up to four days as a class teacher, heads are then expected to squeeze the management of the school into one working day.

Inevitably the head is under huge stress and the class may suffer from lack of teaching continuity as supply teachers come and go. As a result, filling headteacher posts in small schools is becoming increasingly difficult. It is a problem that affects schools across Scotland, and while financial prudence is the watchword of government, it seems an insurmountable one. Yet the small pilot project in the Borders may point to a route out of the mire.

"When I was out visiting schools, the problem of the teaching head hit me again and again," says Graeme Donald, assistant director of education at Scottish Borders Council. "I felt we were asking heads and teachers to do far too much, and as we approached the year 2000, the model established much earlier in the century needed to change."

Donald found his inspiration for a new model in banking and the church. "If a minister can work to two parishes and two kirk sessions, and if two branches of a bank can share a manager, why can't a head work to two schools?" he asked himself. And when the headteachers of two schools within 10 miles of each other retired at the same time, the thought began gradually to develop into reality.

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