Campaign to limit teaching heads' hours follows death

1st January 2010 at 00:00

Teaching heads should have a guaranteed minimum amount of time to run their schools, according to the primary heads' organisation, the Association for Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland.

The campaign call from the AHDS comes after the inquiry into the death of headteacher Irene Hogg heard of the difficult hours and pressures faced by a teaching head.

While the post has ceased to exist in the Borders, where Miss Hogg was teaching head at Glendinning Terrace Primary, it remains commonplace in many Scottish authorities.

Now, the AHDS wants teaching heads to have at least 2.5 to three days per week to dedicate to the running of their schools. It is expected to announce its specific demands in the near future, according to general secretary Greg Dempster.

"We've been arguing for protected management time for a while, but now we've decided to take the next step and define more clearly what we are actually looking for," he said. "Certain core tasks have to be done, irrespective of the size of a school."

The national teachers' agreement in 2001 has allowed many heads and deputes to be freed from teaching commitments, said John Stodter, general secretary of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland. Today it was "extremely difficult" to be a teaching head, he added.

"The role has become more demanding because parents' expectations are extremely high," he explained. "This has been encouraged by new legislation and just now the Government is advertising on TV that parents can expect an individual response to the individual needs of their child."

Months before Miss Hogg was found dead, she emailed her line manager, Yvonne McCracken, Borders head of schools, saying she was concerned about the sustainability of her job.

The role of teaching head was a "conflicting role", which saw heads teaching P4 to subtract one minute, and then dealing with complaints or school improvement plans the next, Ms McCracken told the inquiry.

"My professional view was that it was becoming increasingly unsustainable," said Ms McCracken, who is researching teaching headships and shared headships in small schools for her doctorate.

In August, teaching headships were replaced entirely by shared headships in the Borders.

The post still exists, however, in Aberdeenshire, Highland, Moray, Perth and Kinross, Dumfries and Galloway, Argyll and Bute and the island authorities, said Mr Dempster.

In Perth and Kinross there are 33 teaching heads, but the authority is running a shared headship pilot which will end in October.

Mr Dempster refused to rule out teaching headships entirely. The role still suited some, he said, and shared headship was "something of an unknown".

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