If there is one learning outcome from the tragic death of Borders primary head Irene Hogg, it is the spotlight which has been thrown on to the position of teaching heads. Half of the primary heads in the Borders have a teaching commitment and it would be foolish to imply that all succumb to the pressures of juggling, in effect, two jobs - management and teaching. But Scottish Borders Council's plans for the future of its education service (p1) have certainly pronounced sentence on this dual mandate, declaring it "untenable."
The plan for Borders schools is to make all primary heads non-teaching, achieving this through joining primaries together under one head on a scale not seen anywhere else in Scotland: it would mean 42 heads running 65 schools. That is certainly one solution, but is there a problem?
The only authoritative research, carried out by Valerie Wilson, former director of the Scottish Council for Research in Education, suggests that most teaching heads enjoy teaching and leading small schools (defined as those with a roll of less than 50). Their main complaint was with the pace of change rather than its substance. "Keeping your hand in" is a perfectly honourable managerial tradition.
Many heads still choose to teach occasionally and believe it keeps their feet on the ground. But the key word is "choose": why should secondary heads have the luxury of that choice, while their primary colleagues often have no option?
If shared headship is a solution, we suspect it is driven as much by concern over recruitment to headship and by the growing moves to give principal teachers a more prominent leadership role, leaving heads to think big thoughts - or, as the Borders plan puts it, to become "directors of learning through learning communities". It looks increasingly like a tightening of the noose of accountability.