Fighting talk between unions

14th November 2008 at 00:00
Primary principal teachers are being targeted by the AHDS in an attempt to boost its membership

A turf war is looming between headteacher associations and Scotland's largest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland, after the Association for Heads and Deputes in Scotland voted last week to open its ranks to primary principal teachers.

The secondary heads' organisation, School Leaders Scotland, will vote this afternoon on a change to its constitution to include in its membership faculty heads, principal teachers, business managers and teachers who have gone into leadership roles in bodies such as HMIE, education directorates, teacher education institutions, Learning and Teaching Scotland, and the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

Leaders of both headteacher organisations argue their moves are partly prompted by a desire to improve succession planning. They claim that one of the biggest problems they face is a low application rate for headteacher and depute head posts.

Ronnie Smith, EIS general secretary, reacted angrily to the AHDS move at its annual conference last week in Edinburgh and accused it of trying to assert the separateness of a "management cadre" and hold on to an "outdated concept of school organisation".

He said: "This move confirms the identity crisis AHDS has been suffering for some time. A few years ago it walked away from the teachers' side of the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers and decided instead to act as adviser to the local authority employers. It also decided to extend its membership beyond headteachers to include deputes. Now it proposes to go further and recruit principal teachers.

"Most principal teachers will wonder why they should join an organisation that is part of the employers' side of the negotiating body and whose last pay claim asserted that heads and deputes deserved a pay rise 10 per cent above that deserved by principal teachers."

In an environment where the focus was more on collegiate working and the shared leadership role of all teachers, the logic of professional unity, rather than greater fragmentation, became ever more compelling, he said.

The AHDS leadership insisted the move was for the benefit of education in Scotland. "We need to make this change to our membership so that we can work for our own organisation's succession planning and succession planning in school leadership," said Greg Dempster, AHDS general secretary.

The association's membership stands at 1,450, but if every principal teacher, depute head and head joined, it could reach 6,234.

Irene Matier, the new president of AHDS, said its membership could offer PTs the recognition that they were school leaders. The association would give them a greater leadership profile and offer greater opportunities to network.

"This is a statement that principal teachers are part of the formal school leadership - that is different from the leadership at all levels agenda," added Mr Dempster.

SLS, meanwhile, is on the verge of making a similar move, opening membership of its rebranded organisation to "anyone in a leadership capacity in a secondary school".

The organisation, which changed its name from the Headteachers' Association of Scotland in the summer, was trying to "capture the different things happening across Scotland", said Ken Cunningham, SLS general secretary. The organisation was now for anyone in a school leadership team, rather than just the senior management team, he said.

Karen Miller, recently-appointed as a principal teacher at Dalmilling Primary in Harthall, South Ayrshire, was one of the first to apply for AHDS membership. In teaching for only four-and-a-half years, and promoted to PT in August, she said she was looking for more support in her new management role.

"I think it will offer opportunities for collaboration and the chance to share good practice and ideas," she said.

Ms Miller plans to retain her EIS membership in the immediate future. "I still have some class commitments - about half the week - and I see the EIS as being more of a classroom teachers' body and the AHDS as being more for managment," she said.

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