Financial climate a 'disincentive' for heads

6th May 2011 at 01:00
Catholic director warns lean times will steer potential leaders away from top jobs

The current climate of financial stringency has led to a drop in leadership capacity, Catholic heads were told last week by the director of the Scottish Catholic Education Service.

The extra responsibilities expected of heads have led to the "disincentivising of people seeking headteacher positions", said Michael McGrath. "Many deputes may well look at the possibility of applying for headteacher posts and say, `Is this really worth it?'"

Falling rolls in primaries have also had an impact, making the prospect of being a head "less attractive", he said.

In the context of local authorities being "unable and unwilling" to introduce separate or additional leadership experiences for Catholic schools, they faced the problem of being "unable to adequately develop people for leadership positions", he said.

Mr McGrath, a former head in North Lanarkshire, said schools were feeling the effects of "cramped" budgets for continuing professional development. He cited a fall in the take-up of places on Glasgow University's Leadership in Catholic Schools course.

"The ideal would be that you would have real opportunities to mentor and help form people for leadership - and that's been patchy."

But Isabelle Boyd, head of Cardinal Newman High in Bellshill and the new president of the Catholic Headteachers' Association of Scotland (CHAS), said Catholic primaries and secondaries were facing financial constraints "in common with all schools" and that the difficult economic climate had "forced them to be more creative".

"Developing leadership capacity isn't about money, it's about culture - and Catholic schools have a collegiate and collaborative culture," she said.

Tightening budgets meant Catholic school leaders were being "more open and supportive of each other", which allowed heads to focus on "the community dimension of our schools".

The issue of how to strengthen leadership in Catholic schools was one of the main issues discussed at CHAS's annual conference, held in Crieff last week.

Papal visit prompts community award

An award to recognise pupils' service to their community is being launched by the Scottish Catholic Education Service. The Pope Benedict XVI Caritas award, prompted by last year's papal visit and his comment that young people should dedicate their lives to "growing in holiness", will promote partnership between Catholic schools and local parishes. The award is being piloted from June 2011 to April 2012.

A new translation of the Catholic liturgy is to be used in Catholic schools. It is intended to be closer in "word, form and structure" to the original Latin text, said Father Philip Tartaglia, Bishop of Paisley. It would introduce "a more multi-faceted approach to teaching religious education in schools" and make the liturgy "more alive for young people".

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