Great expectations

17th November 2006 at 00:00
CHARLES MCATEER has been a headteacher for 18 years, in senior management for 23. But he acknowledges in his presidential address to the Headteachers' Association of Scotland today that the job is no longer what it was - a contributory factor to the current problem of retention and recruitment to senior management posts.

The 56-year-old wonders whether the idealism that prompted him and others to become leaders - the desire to work with pupils, staff, parents and communities to improve young people's lives - has been fulfilled. The answer is probably not.

"What do we find occupies most of our time now? There is an ever-growing demand for our being involved in elaborate, bureaucractic procedures which relate to planning, quality assurance and financial management, especially the accounting for budget expenditure under a multiplicity of ring-fenced headings," he says.

There are also expectations that senior leaders should always be on duty - doing everything from litter collection to toilet supervision, and responsible for the behaviour of pupils not only during school but in the evenings, at weekends, and in the holidays, he says.

Small wonder then, he argues, that potential leaders are not coming forward if they perceive the job to be over-bureaucratic and carrying unreasonable levels of accountability.

Mr McAteer is fairly unusual in that he began his career as an English teacher in the denominational sector, but moved to the non-denominational sector once in senior management. He has two degrees - an MA from Edinburgh University, and a BA in English and Scottish literature from Strathclyde University.

His accession to the HAS presidency coincides with the appointment of Hugh Henry as Education Minister. Mr McAteer and his HAS colleagues will be spending the next six months trying to convince Mr Henry that they need better core-funding and less ring-fenced money. They will argue for more resources for inclusion so that all schools have on-campus and off-campus facilities.

As the national teachers' agreement comes up for review, Mr McAteer will be pressing the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers to revisit the role of chartered teachers to give them more of a leadership function.

"There is nothing in the chartered teacher description that empowers the headteacher to give them more leadership responsibility," he says. "If they are doing more, it is on a goodwill basis."

Lack of access to the job-sizing toolkit continues to be an irritant, particularly as HAS part-funded its development. He also wants to see a review of the weightings attached to guidance and pupil support to make it easier for teachers in these posts to progress into leadership.

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