New vision for Edinburgh schools

12th October 2012 at 01:00
Council wants school leaders to keep moving and have power to boost teachers' pay

Moving headteachers and deputes to a new school every five to seven years and giving school leaders the power to award extra pay to teachers who take on additional responsibilities are just two of a raft of radical ideas proposed by Edinburgh City Council.

Teachers, pupils and parents will now be consulted over the next few months on the authority's vision for schools over the next five years and beyond.

The proposal to rotate headteachers routinely was inspired by practice in Ontario, Canada, where school leaders are appointed to the authority rather than a school.

Karen Prophet, senior education manager, said the idea was prompted by the need to try and develop a feeling of "shared ownership" - that school managers were responsible for educating "all of our children in the city", not just those in their own school community. The council also wants to extend the policy to principal and unpromoted class teachers.

Such a scheme would have to be directed from the centre, added Ms Prophet, as it was important to match a headteacher's strengths to the right school.

Donald Macdonald, head of James Gillespie's High, who is one of only two of the city's 22 secondary heads who have been headteachers elsewhere, told TESS that any rotation scheme would have to be offered as an opportunity for school leaders to opt into rather than being a contractual obligation.

If rotation was compulsory, it might deter aspiring leaders from applying for management posts, he warned.

"As headteachers, we like to have control of our own destiny," said Mr Macdonald, who was head of Liberton High for seven years before moving to James Gillespie's nine months ago.

He acknowledged that "enormous benefits" could be derived from facing fresh challenges at a new school. However, some heads, who had only four or five years remaining would not necessarily relish such a challenge near the end of their career, he suggested.

Coming so quickly after the management restructuring in Edinburgh, the rotation of senior staff was "probably a conversation best avoided for a year or two", he said.

"There is a danger it could be seen as a cost-cutting exercise rather than genuinely sharing good practice or developing our headteacher workforce," he added.

The council's vision paper, which went before the education, children and families committee this week, also seeks to devolve wider powers to headteachers. Among the measures proposed is the ability for headteachers to "reward staff for wider leadership roles".

Ms Prophet told TESS that this was an attempt to emulate practice in England, where there is greater flexibility within promoted structures. The proposals echo recommendations in the McCormac report, Advancing Professionalism in Teaching (2011).

Plan for schools

Other elements of the Edinburgh vision for schools

  • Use improved ICT to enhance independent learning for S5-6 pupils through a virtual learning environment;
  • Implement a "Total Place" approach - based on multi-agency cooperation - for schools in challenging circumstances, including the trialling of all- year-round provision;
  • Formalise Advanced Higher consortia arrangements, including the use of ICT, a shared campus model, partnership with colleges, and greater involvement of universities;
  • Draw up a strategic plan to tackle the twin problems of overcrowding and under-use of schools (there are 5,500 empty school places across the primary estate).
    • Credit: Getty

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