Overworked teachers

12th May 2006 at 01:00
Unfortunately, the report of the National Association of Head Teachers' annual conference in The TES Scotland on April 28 was not about magnificent headteachers (although I am sure those in the story were just that): rather it was about how many headteachers are planning to leave the profession due to overwork.

While the Association of Heads and Deputes in Scotland has not done a poll of members on this topic, the anecdotal evidence suggests that the answers given by Scotland's headteachers and deputes would not be too different to those given by their English and Welsh counterparts.

It is troubling (but not surprising) that headteachers are planning to quit at a time when it is increasingly difficult to attract new candidates into headship. This problem is, of course, compounded by the demographics of the profession: we have all heard many times that more than 50 per cent of headteachers will leave the profession in the next 10 years. Put all this together and it paints a pretty terrible picture of headteacher supply for the next few years.

We heard at the NAHT conference that there were a large number of issues which contributed to the overwork of school leaders but it was clear that reduced class contact time is the biggest single concern. Heads and deputes find themselves covering classes for large parts of every week and, as a result, have to find time at the start and end of the school day and at weekends to do the job they are paid for.

I have from some of my members that school staffing levels will be worse next year than they are now - at the same time as further reductions in class contact time are to be implemented.

If we are to tackle the issues of attracting people to headship and encouraging them to stay, then we must make the job more appealing. Part of that is ensuring it is possible to do the job within a reasonable number of hours.

Before introducing the further reductions in class contact, we must be sure that there are appropriate human resources in place to deliver it effectively. By that, I mean appropriate classroom teacher numbers, not through school leaders giving up hobbies to make time for more work.

If these classroom teachers are not in place (alongside reasonable arrangements for cover in periods of staff absence), then the implementation of the class contact changes should be delayed. Management time for school leaders must be protected.

AHDS is calling for nothing more than protection of the health and welfare of school leaders and protection of core time for them to complete the job they are paid for. If this is done, we feel it will go some way to preventing a significant increase in early retirements, will lead to better led schools and will encourage more candidates to come forward for headship.

Greg Dempster

General secretary Association of Heads and Deputes in Scotland

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