Teachers shun top job

1st August 2008 at 01:00
Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop calls in experts to find answers to the growing recruitment crisis in headteacher posts

The education Secretary has expressed deep concern about the shortage of teachers willing to become headteachers.

Fiona Hyslop has called in experts from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Cambridge universities to investigate why so many teachers balk at the idea of promotion, and wants their report by the end of the year.

She has also revealed that assessment of a pilot scheme providing a more flexible route to headship was "very supportive", and more authorities would be invited to take part.

It is an "overriding objective" to have sufficient teachers "interested and capable of successfully leading our schools", she said, stressing that this had not been achieved by the Scottish Qualification for Headship.

Speaking this week at the International Summer School on School Leadership in Edinburgh, organised by the Scottish Government, Ms Hyslop called for better links between universities and local authorities to stimulate that interest through classroom-based research.

Ms Hyslop also wants more chartered teachers to bring their expertise to leadership roles, particularly in relation to A Curriculum for Excellence. As set out in the teachers' agreement, chartered teacher status was intended to reward excellent classroom practitioners.

A long-awaited Government paper on leadership in Scottish schools - originally due at the end of 2007 - has been delayed so that curriculum and qualifications reforms can be incorporated in it.

Ken Greer, executive director (education) of Fife Council - one of the authorities which piloted the flexible route to headship - said the scheme suited individuals who already had management experience but needed to reflect upon it.

"The approach is fundamentally one based on coaching, which therefore requires good-quality existing or former heads to be involved," he said.

He reacted with some surprise to Ms Hyslop's proposals to give chartered teachers a leading role, saying he would want to examine whether their skills matched the training needs of their colleagues.

Greg Dempster, general secretary of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland, said there was a reluctance to move up from depute head to headteacher because salaries did not compensate for the extra pressure and accountability of the post, and because teachers feared being too removed from the classroom.

Previous surveys by the association showed the average number of applications for primary headships had fallen from 5.4 per post (between 2002 and 2005) to 4.9 (between 2005 and 2008), he said.

Jill Bourne, dean of education at Strathclyde University, was pleased to hear the call for better links between university research and class teachers. She said the university's involvement in the Applied Educational Research Scheme was already showing the benefits of such links.

Leader, page 26.

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