Third trawl as school can't find a rector

7th May 2004 at 01:00
One of Scotland's most well-regarded schools is struggling to fill its top post, amid continuing warnings from headteachers' leaders that jobs are becoming increasingly difficult to fill.

The Western Isles Council has been forced to take the unusual step of advertising for the third time for the pound;60,000-a-year rector's post at its largest school, the 1,000-pupil Nicolson Institute in Stornoway (Scotland Plus, page 15).

Applicants have been "in single figures", Murdo Macleod, the director of education, says. Interviews were held following the first trawl and the post was readvertised. No interviews took place at that stage and a third attempt is now under way "to extend the field of candidates", Mr Macleod told The TES Scotland.

While the school's relationship with the education authority has had a chequered past, this has much improved in recent years and Mr Macleod believes it has "a lot going for it".

Mr Macleod cites good exam results, a high proportion of pupils going on to higher education, a "stable and able" staff, well-developed links with further education, strong bilingual provision, supportive parents, excellent sporting and cultural achievements, and brand new facilities.

The director suggested there is a problem filling heads' posts generally "and the further you are away from the centre, the greater the problem becomes". Portree High on Skye had considerable difficulties attracting headteacher applicants a few years ago.

Alex Easton, president of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland, said there was a combination of fewer applicants than in the past and a larger number of vacancies. "Heads are therefore leaving earlier because, we believe, the job has become high pressured and there is also residual bitterness at the job-sizing exercise which is likely to have deterred applicants."

Schools in remoter locations may have additional problems, Mr Easton said, particularly if potential applicants face uprooting themselves and their families because partners are more likely than in the past to have careers and jobs.

"Recruitment and retention in school management is definitely of concern to HAS," Mr Easton said.

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