Headship qualifications: everything you need to know

27th November 2015 at 00:00
With the controversial ‘Into Headship’ course set to become mandatory, we bring you the key information

From 2018, the Scottish government will require all new headteachers to hold a headship qualification. But councils say the move will lead to a national recruitment crisis and the independent sector has suggested it might even be illegal. Here’s what you need to know.

Why is the government insisting all new heads have a headship qualification?

When announcing the move in February, first minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was taking inspiration from the key role that leadership played in improving attainment during the London Challenge. “I want all schools to be led by the best qualified people who are ready to take on the role as headteacher,” she said.

What does the Into Headship qualification look like?

Into Headship is a master’s-level qualification that takes a year to complete and has been developed by the Scottish College for Educational Leadership.

The eight universities currently providing initial teacher education in Scotland will all offer the qualification, although the University of the West of Scotland will not do so until next year. The programme offered by the University of Aberdeen will be undertaken largely online and is aimed at candidates in remote areas.

Who is the qualification for?

It is being targeted at people who are likely to become headteachers within the next two to three years. Everyone from deputies to classroom teachers could potentially take the course, in recognition of the fact that in small rural primary schools classroom staff are promoted to headteacher roles.

How much does it cost?

The qualification costs about £3,000. At the moment the government covers £2,000, with participants expected to pay the remaining £1,000. Some councils – including Perth and Kinross, Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Dumfries and Galloway, and Shetland – are picking up the tab for their staff.

When will it start?

The first cohort began the programme in September. About 140 participants are taking part, split fairly evenly between primary and secondary. However, the government had been willing to fund 150 places.

What do current headteachers think?

School leaders say the qualification will be another barrier to headteacher recruitment at a time when councils are already struggling to find candidates, especially in primary schools. They also think that aspiring heads shouldn’t have to pay for their own CPD.

And councils?

Education directors want to see the qualification phased in over a longer period before it becomes mandatory. Terry Lanagan, head of West Dunbartonshire’s education service, told the Education and Culture Committee last week that making the qualification mandatory in 2018 would be likely to lead to a “crisis situation”, with councils unable to recruit to headteacher posts. Shetland Islands Council has predicted applications to its remote and rural schools will dry up completely if the qualification becomes a requirement.

What’s putting people off becoming headteachers?

According to the school leaders’ body AHDS, there are three main problems: many of the tasks headteachers have to do seem unconnected with teaching and this deters candidates; heads work long hours; and the pay isn’t good enough. Under the current system, a depute in a medium-sized school can earn the same as the headteacher of a small school.

Will the requirement apply to independent school heads?

Yes – and the independent sector is outraged. The Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS) says “significant numbers” of headteachers at its member schools come from England and overseas, and that the proposals would “reduce the field” schools recruit from.

According to the SCIS, “no recent measure has caused as much genuine concern within the sector”. The council recently revealed that it had received legal advice saying there were “strong grounds” against making the qualification mandatory because it would conflict with the right of people to move freely within the European Union.

The Scottish government has said it is considering introducing a longer lead-in time for independent schools.


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