SCOTLAND'S PRIMARY and secondary headteachers have blamed job-sizing, carried out as part of the national teachers' agreement, for a growing school leadership recruitment crisis.
They also warned that some recently-appointed heads were having their salaries cut by authorities which had opted to re-size posts where rolls were falling.
Greg Dempster, general secretary of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland, named Moray and Fife councils as two of the culprits.
As a result of rolls falling dramatically in the wake of RAF withdrawals from local bases, they were using the job-sizing toolkit to reappraise salary levels for promoted posts in the schools affected.
Staff appointed to promoted posts after April 2001 do not enjoy permanent salary conservation - unlike those appointed before the teachers'
agreement. Thus, if their pupil roll drops significantly, or other key parts of their job change, they face having their salaries cut.
Charles McAteer, president of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland, warned there was an inbuilt disincentive for prospective headteachers to lead a school where rolls were falling.
The two headteachers' associations blamed the job-sizing toolkits for eroding differentials between posts. Thus, the depute head of a large school would earn less as the head of a small school, they argued.
"As a result of job-sizing, many principal teachers are being paid as much as, if not more than, deputes, which means there is no incentive to be a depute, so we have diminished the pool for headship," said Mr McAteer.
Bill McGregor, general secretary of HAS, pointed to salary differentials with headteachers south of the border. He said the head of a large school of 1,800 pupils in Scotland earned pound;76,000 compared to the head of a similarly-sized secondary in Birmingham, who would earn pound;92,000 to Pounds 96,000. The head of a large secondary in London would earn pound;102,000 - including the capital's weighting allowance.
John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said there had been a drift of people from Scot-land taking senior leadership posts in England in recent years.
In the past week, Aberdeenshire Council, in a tacit acknowledgement of the problem, launched a pound;2 million scheme to increase secondary teacher and primary headteacher staffing levels.
The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Scottish Executive denied there was an impending crisis. A spokesman for Cosla dismissed the headteachers' arguments as "scaremongering".
An executive spokeswoman said there was no shortage of quality applicants.
If there was, HMIE would be finding weaknesses among new heads, but that was not an issue. The executive placed great importance on leadership, which was why it was investing so much in the Scottish Qualification for Headship and flexible routes to headship, she said.
Anne Pearson, a former headteacher who works for the Hay Partnership on leadership issues, said analysis by her organisation suggested authorities needed to do more strategic planning, and to focus on finding leaders who could "redistribute" skills rather than concentrating on the more traditional "charismatic" type of leaders.
John Stodter, general secretary of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, said he accepted that the teachers' agreement had had an effect on salary differentials between heads and deputes. "There are a number of areas of McCrone that over the next few years will have to be looked at in detail," he said.
The Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers has agreed to review the way job-sizing has been implemented, although the three parties to the national agreement - unions, local authorities and the Government - are not convinced it is fundamentally flawed.