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Would-be heads face new hurdle

Selection procedures for headteachers are to become tougher so that only candidates with the required vision and leadership qualities can be chosen, the Scottish Executive has said.

As part of his Ambitious Excellent Schools reforms, Peter Peacock is to put in place new forms of assessment of potential headteachers before they reach the stage of being interviewed by panels of councillors and parent members of school boards.

Mr Peacock, who as a Highland councillor sat on many headteacher interview panels, is understood to be concerned that the current process is not sufficiently rigorous in identifying headteachers with the right leadership qualities.

It can often involve the director of education (or their deputy) selecting a list of candidates for interview on the basis of an application form.

Candidates then go before a panel comprising council representatives (usually a member of the directorate, the chair of the education committee, and another headteacher) and school board members, for an interview lasting between 20 and 25 minutes.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Executive said the exact format of pre-interview assessment had not yet been decided. But, she added, it is likely to include a requirement that headteacher applicants attend designated assessment centres where staff are trained to identify qualities such as leadership potential.

However, Mr Peacock acted to dampen speculation in the media that any changes to the appointments process might diminish the role of parents.

In a letter to Alan Smith, president of the Scottish School Board Association, Mr Peacock stated: "I want to make it very clear that I see a continuing role for parents in this process. Our forthcoming consultations will explore the nature of that involvement, in the context of a need to update practices and procedures in support of our new agenda to promote leadership, and of the implications of new working arrangements between clusters of schools."

An Executive spokeswoman said that while current school board legislation is due to be reviewed in a bid to make the current school board arrangements less prescriptive, the minister was committed to involving and enhancing the role of parents in schools.

Draft legislation to replace the Scottish School Boards Act is expected to be published around Christmas for a period of consultation up to Easter.

Bill McGregor, general secretary of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland, described the new proposals as "miles better" than the 25-minute interview by panel.

"My first interview panel for the post of assistant headteacher in 1971 was before the entire education committee of Ayrshire County Council. There were 30 members, some of whom were reading the paper and some sleeping - ridiculous."

However, Mr McGregor said many authorities already used much more professional means of selecting headteachers.

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