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The problems of cover need more coverage

The lack of availability of supply teachers has made the headlines on numerous occasions recently. It is quite right that it should do so as it adds to the immense pressure on schools when they are already undertaking a programme of considerable change, and when the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence has meant that year on year schools must meet ever more stringent goals for student progress.

Although Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS) members recognise and accept the necessity to be ambitious for Scotland's young people, expectations need to balance with capacity. This imbalance has been highlighted to me very simply in recent weeks. One member from a large primary school volunteered that she had kept a record of the time that her management team had spent in class over the past 27 weeks. She had lost 87 working days which could and should have been put over to development work.

Teaching is a full-time job. Being a school leader is a full-time job. Yes, part of that job is to cover classes when necessary, but when so much cover is required it is entirely unreasonable to expect school leaders to do both jobs. Where the need to be in class compromises a school's capacity for development, which is currently the case in establishments up and down the country, this must be taken fully into account in setting expectations.

AHDS is pleased that a new pay regime has been agreed for supply teachers and hopes that it will make some difference to availability. However, it is crucial for the health and well-being of school leaders, and for recruitment and retention, that national expectations also take full account of local circumstances.

Greg Dempster

General secretary of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland

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Letters for publication in TESS should arrive by 10am Monday. Send your letters, ideally of no more than 250 words in length, including contact address and phone number, by email to or by post to TES Scotland, Thistle House, 21-23 Thistle Street, Edinburgh EH2 1DF. Letters may be edited.

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