Headteachers driven out by demands and stresses of job

Stephen Miller. Picture: Michael Gillen
Stephen Miller. Picture: Michael Gillen
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Scotland’s schools could be facing a leadership crisis because the “stresses and demands” of being a headteacher means senior staff do not want the job, MSPs have been told.

Women candidates are worst affected as they tend to take more of a “whole life” view of the issue, rather then men who tend to accept the extra burden, one leading education expert said yesterday.

The punishing workload and concerns that education is too often treated as a political football are among the reasons which have hit confidence among school leaders and means many depute heads to longer want to step up to the top job.

Greg Dempster of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland told Holyrood’s education committee yesterday that there is already an issue over the supply of headteachers. “Headteachers are visible to the rest of the school community, they are the new recruitment pool for your next group of headteachers,” he said.

“They are seeing people working long hours, they are seeing budgets being reduced, they are seeing staffing in terms of management time or management posts being reduced. So the job at the moment is probably becoming less appealing.”

The committee is conducting an inquiry into workforce supply after it emerged recently that it will take three years to fill the 700 vacancies across all teaching roles Scotland.

John Stodter of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland rejected suggestions that a lack of flexible working was to blame.

“It was more the demands on the jobs, the accountabilities of the job to children, to parents, to the authority [council], to government, sometimes the stress of not having enough cover to allow them the management time to do the job,” he said.

“Some of them found it quite a lonely job, in terms of support, in terms of both the mentorship, but also budgets and staff support, staff around the school.

“They saw the job as difficult and demanding and some of the deputes thought that they had reached deputy head teacher, there was not a huge incentive to become a headteacher.

“And when they saw the demands of the job, particularly in women’s case, they look at it and think, ‘That’s a step too far, all the demands and stresses and why would I put my family up for that stress?’”