Mass exodus as city principal teachers retire at same time

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EDINBURGH is set to lose three long-serving secondary headteachers at a crucial time for education in the city.

Rory Mackenzie has announced his retirement from Balerno High after 16 years at its head, while Alex Wallace from James Gillespie's will also be retiring after the summer holidays, along with Alex Wood, the head of Wester Hailes Education Centre.

Their retirements come at a difficult time for Edinburgh's secondary schools, following budget cuts announced earlier this year, which include removing the post of bursar, reducing the number of deputy heads and cutting principal teacher positions.

In addition to losing the three retiring heads, a fourth - Jack Hamilton from Boroughmuir High - will be seconded temporarily to work with headteachers across the city on the implementation of the new management structures.

The city's longest serving headteacher, Mr Mackenzie said the education department might struggle to fill the positions as it is rare for so many to become available at the same time, but added that the council might take the opportunity to save money by promoting deputes at a lower salary.

He said: "The fact the retirements are all happening at the one time isn't an advantage.

"You would be looking at an average of 15-20 applicants for each post normally so the field will be smaller overall.

"I don't know if economic pressures could make them promote internally."

Labour group leader Councillor Andrew Burns, who is a former education leader, also echoed concerns about the loss of such experience all at the same time.

He said: "I have met and worked in my time on the council with all four of the headteachers who are either retiring or moving on to a seconded post. It will be a huge loss of experience and talent to lose three headteachers of their calibre, plus one seconded.

"They are very capable individuals and will be a great loss to the department.

"Four headteachers out of 23 moving in one go is quite a significant chunk.

"It's unfortunate that they are all going at the same time."

Education director Gillian Tee said: "I'd like to thank them for all they've done for Edinburgh's young people over the years and particularly during these challenging times.

"Whilst we will lose their experience, part of their legacy is that new talent will come through and, with our emphasis on good leadership development and succession planning, pupils will continue to receive an excellent education in Edinburgh."

The closing date for the headteacher post at James Gillespie's - which is being advertised with a salary of 71,823 - is this Friday.