Recruitment crisis sees more schools left sharing headteachers

Almost 200 headteachers in Scotland run more than one school, with potential candidates said to be deterred from applying for posts due to increased responsibilities and inadequate pay.
Teachers are being spread across multiple schools.Teachers are being spread across multiple schools.
Teachers are being spread across multiple schools.

Figures obtained under Freedom of Information legislation reveal a hike in shared headships or executive headships which put one person in charge of two or more schools.

In 2010, 17 of Scotland’s 32 councils used shared headships, with the number rising to 23 in 2017.

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While shared headships are usually used to address recruitment problems in rural areas, two of Scotland’s largest schools – St Andrew’s RC secondary and Holyrood secondary, both in Glasgow and five miles apart on the opposite side of the Clyde – are due to come under the leadership of one headteacher next month.

South Ayrshire council is the second Scottish local authority which has a shared secondary headship, with one head for Kyle and Ayr academies.

The Highlands has 36 shared headships and next month will begin implementing its plans for “mega clusters”. On Arran, one headteacher is running six of the island’s seven primary schools.

Aberdeen City Council is looking for a sole headteacher for more than a quarter of its primary schools – 14 out of 49.

John Wheeler, Aberdeen City Council’s education convener, is calling on the Scottish Government to make teaching a more attractive profession, by offering financial incentives, especially for those wanting to change career.

The council’s longest running vacancy is at Culter School, with the post unfilled since June 2014.

Last night Iain Gray, MSP, Scottish Labour education spokesman, warned extra duties in the governance review “with no promise that salaries would increase” would worsen the situation.

Greg Dempster, general secretary of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland, said recruitment barriers were low pay and the experiences of existing school leaders.

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Liz Smith, MSP, Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman, said the figures show the recruitment crisis was affecting all levels of teaching.

“This is further evidence, if any was needed, that teacher shortages are affecting the highest level of the profession just as much as classroom teachers.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are committed to maintaining teacher numbers nationally. Our deal with local authorities to maintain the pupil teacher ratio has halted a period of steady decline in teacher recruitment by councils and resulted in 253 more teachers last year – the first substantial increase since 2007.

“We recognise difficulties in recruiting headteachers in some parts of the country and we are investing £525,000 this year to support a further 175 participants on the new Into Headship qualification for aspiring headteachers.”