Scots headteacher recruitment crisis ‘could get worse’

New plans are set to give schools sweeping new powers over budgets and hiring staff. Picture: Michael Gillen
New plans are set to give schools sweeping new powers over budgets and hiring staff. Picture: Michael Gillen
Have your say

The recruitment “crisis” faced by Scotland’s schools in attracting headteachers is poised to get worse under a proposed overhaul of the education system, a union has claimed.

The changes would give schools sweeping new powers over budgets and hiring staff, but this will only add to the red tape burden which heads already face, according to the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA).

The union instead wants councils to take back some of the duties that have been devolved to schools in recent years.

The SSTA was responding to a consultation on possible changes to the way schools are governed. The Scottish Government intends to devolve more powers to head teachers and is also looking at creating regional education boards to work across council areas.

The SSTA called for a “process of review” followed by improvements rather than “major structural change”, which it said would only divert resources away from the main challenge of closing the attainment gap between schools in richer and poorer areas of the country. It also argued against the devolution of powers and the creation of new education regions.

Its submission to the government’s consultation said: “As there is a growing recruitment crisis for headteacher and deputy posts, further devolving of powers to headteachers is another burden on those professionals and will merely exacerbate this situation.

“In some respects, this step would be regarded as adding to bureaucracy rather than improving education outcomes for children and young people.

“The priority should be to identify those tasks that can be taken away from teachers and head teachers, and undertaken more efficiently by those more suitable and qualified within the local authority.”

The submission continued: “Creating new education regions would just create more bureaucracy.

“This would undermine the role of the local authority by putting additional unwanted pressure, responsibility and bureaucracy on teachers and head teachers in schools.”

SSTA general secretary Seamus Searson also argued the consultation did not contain the necessary level of detail on the roles and responsibilities of the various bodies within the education sector to allow for a fully-informed response.

“It would be unwise to make crucial decisions on the future of education based on the responses from such a consultation,” he said.

The school governance proposals have received a mixed response.

In contrast to the SSTA, the Commission on School Reform, set up by think-tank Reform Scotland, last week suggested headteachers should get greater powers, including in key areas such as budgets and staffing.

“Empowering schools is the single most effective way of challenging the current culture of conformity and compliance in Scottish education, and encouraging in its place a culture of innovation and improvement,” it said in its submission.