East Lothian RC school seeks new head teacher - or ‘leader of learning’ if they’re not Catholic

A Catholic primary school struggling to recruit a head teacher has taken the “unprecedented” step of widening their search to non-Catholics – but will only give the full job title to those baptised in the faith.

St Martin's RC Primary School, Tranent. Pic: Lisa Ferguson

Any successful candidate for the £52,725-a-year job at St Martin’s RC Primary School in Tranent who is not a member of the Catholic church will not be allowed to take on the title of “head teacher”.

Instead they would be given the moniker of “leader of learning”.

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The job is advertised under two separate titles on the same advert, with an identical role description beneath each.

Pope Francis ponders during the weekly general audience on May 8, 2019 at St. Peter's square in the Vatican. Pic: Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images

East Lothian Council said the move was “unprecedented” due to three previous attempts to recruit a Catholic head at the school, which has 180 pupils and has been without a permanent head teacher for a year.

All other RC primary schools in the local authority area currently have Catholic head teachers.

The job advert states: “Both posts provide leadership for the school.

“However, applications are invited from Catholic and non-Catholic candidates.

School badge Tranent | St Martin's Primary School

“For the head teacher post, applications are invited from suitably qualified and experienced Catholic teachers and for the leader of learning post, applications are invited from suitably qualified and experienced non-Catholic teachers.”

It added: “Teachers are responsible for seeking approval of the bishop of a diocese for appointment to any post in a Catholic school in that area.”

A non-Catholic “leader of learning” will have to assure the Catholic Church, which has approval of any appointment, that the personal “religious belief and character” of a teacher is appropriate to the duties associated with the teaching post for which they have applied.

The applicant will also have to provide a reference from a “suitable person” to attest to their character.

A spokeswoman for East Lothian Council said: “East Lothian Council was unable to appoint a suitable candidate during multiple campaigns to recruit a new head teacher for St Martin’s RC Primary School.

“Therefore, due to this unique and unprecedented situation for East Lothian, our Education Service is working in partnership with the Diocese to secure a new head teacher for the school and to introduce this new post, leader of learning, if required.

“We remain committed to retaining St Martin’s RC Primary at the heart of the Catholic community.”

A spokesman for the Catholic Church said that the “leader of learning” title had been used in other Scottish council areas in the past.

He said: “The Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh has been working with East Lothian Council to resolve the recruitment issue at St Martin’s RC Primary and still hopes that a suitable candidate can be found.

“Should no suitable candidate apply, consideration will be given to candidates for the post of ‘leader of learning”.

“That post would have responsibility for the management of the curriculum and be supported by a designated member of staff, who has additional responsibility to lead the faith dimension of the school community.”

A spokesman for teaching union the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said: “While the EIS wouldn’t wish to comment in relation to an individual school or post, we are clear that all teachers should be treated fairly when applying for any post and that all appointments must comply with current legislation, including all relevant equality legislation.

“The key issue for any post is not the title, but the remit.”

Scotland’s wider schooling system is already in the grip of a teacher recruitment crisis.

Nearly 3,000 teaching posts across Scotland had to be re-advertised over the past three years to November after the initial search failed to find a suitable candidate.

Statistics obtained under Freedom of Information legislation showed the problem was not just confined to rural locations, with schools in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow all struggling to recruit teachers.

A total of 340 posts were re-advertised in Aberdeen in the three-year period alongside 197 in Edinburgh and 120 in Glasgow.

Fife Council was forced to re-advertise 325 positions over the three academic years from 2016 to 2018, including 151 alone last year.