Almost 200 Scottish headteachers forced to run more than one school thanks to shortages

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The full scale of teacher cuts under the SNP government has been disclosed after it emerged that almost 200 heads are being forced to run more than one school.

Official figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act found that 191 headteachers – almost 10 per cent of the total – are in charge of more than one school in Scotland.

The total has increased by 69 per cent since 2010, while the number of councils adopting the arrangement has increased from 17 to 23 over the same period.

There are 36 schools in the Highlands that share a headteacher with another establishment, while in Aberdeen four primary schools have been trying to recruit a head for three years.

Two of Scotland’s largest schools, both in Glasgow, are set to come under the leadership of one head teacher in August this year after the council failed to find a suitable candidate.

The disclosure in the Times Educational Supplement industry journal emerged after John Swinney, the SNP Education Minister, last month announced a major overhaul of Scotland’s schools that makes headteachers personally responsible for raising attainment.

Mr Swinney unveiled a statutory headteachers’ charter under which they will be handed a wide array of controls over their schools’ management, staffing structure, budgets and what is taught in their classrooms.                        

John Swinney, the Scottish Education Minister

John Swinney, the Scottish Education Minister

Credit:
PA

But the trade union representing heads warned of looming leadership crisis, with teachers reluctant to take on the role due to low pay and a swathe of new responsibilities including far more red tape.

Headteachers are paid between £44,223 and £86,319 but some senior staff would rather stay in the classroom or earn more in the private sector than take on the role. Teacher numbers have declined by more than 4,000 during the SNP’s decade in office.

Greg Dempster, general secretary of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS), said heads were “covering lots of classes and administration” before they could “focus any effort on school improvement.”

He added: “This really needs to be addressed – particularly as the governance review looks to be extending the expectations placed on head teachers.”

The figures disclosed that most shared headships are in primary schools, with Aberdeen City Council revealing that 14 of its 49 primary schools are seeking head teachers. They also showed that there are 29 shared headships in Dumfries and Galloway and 19 in the Scottish Borders.

At the beginning of the new school year the head of St Andrew’s RC Secondary in Glasgow, Gerry Lyons, will also become the headteacher of Holyrood Secondary, which is five miles away and on the opposite side of the Clyde.

The council said it failed to receive “sufficient high-calibre applicants for the position of headteacher at Holyrood”. Mr Lyons will become the second Scottish head to run two secondary schools. In South Ayrshire, Lyndsay McRoberts is responsible for Kyle and Ayr academies.

Shirley MacLachlan is the head of six of Arran’s seven primaries, where she is responsible for a total of 197 pupils.

Liz Smith, the Tories' Shadow Education Minister

Liz Smith, the Tories’ Shadow Education Minister

Credit:
Allan Milligan

Liz Smith, the Scottish Tories’ Shadow Education Minister, said: ” “It is grossly unfair on the pupils. The absence can affect direction and strategy and can have a negative impact on staff morale.

“Staff shortages have become a major issue under this SNP government. It is completely unacceptable and speaks volumes about its promise to make education the number one priority.”

Iain Gray, Scottish Labour education spokesman, said: ““Not only is the Education Secretary not listening, he is proposing to pile yet more responsibilities onto headteachers, with no additional resources or salary rise.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said its deal with local authorities to maintain pupil-teacher ratios had halted a period of steady decline in teacher recruitment and resulted in 253 more teachers last year – the first substantial increase since 2007.

She added that the government recognised the difficulties in recruiting headteachers in some parts of the country and was investing £525,000 this year to report 175 participants on the new Into Headship qualification for aspiring headteachers.