5.1 Nationally Agreed Action Plan is Required
Just as there is a variety of factors at play contributing to the current difficulties in recruiting headteachers in Scotland, so too is there a number of integrated solutions requiring local and national action if improvements are to be made. There is no silver bullet to hand to resolve this challenge and we must also recognise that other education systems are also encountering similar difficulties. However Scotland does have the advantage of size and scale in an education system known for its collaborative and consensual approaches to change and improvement. Local Authorities, National Agencies, Professional Associations and Scottish Government must coalesce round the findings of this report and treat the matter as one of urgency requiring immediate action of short term and long term timescales.
There is a need for immediate and urgent action by the Scottish education community to address the current difficulties in the recruitment of headteachers. A nationally agreed action plan should be prepared using the evidence in this and previous reports to direct priorities and resources.
5.2 Career Pathways and Preparation for Headship
There is a pressing need to bring more coherence and clarity to the provision of pathways to leadership at local and national level. The creation of a mandatory national qualification for aspiring headteachers is not in itself going to improve levels of applications for vacant posts and in the short term may have the opposite effect.
The financial climate that we are likely to face for the foreseeable future requires a far more focused and joined-up approach by employers assisted by national agencies to identify, nurture and develop potential leaders. The variation in the size, resources, priorities, and capacity of the 32 Local Authorities means that there is no guarantee of opportunity for a career pathway for those who wish to consider the role of headteacher. The Into Headship Qualification programme is not of itself sufficient preparation for headship, but rather is one of a number of steps along a career pathway. These steps might include opportunities for mentoring, job shadowing, short term secondments or job exchanges, regular professional review and an agreed programme of further development.
While Local Authorities have individual responsibility for their employees' career development needs and aspirations, there is a far greater chance of a high quality range of opportunities for those aspiring to headship if inter-authority partnerships were developed to provide the pathways and opportunities for those who aspire to be school leaders at middle and senior positions including headship across Scotland. These inter-authority partnerships should be supported and augmented by inputs from national agencies and the broader education community across Scotland. The combined resources of these partnerships could be used to identify and develop potential and aspiring headteachers in the expectation that from this pool future leaders will emerge to fill many of the vacancies which will arise in their area. It is important that the identification of future senior leaders is not left to chance but becomes a shared responsibility for those currently leading education authorities and national agencies. The 2015 OECD Report " Improving Schools in Scotland" asked for "the 32 local authorities to work in close partnership on equitable and high quality provision of professional learning that is more related to Scotland's as well as each community's priorities." They also called for local authorities to "develop succession strategies across local authorities and not only from within them, so that authorities develop leaders for each other". ( OECD Improving Schools in Scotland 2016 pp136, 137)
ADES Virtual Staff College has been working with a small number of local authorities in the delivery of assessment centres as part of the recruitment process for headteacher vacancies. This model has the potential also to be used as a development process for those interested in taking the step towards Headship. Other professions use similar processes so that all short-leeted candidates have arrived at a particular quality standard thereby indicating their readiness for the job. If successfully introduced, there would be a bank of candidates across the country ready for leadership roles.
The Scottish College for Educational Leadership ( SCEL) has an important role to play alongside local authorities, schools, and other national agencies. Consideration of how SCEL better supports the needs of all local authorities and schools, and all those interested in accessing routes into headship is required at this, early stage in the development of the College.
Local authorities as employers should take a more strategic longer term approach to recruiting teachers, retaining teacher developing teachers and promoting leadership.
The recently formed ADES inter-authority partnerships should develop career pathways and mentoring programmes for those aspiring to be headteachers in Scotland. National agencies should support these programmes thereby ensuring that there is a concerted national approach to preparing candidates for headship. Part of this process should give consideration to establishing assessment centres for all interested in headteacher posts, the development of secondments to give real leadership experience in a variety of settings, an explicit programme of early identification training and development to harness talent, ambition and aspiration.
SCEL will have an important role to play in supporting the partnerships.
5.3 Supporting Headteachers once in Post
The nature of the role of headteacher in modern Scotland has resulted in a very heavy and demanding workload combining a wide variety of tasks and duties, to a point where some potential candidates for headship are taking a considered decision not to apply for a headteacher's post. This is something that has the potential to be exacerbated with new children's services legislation and declining budgets to schools for support functions as well as reducing central support from local authorities.
Approaches to supporting headteachers across Scotland vary widely and many interviewed were of the opinion that this, even more than salary levels and differentials, was the greatest factor at play in the reducing numbers of applications for posts. With this in mind, but also recognising the pressure on the public sector in Scotland, we are of a view that there is a need to look at the overall staffing roles and costs involved in supporting schools discharge their functions, and thereafter to arrive at a model more appropriate for current conditions. In particular we suggest that a more appropriate and efficient system of pupil and children's services support should be established on a learning community basis, as should business support functions.
Support is also required for those in the early stages of their headship. Networks of headteachers and informal mentors have traditionally fulfilled this role but it would reduce the anxiety of those who are reluctant to apply for headships if this type of support was offered routinely and as part of an induction programme. The new Qualification for Headship developed by the Scottish College for Educational Leadership includes a learning programme designed to be undertake after a teacher has been appointed to their first headship post. This 'Extended Induction' programme will therefore support newly appointed headteachers with the first group starting the programme in late 2016.
These networks of support continue for many headteachers throughout their careers and the development of wider networks across inter-authority partnerships and SCEL regional networks is likely to be particularly beneficial to those who work in small local authorities.
Headteachers have a crucial role in raising standards of attainment and achievement in schools. Without adequate levels of support in the multiplicity of tasks related to the job, this crucial role is not likely to be fully realised. A review of the nature of support required for schools is needed alongside a radical rethink of how current resources are targeted, this to include the pupil support and business support functions.
More consistent and effective induction programmes require to be developed across Scotland to support newly appointed headteachers.
5.4 Terms, Conditions and Incentives
The salary scales attached to the national Terms and Conditions agreement are for many potential applicants for headteacher posts in Scotland a disincentive for furthering career aspirations. Many examples were cited in our meetings and conversations with current and potential Heads which outline an issue requiring solutions nationally and locally. In too many cases the differential between the salaries of depute headteachers and the posts of headteachers in smaller schools were such that either a drop in salary or only a very modest increase would occur if a DHT from a large school were to be successful in an application. Statistics from ADES confirm that it is the smaller schools in both secondary and primary sectors that can be hardest to fill. It is therefore surprising that Local Authorities seldom utilise the local flexibility afforded them in the national agreement when considering the salary placements of posts of headteacher.
One possible solution to this is to review the national job sizing toolkit but it is felt that, on balance, this is not the most effective way to address this matter, as the likely length of time to arrive at a national agreement might be years away in implementation. Therefore we feel that a review of headteacher salary scales is required to ensure that, in the vast majority of cases, clear differentials are apparent between DHT and HT posts.
Attention should also be given to the current policies on advertising vacancies to ensure effective coverage and efficient application procedures.
Salary differential is a major factor in whether to apply for a headteacher post. There is a need to address this through a review of salary scales of headteachers and depute headteachers.
Local incentives and opportunities to attract and prepare potential applicants require to be considered alongside fit-for-purpose advertising and recruitment policies.
5.5 Promoting Headship
The role of headteacher is unique in public service. It is an exciting, challenging and very rewarding role to fulfil for those who dedicate their lives to the education of children and young people in Scotland. In our conversations the vast majority of existing headteachers outlined the unique opportunities associated with the job, albeit they were frustrated with some of the issues mentioned in this report. It remains a job which provides immense professional satisfaction. It does therefore seem that a communications and marketing plan is required to explain and better promote the role and its contribution to public service in Scotland.
There is also an important role for existing headteachers to encourage and support members of their staff who demonstrate an interest in and aptitude for leadership.
A promotional campaign outlining the opportunities and rewards of the role of the headteacher in Scotland is required.
Email: Christine Willson, email@example.com