85% of teachers oppose Argyll’s executive headteacher plans

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A teachers’ union says 85 per cent of its members in Argyll and Bute oppose the council’s plans to introduce executive heads.

Argyll and Bute Council’s consultation on the proposal to introduce ‘executive head’ posts covering a ‘collective’ of schools in early years, primary and secondary closed on March 31.

The Argyll and Bute branch of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) submitted a response to this consultation, which included both statistical data and comments from a recent survey of local members.

‘Over 52 per cent of EIS members responded to the survey,’ it said. ‘Only 4.9 per cent of respondents support the proposal whilst 85 per cent of respondents do not support the proposal, with 9.6 per cent remaining undecided. Thirty-five per cent of the respondents stated they were in a promoted post, with the rest being main grade class teachers. Several hundred respondents elaborated on their views with comments.’

The EIS gave a snapshot of the comments: ‘I have watched and read all materials promoting this new model from Argyll and Bute. The last thing teachers and pupils need is more people who do not work or spend time in classrooms telling people what should go on inside a classroom. I am strongly against the proposals,’ one teacher said.

A second teacher added: ‘There is no way this will recruit more staff. It’ll fragment the staff we already have as they will feel undervalued and not listened to. Lastly the collectives idea has never been done, there is no basis for this and success (or otherwise) will take many years to measure. Just trying to get back to pre-covid teaching styles is difficult, all of this on top is not wanted and not needed.’

Another, a head teacher whose role would become a ‘head of school’ under the plans, listed their concerns: ‘No evidence base presented for such a radical change to indicate how it will improve outcomes for children.

‘I have asked which duties would be taken off my remit commensurate with the drop in salary and status. This was unanswered. I have asked what ‘sharing of resources’ specifically refers to. This was unanswered.

‘This is not about my job title as such but rather being a head teacher is my occupation, in the same way that someone might feel about being a doctor. I think such a fundamental change to my job should not be considered with such woolly rationale. Parents, staff and pupils within my school unanimously reject the proposal.

‘I have concerns around the consultation – very skewed and wrong information being used during consultation sessions. Misleading with no counterbalance. Many of the issues stated over recruitment, retirement etc do not apply within our area of Argyll and Bute.

‘I think the loss of regular meetings and access to meetings with members of the central team for ‘Heads of School’ would be to the detriment of schools and could lead to loss of accountability and central leaders becoming out of touch.

‘All of the proposed benefits refer to things that already happen to a significant extent within our school cluster. These are well established and embedded practice.’

A fourth teacher wrote: ‘Having spoken to a number of senior education colleagues in various authorities, I am convinced this proposal is nothing short of ludicrous.’

The EIS’s local association secretary, Alison Palmer, concluded: ‘Our members cannot see the benefit of the proposals, other than for the purposes of budget cuts. The posts, as they are proposed, will not encourage recruitment or retention in rural areas. The proposals are more likely to increase workload for all teaching staff.

‘We have worked alongside parent councils and community councils. The overwhelming feedback has been categorical opposition to the proposals.

‘We need investment in our schools in the form of more support in and for the classroom – more specialist ASN provision, reduced class sizes, and more time for teachers to plan quality learning, teaching and assessment.

‘We maintain this proposal is a distraction from the underlying problems that it claims to seek to address. We hope the council won’t waste any more time or money on this wasteful proposal.’

A council spokesperson said: ‘We must be realistic about the challenges education services in Argyll and Bute face.

‘Falling school roles and teacher shortages in the long term put the education of our young people at risk, and failure to change will in effect be letting our young people down. We are grateful to everyone who took part in the consultation.

‘Their feedback will be vital in shaping the proposals before they are submitted to members of the community services committee for a decision.’