One head teacher could be appointed to run two of Aberdeen’s Catholic primaries – and the model could be rolled out to other schools suffering from teacher shortages.
The city council is considering recruiting an “executive head” to oversee the Holy Family school in Summerhill and St Joseph’s on Queen’s Road, it has emerged.
The plans are being drawn up due to “challenges” in recruiting head teachers at both schools, with the post at Holy Family having been advertised seven times and no suitable candidates applying for St Joseph’s.
But the move provoked a furious backlash from opposition politicians, who branded it a “worrying cost cutting exercise” and a “backward step” last night.
City education chiefs outlined the proposal in evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s education and skills committee.
They also suggested that the arrangement could be considered for other schools, saying: “There are opportunities for consortia arrangements to take place to support delivery of courses and subjects which are suffering from staff shortages and this could be something which could be extended to senior management posts.”
Teacher shortages have been a chronic problem for all north and north-east authorities in recent years, with Aberdeen having 82 full time equivalent vacancies at the end of October, including for 14 primary head teachers and three secondary heads.
Highland Council is already moving towards a goal of having all of its schools under a “cluster” arrangement, with one head to cover several schools in some rural areas.
In its evidence to MSPs, Aberdeen City Council said: “Teacher recruitment and shortages have been a consistent challenge in Aberdeen city for a number of years and this continues to be the case.
“Schools and leaders have been inventive in approaches to mitigate the negative impact of the inability to attract and recruit sufficient numbers of teachers and head teachers.
“However there are concerns in respect of the capacity of head teachers and teachers to manage this position and the impact of the pressure which shortages will have on morale of staff in the long term.
“Situations which result in long term vacancies remaining unfilled and therefore covered on an interim basis will have a detrimental impact on the quality of the education delivered.”
However, Liberal Democrat councillor Martin Greig criticised the proposals for the city’s Catholic schools, saying: “This is a worrying cost cutting exercise.
“Each school is a distinct community of learning and care so should have its own dedicated head teacher. A semi-detached head will not be able to give the required amount of attention to the many and highly varied needs of pupils within a school.”