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Jim Thewliss of School Leaders Scotland recently opposed the pruning of promoted posts in Scottish schools and the intolerable burden placed on the remaining staff.
The process hasn’t been uniform.  Several councils have reduced Depute Head posts in secondaries.  Some have also reduced Principal Teacher posts.  Dave McClure, Headteacher at Buckhaven High, reckons that Fife has hit the right balance.  “The new management structures can be a better arrangement but only where the combination of duties makes practical or educational sense. In Fife we have been working towards a new management model for some years and I do not feel a loss of learning or a loss in the quality of care as a result of our changes.”
Edinburgh however has forced major changes through over the last year.  The EIS has grave concerns about the impact of re-structuring on pupils’ learning, especially at a time when Curriculum for Excellence is radically changing teaching and learning methods.
The new public sector managerialism has led several authorities to establish ‘faculties’, amalgamating traditional subject departments under one (although sometimes more than one) Principal Teacher.  The rationale was that it would challenge the secondary subject silo mentality.  That certainly was an issue.  Some secondary teachers saw themselves as teachers of physics or history or mathematics rather than teachers of children.  Some even saw themselves as physicists, historians or mathematicians rather than teachers and rejected any concept of management since, unless the managers understood their particular subject, they could not gauge how well they were teaching it.  These were all problems, but Curriculum for Excellence offered solutions and the old guard, anyway, was a dying breed.
The new faculties, rather than challenging subject silos, are undermining the expertise which secondary subject teachers bring to the job.  In some cases faculties with no intellectual rationale are being created.  There has also been resistance from parents, as in the protracted battle over the appointment of a successor headteacher to John Low, who opposed the imposition of faculties at Linlithgow Academy.
The issue has been complicated by the consequences of falling rolls.  Many secondary schools, including my former school, have had promoted posts cut because of their falling rolls.  If the school is small to begin with, amalgamated departments are then inevitable.
The big change however has been economic.  The financial cuts have been partly implemented by reducing ‘costly’ DHT and PT posts and by cutting or amalgamating bursar and business manager posts. Fewer people are therefore fulfilling the key management tasks which support and facilitate teaching.  My own former school, which once had a head, four deputes, a business manager and a bursar, now has a head and two deputes, a business manager and a bursar but with the bursar post about to disappear also.  Senior staff who regularly worked 50 hour weeks now work substantially in excess of that.  Rory MacKenzie, recently retired head at Balerno High School, put it simply.  ‘The extent of the management tasks which require to be done in a school are not determined by its size.’  Exams, administration, financial and buildings management, need done in all schools.  If the senior staff are reduced they will spend their time on these tasks, and not on improving learning and teaching.
The results will be that senior staff will return to managing schools rather than leading learning; school leadership posts will be increasingly unattractive; young, ambitious teachers will have no realistic hope of promotion; subject content will be further deprioritised; and many of the curricular reforms which the government has encouraged will fail.  Surely not what the government or even the councils want.
The above article was first published in Holyrood Magazine on 12 December 2011:

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