Keep The Heid: Campaigners step up fight to stop council removing East Neuk headteacher posts

A campaign calling on Fife Council to halt plans to remove headteacher posts from primary schools in the East Neuk is set to be stepped up this weekend.

By Craig Smith, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Friday, 18th February 2022, 10:48 am

The local authority is currently consulting on a new leadership model for the Waid Academy cluster affecting Waid Academy, Anstruther, Crail, Pittenweem, St Monans, Kirkton of Largo, Lundin Mill, Colinsburgh and Elie Primary Schools.

Three models are being considered, including one which would see a single headteacher cover the entire Waid cluster, and all of the approaches will see primary school headteacher posts removed in favour of more deputy headteacher or principal teacher positions.

Following a protest at Anstruther Primary School earlier this week against the changes, North East Fife MP Wendy Chamberlain has spoken out against the consultation.

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Parents have launched a 'Keep The Heid' campaign to save the headteacher's post.

“The proposed ‘superhead’ would cover far too large an area and would oversee too many pupils,” she said.

“At a time when teachers and pupils are still recovering from the disruption of the pandemic, it’s not a good idea to press forward with these dramatic changes.

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“I encourage parents to make sure their voices are heard by writing to councillors and engaging with the local campaign.”

Campaigners will be out in force this weekend

The local authority’s education service believes removing the teaching commitment of headteachers will provide an opportunity for full-time teachers to take responsibility for classes, reducing the need for job-share arrangements, and will also increase the number of “middle leaders” – deputy headteachers and principal teachers – within and across schools.

But news of the move sparked a backlash and an online petition had around 1,700 signatures at lunchtime on Friday - just a few days after it was launched.

Cluster Parent Councils have also had postcards printed which will collate messages from the public and be handed into Fife House, while campaigners also intend to have a presence at Anstruther Co-op on Saturday to raise awareness of their cause.

A statement from Waid Academy Parent Council described the proposals as “very hurried and poorly timed” and appeared to call for a delay at the very least.

“What is clear is that we need to respond to these proposals rapidly, so that we can then have time to interact with the primary school councils, to come up with a clear consensus on what we all want for the Waid,” it said.

“And in particular to find out if we actually want to be given three arbitrary options – all of which remove headteachers from schools and some of them that put the current Waid Head Teacher into middle management away from the school and further away from daily contact with our children.

“We could urge Fife Council and our councillors to maintain what we have now.

“Or we could urge them to take this “consultation” process properly and over a proper time period, and to postpone this decision for at least a year until we have moved back to normal again, and there is actually the luxury of being able to fundamentally restructure head teachers in the area.”

Three proposed leadership models are being consulted on.

The first is essentially split into two parts, taking Waid Academy and Anstruther together and looking at the remaining seven primary schools separately.

That approach would see one headteacher and two deputy head teachers at Waid, but Anstruther would lose its headteacher and see an additional deputy head teacher post added to retain three management posts.

As for the remaining seven schools, all the primary headteacher posts would be removed to create just one new headteacher post, but two new deputy headteacher posts and five principal teachers would be added to essentially replace them.

The second model, which covers Waid and the eight primary schools, would remove six headteacher posts and create one new headteacher post.

In addition, four new primary deputy headteacher posts would be created, replacing the joint headteachers in Colinsburgh and Elie, Kirkton of Largo and Lundin Mill, Pittenweem and St Monans and adding Crail and Anstruther.

The third model keeps the arrangements at Waid separate, but would remove all the primary headteacher posts across the primary schools and create one new headteacher post.

In addition, four new primary deputy headteacher posts and four new principal teacher posts would be added.

The four deputy headteacher posts would be teaching in that approach, replacing the joint headteachers in Colinsburgh and Elie, Kirkton of Largo and Lundin Mill, Pittenweem and St Monans and adding Crail and Anstruther.

Labour councillor Colin Davidson confirmed his group would not be supporting the proposals if they are taken forward.

“As a teacher and trade unionist I sat on the appointment panels that selected many of the headteachers in the area,” he said.

“The proposal that is currently being floated that the council could create super headships in charge of 5-6 primaries is a non-starter in our eyes and needs to be taken off the table ASAP.”

No decisions have been taken, but head of Fife Council’s education and children’s services Angela Logue said the education service is meeting with local parent councils this month to discuss the proposals and listen to their views and opinions.

“We understand the concerns which have been raised about the disruption already caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and we do recognise the impact this has had on our children,” she said.

“However, due to upcoming staff changes across the cluster, it makes sense to use this time of change to make improvements to the overall leadership and management and create better resilience for the future.

“We need to consider ‘moving away from the more traditional models of school leadership’ in order that we capitalise on the strengths in the system.

“Through a reworked learning system with collaboration and professional autonomy, we can improve education for all our children and young people.”