Fife Council has confirmed it is consulting on a new leadership model for the Waid Academy cluster, which will affect Waid Academy, Anstruther, Crail, Pittenweem, St Monans, Kirkton of Largo, Lundin Mill, Colinsburgh and Elie Primary Schools.
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 has sparked a backlash and an online petition had gained almost 700 signatures within hours of being set up.
Independent East Neuk councillor Linda Holt, who launched the online petition, said parents and carers are “horrified” at the thought of what is being proposed and that the current consultation is “not genuine”, as there is no option to retain primary headteachers, only different ways of compensating for their removal.
“In other words, this petition is essential because the decision to get rid of headteachers in the East Neuk is being presented as done and dusted,” she said.
“Proceeding in this way is not democratic.
“Nor is it any way to operate for an education service which advocates working in partnership with parents or communities.
“East Neuk schools are being asked to give up their primary headteachers in what is essentially an experiment. This is the first time such an arrangement has been attempted in Fife, and reports of its success elsewhere in Scotland are mixed at best.
“East Neuk communities are distinctive, relatively small and rural/coastal in nature.
“They already suffer from a lack of public services compared to towns or more urban areas in Fife, and this "rationalisation" of education discriminates against the area, fails to take into account its particular character and needs and will lead to further educational loss.
“At a time when Fife Council is supposed to be recovering from the ravages of Covid, especially in our schools, it beggars belief that it is considering the abolition of primary headteachers.”
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.
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.
No decisions have been taken, but head of Fife Council’s education and children's services Angela Logue admitted that the council is exploring a number of options to improve leadership arrangements across primary schools in NE Fife.
She added: "We are meeting with local parent councils this month to discuss three proposals and listen to their views and opinions."