ADES Report On Headteacher Recruitment

Report on research findings and the current challenges to Headteacher recruitment.

1 Background and Introduction

" The overall performance of a school very rarely exceeds the quality of its leadership and management."

Barber. M., Whelan. F., & Clark. M. (2010) Capturing the leadership premium: How the world's top school systems are building leadership capacity for the future. McKinsey and Company

The Donaldson Report "Teaching Scotland's Future" ( TSF) outlined the significance of the leadership role of the headteacher in Scotland and made some important recommendations regarding preparation for headship as well as the ongoing development of experienced headteachers. As a consequence Scottish Government introduced an implementation group, The National Implementation Board for TSF, which commissioned ADES to complete and bring up to date work carried out in 2013. This report describes the outcome of that commission.

The findings in this report are based on interviews and discussions with around 80 headteachers and depute headteachers across Scotland as well as with representatives of national agencies, teacher associations and directors of education or their representatives. We are grateful for the help and support of local authority colleagues for arranging meeting with groups of staff to allow us to gather the evidence which has informed this report.

The groups of staff we met were from a selection of urban and rural councils and included a wide range of experience from across the various school sectors. We are particularly appreciative of their willingness to cooperate with this work and to give us their perspectives on the changing role of the post of headteacher and their views on the attractiveness of the role in the current circumstances.

In addition we have been greatly assisted by access to national statistics on teacher demographics and data on post vacancies provided by Scottish Government and local government colleagues.

1.1 The Headteacher Role

The post of headteacher in Scottish education is a crucial role both within the confines of the school itself, but also within the wider community it serves. International evidence points to the direct link between the quality of leadership of a school and the attainment and achievements of the young learners. For local authorities the appointment of headteachers is a critical part of their statutory obligations as the education authority, and it is acknowledged that the post carries significant leadership responsibilities, challenges and opportunities.

Traditionally the post of headteacher has been seen as the culmination of a career in schools education and typically competition for such posts in most parts of Scotland has been keen.

1.2 Recruitment and Selection

The recruitment and selection of headteachers is the responsibility of local authorities with national resource support previously made available for the Scottish Qualification for Headship and the Flexible Routes to Headship programmes. The Scottish Parliament has recently passed an Education Bill which will require all new headteacher post holders to possess the Scottish "Into Headship" qualification from 2018/19. The newly established Scottish College for Educational Leadership ( SCEL) has prepared the framework for this qualification in partnership with GTCS and Universities. The first cohort undertaking the new qualification commenced the programme in September 2015. The new legislation also contains significant provisions to raise attainment which will require skilled and motivated Headteachers for successful implementation.

1.3 Recruitment Challenges

Over the last few years concerns have been growing within the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland ( ADES) and headteacher associations regarding the reduction in the numbers of applicants for headteacher posts, the increased frequency of posts re-advertised often on more than one occasion, particular recruitment challenges in the denominational sector, and an increase in "cluster" headteacher posts across groupings of rural schools. In 2013 ADES published a report and associated recommendations on this matter. The 2013 report is included here as Appendix A.

In addition, there have been reports published in Scotland signalling some concerns including MacBeath et al on behalf of the Scottish Government, The Recruitment and Retention of Headteachers in Scotland, 2009 and Blake Stevenson on behalf of the Scottish Government, Evaluation of Routes to Headship, 2014


Email: Christine Willson,

Back to top