Headteacher Recruitment and Retention Working Group minutes: 9 May 2023

Minutes of the Headteacher Recruitment and Retention Working Group held on 9 May 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Laurence Findlay, Association of Directors of Education Scotland (Chair)

  • Jim Thewliss, School Leaders Scotland

  • Zoè Robertson, Scottish Council of Deans of Education 

  • Seamus Searson, Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association

  • John Devine, Breadalbane Academy

  • David Smith, EIS

  • Sharon McLellan. AHDS

  • Greg Dempster, AHDS

  • Simon Cameron, CoSLA

  • Lesley Whelan, Education Scotland (ES)

  • Christopher French, Education Scotland

  • Jen Crocket, ADES

  • Lindsey Stanley, Moray Council, ADES Personnel Network

  • Sabrina McCready, Inverclyde Academy / EIS HT / DHT Panel

  • Nik James, Aberdeenshire Council / NASUWT

  • Zak Tuck, Scottish Government

  • Stuart Robb, Scottish Government  


  • Victoria Smith, General Teaching Council for Scotland
  • Shagufta Nasar, SAMEE

Items and actions

Apologies and Introductions 

The chair welcomed attendees in the room and on MS Teams to the hybrid-meeting.

7 February 2023 meeting and action plan (paper 1)

  The chair explained that due to staff absence in Scottish Government, unfortunately there isn’t a formal minute of the previous meeting on 7th February. The chair summarised the main points discussed:

  • ESRC Research Project on Sustainable School Leadership. An Advisory Group for Scotland has been formed and is meeting in the afternoon following HTRRWG. The chair thanked members who have joined the group.

  • Diversity - an overview of current work from the perspective of the Anti-Racism in Education Programme Discussion around how, as a system, we can make best use of information held, identify issues and raise at a national level e.g. through the ADES Personnel Network, ITE Framework, Teacher census etc.

  • Job sizing toolkit -  a general consensus that the toolkit had issues and required updating.

Action – secretariat to check if chair’s letter to Cosla re job sizing, drafted in January, had been issued.

The chair explained that the HTRRWG Action Plan was circulated, however it has not been updated following the February meeting. The chair suggested to members that we reset the action plan at this point and a new, updated version capturing any outstanding actions and new actions generated from this point, will be circulated.  Members agreed to this approach.

 Action – secretariat to update the HTRRWG action plan ahead of the next meeting.

Scottish Education Council (SEC) 27th April 2023 – Teacher Recruitment and Retention (paper 2)

The chair explained that Jim Thewliss (SLS) and Pauline Stephen (GTCS) presented this paper on behalf of the Strategic Board for Teacher Education (SBTE) at the SEC on 27 April. The paper has been circulated for HTRRWG member awareness and in relation to the plan for the June SEC meeting to include an item on HT recruitment and retention presented, by Greg Dempster and the chair.

 SLS feedback that the paper had been well received and that the 4 priorities it contained were agreed as being logical and appropriate. SLS emphasised that SBTE, HTRRWG and other groups such as the Teacher Workforce Planning Advisory Group have opportunities to coordinate on issues and then raise them at SEC for higher-level discussion.

Members raised a range of points:

  • As part of increasing perception of professionalism of teaching, also need to consider of the team around the teacher e.g., support staff, management team. As lack of such support leads to teacher dissatisfaction.

  • what is the process / governance arrangements for answering and actioning the questions posed in the paper? In response to this point it was suggested that governance could be clearer and there was an opportunity to take these issues back to SEC for further consideration.

  • It was agreed that the chair should engage with AHDS to develop a presentation for SEC in June and should engage with SLS and GTC Scotland, as authors of the SEC paper to ensure the items are linked and complement each other.

Action - chair to engage with AHDS to develop a presentation on HT recruitment and retention for SEC meeting in June and engage with SLS and GTC Scotland to ensure links to April SEC paper.

Headteacher recruitment and succession planning – information and data paper – draft 2023 update (paper 3) 

The chair set out that the ‘data paper’ had been updated for 2023 and circulated it to members. It was last updated and sent to local authorities in May 2022, after a break since 2019, due to Covid. 

The chair invited comments on the paper and that when agreed it would be issued to Directors of Education at all 32 local authorities.

Members raised a range of points:

  • useful paper for planning future cohorts of Into Headship (IH) at local authorities

  • tables 2 and 3, can we be clearer on what point in time this data comes from, e.g. is it at the start of the programme? It was clarified that the data is taken at the start of the programme

  • table 4 – can we make more in the text about the fact in primary there are more leavers than people in the IH cohort. Is there a real risk that the pipeline of people coming through IH does not meet the number of vacancies available

  • members also indicated that there needs to be greater awareness across the system of those who hold the SfH and have not become a headteacher. Support may be needed in taking the next step to become a headteacher

Action – secretariat to review the HT data paper and add in points of clarification as suggested by members, where possible. Paper to be recirculated to members for sign off with aim of having it ready to issue to LAs by end May.  

  • para 10 – data not currently available on people who hold the Standard for Headship (SfH) and are in HT posts, can we get this? It was explained that there is no robust data available. Would be reliant on individuals updating their own status with GTC Scotland

  • concerns at low numbers in IH cohort in table 2, when there are more vacancies than that available in certain areas

  • could a column be added to table 2 to show the numbers of those that already hold the SfH in each LA

  • concern re a more nuanced picture in rural areas e.g. where someone can hold the SfH but still live 150 miles from the available post

  • concern re para 3 – do we know how many staff are not achieving the SfH within 30 months, how many then don’t get the qualification, what happens in such a situation? Do we have any data on departure rates / failure rates

  • concern re expiration of SfH before someone has taken up a HT post. It was clarified that this wasn’t the case and there was no expiration date for SfH

  • linked to point above, suggestion that more may be required system-wide to confirm the parameters of the IH programme, how and when to access, award of the SfH. This could be led by ES in partnership with universities and local authorities and aimed at potential and current candidates and also at CLPL leads in LAs

  Action – ES to consider providing information on the IH programme e.g. validity of the award, what it means, what it doesn’t mean. This would be in addition to the current FAQs.

 can we gather information on people that apply for IH e.g. what are their expectations? Are they aiming for a local post to come up or are they willing to travel. Also a follow up study with people who have been through the IH programme would be helpful, e.g. why have they not yet taken up post or why did they drop out? Could also consider how vacancies are better advertised to potential candidates

  • suggestion that sub-group be formed to consider the issues around the lack of data around IH, e.g. how many people with SfH are not in post and why, how many people miss the 30 month deadline and what happens when they do, and the suggestion of a survey of applicants and then a follow up recall survey

Action – ES to set up a meeting with Chair and reps from ADES personnel network, Argyll & Bute, AHDS, SCES, Uni of Edinburgh, GTCS to consider what data it would be helpful to have around IH / SfH, what data is missing and whether a survey could be done in a sample of LAs  

AHDS workload survey – overview of 2023 responses (paper 4)

  The chair explained that AHDS had shared the initial results of their 2023 member workload survey. Almost 1300 members completed the survey.  In summary, their members report:

  • continued workload and resourcing issues

  • headteachers are less likely to recommend headship than previous years

  • depute headteachers and principal teachers are less keen to pursue headship; and

  • The key challenges identified by school leaders were: the need for increased support for inclusion, a lack of management time/staff and the need for more support staff

  AHDS provided an overview of the results:

  • large number of people in primary who are in acting HT and DHT posts and doing IH at same time, leading to workload concerns

  • people not looking at headship, many say because they don’t have capacity to take on IH

  • can we provide candidates with time and space to undertake IH, away from their day to day job

  • teachers reporting very little interest in taking on headship so work required to reduce workload pressures on HT to encourage more people to consider the role

  • A significant number of people are in acting HT roles whilst they do IH. System was not designed to be that way around

Members raised a range of points:

  • demands and pressures of the HT role has changed in recent years, which is contributing to making time to do IH problematic. IH course content itself has not changed although the way the programme is delivered has changed, particularly during Covid

  • There are system level changes required, for example people are released from day jobs to undertake IH, or there is backfill available for people to enable them to focus on IH

  • IH course content also needs to be reviewed

  • important to also look at Alma Harris evaluation as part of this

  • impact of covid, staff resilience, health and wellbeing in schools but at same time external pressures re performativity which prevents people getting on with core work

  • people coming through IH having not had same breadth of experience in leadership roles who don’t have the confidence to push back on performativity pressures

  • pay differentials between DHT and HT roles need to be more significant to encourage people to progress 

  • findings of workload survey during pandemic were different, e.g.. more time and space to do the IH programme

Action – AHDS to update secretariat when the 2023 workload survey is to be published

Action – HTRRWG to reflect further on the point about people having time and space to undertake IH away from their day jobs. System level challenges need to be addressed to reduce pressures and workload, as well as reviewing IH.  

Education Scotland - Headteacher Professional Learning - Think Piece (papers 5 and 5a)

Education Scotland undertook a listening exercise with 46 headteachers from across Scotland between January and March 2023 around a set of core questions about their professional learning.  

The headteachers who engaged in these conversations emphasised the importance of their professional learning not only in enhancing their own leadership skills but also in benefitting their school communities. There is clearly some very impactful professional learning for headteachers in Scotland although their experience varies greatly depending on the stage in their career or their local authority.

Ultimately, headteachers wish for a ‘coherent learning pathway’ of professional learning which reflects the different stages of their career. They want the time and space to learn with and from colleagues and educationalists, to help them manage the challenges of leading their school communities in the post-pandemic landscape. Moreover, headteachers want to be included in this process of change and they want their voice to be heard.

Action – ES representative to be invited to next HTRRWG meeting to discuss this work in more detail.


A point was raised regarding the recent teacher pay settlement and displeasure at HT and DHT salaries being capped.

The Chair wished Jim Thewliss all the best for the future as this was his last meeting before retirement.

Date of next meeting

Next meeting will be held via Teams. A doodle poll will be issued for a date around the start of the school term in August.  

Action – Secretariat to issue doodle poll for Aug.

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