Parents’ anger over plans to remove headteacher post from East Neuk schools has sparked a backlash and an online petition gained over 1,500 signatures within days of being set up.
Fife Council has confirmed it is consulting on a new leadership model for 9 schools in the Waid Academy cluster, which will affect Waid Academy, Anstruther, Crail, Pittenweem, St Monans, Kirkton of Largo, Lundin Mill, Colinsburgh and Elie Primary Schools.
Three proposed leadership models are being consulted on:
Plan A 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.
For the remaining seven schools, all the primary headteacher posts would be removed to create just one new headteacher post, while two new deputy headteacher posts and five principal teachers would be added.
Plan B, 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.
Plan C 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 headteachers would be teaching posts, replacing the joint headteachers in Colinsburgh and Elie, Kirkton of Largo and Lundin Mill, Pittenweem and St Monans and adding Crail and Anstruther.
Fife Councils’ Education and Children’s Services 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.
Typical of the parents’ response was Gillian MacLaren, chair of Anstruther Primary School and Nursery Parent Council, who raised concerns that similar proposals could be implemented in other small communities in the Kingdom. She said: “East Neuk continually falls foul of Fife Council when it comes to accessing basic services, we are constantly at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to being supported.”
Independent East Neuk councillor Linda Holt, who launched the online petition, said parents and carers are “horrified” 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.”
No decisions have been taken, but head of Fife Council’s education and children’s services Angela Logue said 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.”