Lack of applications for compulsory school management positions in Styria
From 2015 to 2020, the Austrian Court of Audit (ACA) carried out an audit of the filling of compulsory school management positions in Styria. This special audit was performed based on a request issued by members of the provincial parliament of Styria. The main topic of interest concerned the extent to which, since 2015, positions of compulsory school managers have been filled based on party political considerations rather than on objective criteria.
In their report the auditors revealed shortcomings in the staffing processes and in the rationale for the selection of staff. The ACA furthermore points to a shortage of applicants for management positions at compulsory schools. This shortage is becoming increasingly acute as about half of all school managers in Styria will retire within the next ten years.
In the course of the education reform in 2017, the processes to fill vacant posts, which had differed from province to province, were replaced by a nationwide uniform process. Consequently, a differentiation is made between the “Verfahren ALT” (“OLD Process”) – which was followed until December 2018 – and the “Verfahren NEU“ (“NEW Process”) – in force since 1 January 2019.
Based on its examination of files related to the 157 processes to fill management positions for compulsory schools in Styria between 2015 and 2020, the ACA detected traceability gaps: the deficiencies concerned, for example, the rationale behind the selection of personnel laid out in the expert opinions and in the files of appointment. The ACA recommends to the members of the appraisal commissions, and in particular to their chairs, to provide training measures for the preparation of conclusive expert opinions.
Applications without any competitors
Already in the run-up to an appointment process, essential decisions can be made – such as entrusting a person with the tasks of a school director. For such an assignment, no objective selection process has to be complied with. However, the already assigned director has an advantageous starting position in the application process. From 2015 to 2018, such entrustments were made in more than half of all appointment processes for school management positions. Often the corresponding applications were without competition: only in 43 per cent of such appointments did the entrusted teacher have a competitor. The “NEW Process” also shows a tendency to appoint already entrusted teachers to the position of school director.
Frequent lack of suitable candidates
In the school years from 2015/16 to 2019/20, 157 processes for the appointment of compulsory school directors were carried out, with an average of 1.3 to 1.7 applications. In 19 cases, no applications were submitted during this period. In two New Secondary Schools (Neue Mittelschule), the positions for school directors had to be advertised four and five times, respectively, by 2018 without being filled. The management position at a primary school, too, remained vacant after a second attempt had been made to advertise.
The auditors recommend to the education directorate to actively motivate suitable teachers to apply for a management position and/or to take corresponding staff development measures in order to be able to draw on a larger pool of candidates in the school management appointment processes.
Wave of retirements
Compulsory schools in Styria are facing a wave of retirements: by 2030, about 52 per cent of all compulsory school directors will retire. The ACA critically points to the fact that the education directorate had no forecasts of the medium and long-term compulsory school management needs.
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Report: The Filling of Compulsory School Management Positions in Styria (in German)
From June to September 2020, the ACA carried out an audit of the filling of compulsory school management positions in Styria. This special audit was performed based on a request issued by members of the provincial parliament of Styria. The audit aimed at answering the questions submitted in the audit request, namely the assessment of the regularity and the process of filling vacant management positions for compulsory schools in Styria as well as the applications, the length of procedures and the financial development. The audited period spanned the years from 2015 through 2020.