The move was defeated by 13 votes to 12 – with Labour councillors helping to defeat the move, insisting that while they retained a commitment to Principal Teachers they “wanted to do this right”.
SNP leader Pearl Paul proposed an amendment to the budget proposals by the administration that would have seen a return of Principal Teacher posts at primary schools with nurseries attached and those with over 150 pupils.
Following the meeting she said: “The SNP opposed the removal of Principal Teachers two years ago and the concerns that we raised at the time have been borne out.
“At this year’s budget we put forward a reasoned and evidenced argument on the reintroduction of these posts and the Council’s Tory Convener, Independents and Labour have failed the teachers test and chose to sit on their hands.
“What is very clear to the SNP Group is that leadership capacity in schools is compromised by the reduced support that Head Teachers have with no Principal Teachers to ease the pressure, in addition recruitment is not helped by a poor career structure in Moray.
“The Administration and the Opposition Labour Group had a clear opportunity and they passed it up.”
However, Moray Labour leader Councillor John Divers hit back, insisting that it was correct to seek an assessment of the impact of losing Principal Teachers.
He said: “Labour opposed removing Principal Teachers and Labour is in favour of them returning. That is why I asked for a review of school management last summer and then asked for an assessment of the impact of losing Principal Teachers months ago.
“All that was done without fanfare, as opposed to the Johnny-Come-Lately Grandstanding of the SNP and the Tories.
“The truth is, because we asked for this to be looked into, we will have a full-range of solutions in front of us very shortly.
“The SNP want a quick-fix, to turn the clock back on Principal Teachers to a situation that wasn’t fit for purpose. We want to wait and find a solution that is fit for purpose and have Principal Teachers playing a role again by the next academic year.”
Scottish Conservative councillors Douglas Ross and James Allan supported the SNP proposal. Councillor Ross said: “Today was a light touch budget and there is no doubt there will be tough decisions to be taken in the years ahead – but a critical issue we are facing today is a shortage of teachers.
“Our own officers have said that one of the barriers in attracting teachers to Moray and encouraging our own staff to go for promotion was the removal of principal teachers, so I was happy to second the motion supporting their reintroduction.
“It’s clear there is a need for principal teachers and I’m amazed that the Labour group on the council voted against reintroducing these posts.
“Having principal teachers back would not have solved all our problems in recruiting staff – but it would have shown that Moray Council was willing to try everything to deal with this crisis and our pupils and staff would have been better served.”