Chapter 7: Implications and next steps
The key themes and recommendations of this Report have significant implications for how career-long teacher education is conceived and organised as part of a strengthened culture of professional learning. There are implications for everyone, individuals and organisations alike, who has a responsibility for supporting the learning of our young people. We need better alignment, more agility and greater efficiency.
The reflective commentary below is intended as a starting point for professional dialogue and is not intended to be prescriptive nor exhaustive. Key themes referred to in different chapters have been drawn together in high level messages for the different groups.
For Scotland's teachers the Review's recommendations offer the prospect of more satisfying careers with the kind of enhanced professional role envisaged in the original McCrone Report. Teachers will be more research aware and engage directly in self evaluation. That means greater personal responsibility for professional learning and improved opportunities to pursue that learning. It means better use of scarce time by focusing more directly on relevance to and impact on young people's learning. It means more collegiate learning as part of teams supporting young people, mentoring colleagues and being open to fresh ways of working. And it means being a willing and active partner in building the next generation of teachers.
School leaders should maintain a strong focus on building the capacity of teachers, individually and collectively. Constructive professional review and development should be at the heart of building that capacity. They should reinforce a culture of evidence-based innovation, actively seeking productive partnerships. They should be leaders of learning, not just in relation to young people but for themselves, their staff and student teachers. They should seek ways to develop the school as a hub of learning.
Local authorities will have a key role in making the Review's recommendations happen. They need to target resources towards teacher quality, including building close partnerships with universities around selecting the best students, building continuity between initial teacher education and induction, looking for joint appointments and ensuring access to career-long education for all teachers, including advanced qualifications. Their quality improvement processes need to include all aspects of teacher education. Local Authorities should engage actively in an ongoing process of getting the right people in the right numbers into teaching and enabling them to develop professionally throughout their careers.
Scotland's universities are central to building the kind of twenty-first century profession which this Report believes to be necessary. In responding to the Report, each university will have to consider how its undergraduate and postgraduate courses can build coherently into the next stages in a teacher's career. How far are student teachers full members of the wider academic community? How strong are its partnerships with schools, local authorities and other providers of teacher education? How innovative can it be in providing pathways to more advanced study? How confident is it about the consistent quality of the experience of its students? What more can it do to engage more directly in knowledge creation and exchange, particularly in relation to the impact of research?
For the sector as a whole there are important questions about the balance between the number of universities involved in teacher education and the quality of the students' experience. Does the projected demand for places allow all of the current universities to remain involved in initial teacher education? Can the kind of centres of excellence which we need in Scottish education be created within the available resources? The Scottish Funding Council should explore these issues directly to help create centres of excellence in university teacher education in Scotland.
This Report provides real opportunities for the sector to make a much stronger contribution across teacher education as a whole. However, that strengthened position will require a willingness to evaluate and change current practice in response to the opportunities offered by the Review's recommendations.
GTCS is pivotal in supporting and assuring teacher quality. It is the guardian of twenty-first century professionalism. Through its accreditation of initial teacher education courses and its framework of standards it controls key levers for improvement. The Review sees an increased focus on the quality of students' experience in the accreditation of initial teacher education and the creation of a new Standard for Active Registration as being critical to future success. It should be open to extensions to the current limited number of routes into teaching without sacrificing in any way the rigour of initial teacher education.
Learning and Teaching Scotland and HM Inspectorate of Education (shortly to be combined into the Scottish Education Quality Improvement Agency) both have important contributions to make to developments in teacher education. The new body would seem to be well placed, with the National CPD team, to support many of the Review's recommendations. In particular, it should lead on the establishment of a virtual leadership academy and the coordination and development of a more effective ICT infrastructure. Inspection should focus more directly on career-long teacher education, both as it is being used to build capacity in schools and in wider partnerships. School inspection should where relevant comment directly on how well student teachers are being supported. Reviews of initial teacher education by HM Inspectors need to focus more directly on the quality of students' learning experiences.
The ambitious and far-reaching agenda set by this Report will take some time to implement and many of the recommendations will require the active support of the Scottish Government if they are to take effect. In particular, the Scottish Government should establish a policy environment which gives high priority to teacher quality and leadership. It should encourage any revision to teachers' contracts to focus on creating the conditions for twenty-first century professionalism. It should ensure that developments apply best practice. Above all, it should stress the need to think and act radically if Scottish education is to continue to meet the learning needs of its young people.