New flexible career pathways in teaching

Strengthening career options for teachers to develop in the profession.

New ways for teachers and headteachers to progress their careers are to be adopted by August 2021.

Recommendations from an independent panel include:

  • the creation of specialist ‘Lead Teacher’ roles focussed on areas such as curriculum, best practice in teaching and provision for pupils with Additional Support Needs (ASN)
  • better access to coaching, mentoring and sabbaticals, to benefit teachers, schools and the education system by widening experience
  • creating opportunities for head teachers to progress to roles in local authorities and contribute to Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs)
  • offering options for all teachers to complete a Masters degree through Initial Teacher Education (ITE)

The Independent Panel on Career Pathways for Teachers also called for a consistent approach and better cross-boundary information sharing between local authorities to identify recruitment challenges and fill vacancies.

The changes will be considered by the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers, made up of the Scottish Government, COSLA and unions.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said:

“Teaching is an attractive and rewarding profession, with more teachers in Scottish schools since 2010 and the student teacher intake increasing for three years in a row. We want to provide ways to nurture the tremendous amount of talent that exists in our schools and to do so we must continue to empower current teachers by increasing their options for progression, enabling them to carve their own career pathway.

“This report provides additional pathways for teachers to take at all stages of their careers. Opportunities for development alongside teaching responsibilities will allow valued current teachers to flourish and increase their skills in new directions, for greater job satisfaction and to enhance the learning experience for pupils.

“The creation of Lead Teacher roles in the profession, alongside current pathways offering progression and ongoing training towards headship, opens up a greater variety of options for teachers who are considering their next steps, to empower those with the passion, drive and expertise to contribute to future education policy.

“Once implemented, these pathways will represent a huge increase in the breadth of opportunities a teaching career offers.”

Stephen McCabe, Children and Young People Spokesperson Councillor at COSLA, said:

“COSLA were pleased to be part of the independent panel alongside representatives from the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE), the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES) and the Society of Personnel and Development Scotland (SPDS) in engaging in discussions on new career pathways for teachers, given the flattening of career structures for teachers over recent years.

“Given our shared desire to achieve better outcomes for Scotland’s children and young people, we all want to encourage more people into the profession, at a time of teacher shortages.

“We look forward to working in collaboration with the Scottish Government and unions, via the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers, to consider these recommendations.”


The Independent Panel on Career Pathways for Teachers was established to identify flexible pathways and opportunities for teachers and headteachers. Since 2018 it has engaged with teachers and stakeholders and has provided its Final Report outlining recommendations on how to improve teacher career pathways.

Lead Teachers will work alongside existing leadership roles and work on curriculum, pedagogy or policy development, with clearly defined responsibilities to be determined. Recommendations include opportunities for career progression for all teachers without the need to pursue a leadership role.

The new pathways for progression for teachers are for all teachers and are in addition to the Into Headship programme, the In Headship Masters qualification and the Excellence in Headship programme of learning opportunities for head teachers who have been in post for two years or more.


Media enquiries

Back to top