Evaluation of the Impact of the Implementation of Teaching Scotland's Future

The evaluation offers an overview of the current landscape of teacher education, highlighting what progress has been made in key areas since TSF was published and where further progress and improvements are still needed.

9 Professional Review and Development

9.1 The TSF review highlighted the importance of PRD in ensuring that CLPL is effective and well-managed.

9.2 It recommended a revision of the GTCS Professional Standards to reflect a greater level of teacher professionalism- including a new Standard to clarify expectations for professional learning. These have been developed by the GTCS alongside Professional Update which aims to:

  • maintain and improve the quality of our teachers as outlined in the relevant Professional Standards and to enhance the impact that they have on pupils' learning.
  • support, maintain and enhance teachers' continued professionalism and the reputation of the teaching profession in Scotland.

9.3 This chapter explores what is working well in PRD, including the GTCS Standards and Professional Update, and the challenges that remain.

What's working well?

Availability of PRD

9.4 Teachers, for the most part, are going through a PRD process - the majority of survey respondents (76%) had taken part in a formal PRD meeting in the last 12 months. There was a feeling among those in the qualitative research that PRDs had been happening more over the last few years than they had in the past.

9.5 Participants from independent schools felt that there may have been a particularly marked change within that sector. In addition to the changes instigated by TSF, they highlighted the role of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools in supporting professional learning.

I think the emphasis has changed a lot in the last five to ten years, you're now given a support network and far more opportunities to go away and develop and do training and do courses and be reviewed. Looking back at the first ten years, I was thrown into positions; just, "there you go get on with it".

I agree with that, I didn't have a professional review meeting until two years ago, in all my career, it just hadn't happened. Firstly, I had a lot of support when I was in the maintained sector but when I moved into the independent sector […] it was sink or swim, there was no mention of anything other than just 'get in and get on with it'.

[..] I just took that as a standard, you get an annual review and those mechanisms should be and are in place. So, it's really interesting to hear round the table that, not so very long ago, that wasn't the case.

Teachers from the independent sector

9.6 While there had been improvement in the availability of PRD overall, it was much less common for temporary and supply staff to have had a PRD meeting in the last 12 months than permanent staff (57% of temporary staff and 43% of supply staff, compared with 81% of permanent staff). As noted previously, supply teachers in the qualitative research commented that, if they wished to engage in PRD, they had to actively seek out a formal meeting to discuss their professional learning needs.

Improvements to PRD

9.7 Participants in the qualitative research, particularly LA representatives and national stakeholders, saw improvement to PRD as one of the main benefits of Teaching Scotland's Future.

9.8 This was due to four key outcomes:

  • a greater focus on professional learning in general. It was thought that this increased focus meant that teaching staff were engaging more with CLPL and had a better understanding of the range of activities that professional learning can encompass (see section 8.11).
  • a greater sense of ownership of professional learning among individual teachers. Within the context of wider school, LA and national priorities, it was common for teachers to feel that they were able to drive the direction of their professional learning activities.
  • better evidencing of CLPL activities. LA representatives and teachers in promoted posts commonly felt that this encouraged greater accountability among teachers for their professional learning activities. Teachers appreciated the opportunity for greater recognition of the time and effort they spent on CLPL, particularly if on the path to leadership.
  • an increased focus on measuring impact on pupils. It was felt that the emphasis of PRD discussions has changed from what professional learning activities will be undertaken to the impact of those activities will be, mainly driven by the introduction of Professional Update. While the focus on impact has increased, and its importance is recognised, there were still concerns about whether teachers have been given enough guidance on how to measure impact.

When I first started I kind of viewed CPD as things I was interested in finding out more about [...] I had a handbook and I would sit and flick through it: 'oh, that sounds interesting', 'oh, that sounds nice' […] just recently, I've become a lot more focused with my CPD and thinking [...] what are my gaps? What do I need to address? [….] you're linking it into the school improvement plan, what your school needs are.

Primary teacher

I do honestly think it's sort of in the last five years, that people come back and they actually want to do something with the course that they have been on, they want to see that they are actually having an impact in school. […] Even people who didn't do it in the past, it's the whole culture has changed a bit.

Secondary teacher

If somebody does come in and say to me, 'oh I just want to read a couple of books over the next year on leadership'. I would say well what difference is it making, as good as that might be, what difference is that going to make to raising the attainment with your young people?

Head teacher

Responsibility for PRD

9.9 As noted above, individual teachers in the qualitative research felt much greater ownership of their professional learning. While their responsibility for directing their professional development was acknowledged, having the support of their line manager and the opportunity to discuss and receive advice on their professional learning was much appreciated. This was reflected in the survey results as well.

9.10 Overall, 91% of respondents felt that they made their own decisions about their professional learning (either on their own or in discussion with their line manager) (Figure 9.1).

Figure 9.1 Teachers have different amounts of involvement in deciding what professional learning they undertake. Which of the following statements best describes your situation?

Figure 9.1 Teachers have different amounts of involvement in deciding what professional learning they undertake. Which of the following statements best describes your situation?

Base: All (5,785)

New GTCS Standards

9.11 Survey respondents reported making use of the new Standards to guide their professional learning: only 7% had not used any of the Standards. It was most common for teachers to use either the Standard for CLPL (54%) or the Standard for Full Registration (52%).

9.12 A more detailed breakdown (Figure 9.2) shows a number of areas where the use of Standards could be increased:

  • Class teachers are using the Standards less than any other teacher group suggesting more could be done to encourage use of the Standards among those in non-promoted posts, including which Standards they should be using.
  • There did not appear to be much evidence of teachers using the Standards to reflect on their next career step, rather they tended to use the Standards that applied to their current position. For example, there was little use of the Middle Leaders Standard among class teachers or the Head teachers Standard among PTs or DHTs.

Figure 9.2 Which, if any, of the following GTCS Professional Standards have you used to guide your professional learning?

Figure 9.2 Which, if any, of the following GTCS Professional Standards have you used to guide your professional learning?

Base: All (6,346)

9.13 Participants in the qualitative research viewed using the different GTCS Standards as a basis for PRD discussions as beneficial for two reasons. First, the Standards provide a good starting point for staff to reflect critically on their practice in preparation for the PRD meeting and, second, they help teachers to map the professional learning they have undertaken (or are planning to undertake) to outcomes.

…we [she and her depute head] took over in 2011. At that point the PRDs were, even at that point, 'Well how's things? How are you going? What are your challenges? What course do you want to do?' You know, we were still a wee bit naive at that point. But, very soon, within a year we had adapted the paperwork, I was making sure they had copies of the Standard for Registration. Getting them to try before they came for their PRD to look at the standards and assess themselves against it.

Head teacher

Better PRD discussions

9.14 Survey respondents found their last formal PRD meeting valuable - 67% thought that their last PRD meeting was 'very useful' or 'fairly useful' (Figure 9.3).

Figure 9.3 Thinking back to the last formal PRD meeting you had, how useful was it?

Figure 9.3 Thinking back to the last formal PRD meeting you had, how useful was it?

Base: All who ever had a PRD meeting (5,711)

9.15 In addition to the perception that GTCS Standards were improving the quality of PRD discussions, there was a more general sense from participants in the qualitative research that conversations about professional learning, both in the formal PRD setting and informal meetings, were more useful than they had been previously.

9.16 This was thought to be due to a greater degree of self-reflection from the individuals involved and that discussions were part of a continuing process of review and development, rather than just an annual event - although there were mixed views on this issue (see section 9.23). Just under two-thirds (62%) of survey respondents who had a PRD meeting thought 'PRD feels like an on-going process rather than a stand-alone meeting' (Figure 9.4).

Figure 9.4 How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements about the PRD process?

Figure 9.4 How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements about the PRD process?

Base: All who have ever had a PRD (5,710)

9.17 Three-quarters of those who have ever had a PRD meeting (76%) agreed that "I know where to find the relevant information and materials I need to enable me to engage in PRD". The PRD resources provided by GTCS on their website were often praised - advice on using the Standards for self-evaluation was commonly cited as an example.

Predictors of confidence in skills

9.18 Statistical analysis[24] was conducted to explore the variables that best predict if teachers feel confident that they have the skills they need for their current role.

9.19 The strongest predictor was agreement with the statement 'I have developed a plan for my career-long professional learning'. Other factors that made a respondent more confident in their skills were agreement that PRD feels like an ongoing process rather than a stand-alone meeting, having had mentoring/coaching in the last 12 months and working in a secondary school.

9.20 Other variables included in the model were the demographic variables[25], experiences of other forms of professional learning[26], whether they had had a PRD in the last 12 months, how useful PRD was, the extent to which colleagues provided mentoring/coaching for their professional learning, whether they had experienced barriers to accessing CLPL, whether they were satisfied with the CLPL available to them, the extent to which they are involved in making decisions about their professional learning, having leadership opportunities.

What are the challenges?

9.21 While participants in the qualitative research were generally positive about the changes that had been made to PRD and the greater focus and accountability that brings, the survey results suggest that there is still some way to go in ensuring that teachers are satisfied with the process. Less than half of respondents (46%) were satisfied with the PRD process that was made available to them (Figure 9.5).

Figure 9.5 How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the PRD process which has been made available to you?

Figure 9.5 How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the PRD process which has been made available to you?

Base: All who ever had a PRD meeting (5,710)

9.22 The question wording refers specifically to the PRD process, which could suggest the dissatisfaction may be related to the main criticisms of the PRD process which were connected to the bureaucratic elements and how this impacted on the quality of the discussion:

  • There was a perception that the new PRD process resulted in increased burden, particularly in the way that CLPL activities were recorded. This was most commonly raised by those who considered themselves already engaged with professional learning and acting in a self-reflective way.
  • Another concern was that online recording had moved the focus from face-to-face discussions to completing forms - which had resulted in a primarily 'tick-box'.
  • Some felt that moving from paper to online recording of CLPL activities had led to a duplication of effort as they were still writing everything down as they went along.

9.23 However, there were other aspects of PRD that may have led to dissatisfaction that were not administrative. As previously noted, there were mixed views on the extent to which PRD was an on-going process. For those who disagreed, the main concern was around a lack of follow-up on the PRD plan and objectives they had set, and the absence of on-going feedback throughout the year. While some felt that this was down to a lack of time and increasing workloads, others were concerned that line managers providing PRD meetings lacked the necessary coaching skills to deliver effective feedback.

9.24 Participants from independent schools felt that it could be difficult to find a suitably qualified individual to undertake PRD discussions for head teachers working in that sector (and sign-off their professional update). In some cases there may be an appropriately experienced person on the school's Board of Governors but this may not always be the case.

Key areas for consideration

  • Better provision of PRD support for supply teachers
  • Encouraging the development of mentoring and coaching skills


Email: James Niven

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