12 National and LA support
12.1 The TSF Report set out a number of ambitious goals for the development of teacher education in Scotland. These goals have implications for not just for the teaching profession but for the organisations that provide it with support. This chapter looks at perceptions of support from national bodies and LAs.
What's working well?
Support from national bodies
12.2 There was agreement across all participant groups that the support provided by national bodies was effective and that the Scottish Government's engagement with Teaching Scotland's Future was good. LA representatives highlighted positive experiences of face-to-face visits from officers at both Education Scotland and GTCS as examples of this support, while teachers more commonly cited the resources available to them to assist them in their PRD preparations.
Figure 12.1 Overall, how would you rate what is available from national bodies (e.g. GTCS, Education Scotland, Scottish College for Educational Leadership) on the following aspects of support for professional learning?
Base: All (5,821)
12.3 In the survey, the aspects of national support that were most highly rated were 'being a source of up to date information' (43% thought that this was 'very good'/'good') and 'providing learning materials' (42% thought that this was 'very good'/'good'). The lowest rated elements were providing networking opportunities (23% thought that this was 'very good'/'good') and providing opportunities to learn with other teachers (20% thought that this was 'very good'/'good') (Figure 12.1).
12.4 Teachers in the qualitative research frequently singled out the GTCS and commented that the resources it provides have improved over the past five years or so - most often with reference to the updated Standards and the usability of their website. LA representatives and national stakeholders were also positive about the work of the GTCS in raising awareness of CLPL more generally.
12.5 While participants thought that there was still some way to go, there was a feeling among LA representative and national stakeholders that joined-up working among national bodies had improved.
12.6 However, participants also highlighted a number of areas where they felt that greater national collaboration would be of benefit:
- National investment in IT infrastructure to support e-portfolios and the use of MyGTCS.
- Having a national research strategy for education - it was felt that some of the academic research taking place was not relevant to current priorities.
- The problems caused by a lack of supply cover for professional learning appeared extensive and nationwide. There was a suggestion that, in order to deal with the issue effectively, a national approach was required.
Aspects of local authority support
12.7 While views on the support for professional learning provided by LA representatives were mixed, several aspects were thought to be working well. These included:
- provision of leadership programmes
- provision of principal teacher secondments from schools to the LA - thought to be beneficial in incorporating teachers' 'front-line' experience into LA CLPL activities (although some felt the opportunities could be better advertised)
- signposting of the CLPL activities available (although this was better in some LAs than others)).
Figure 12.2 Overall, how would you rate your Local Authority on the following aspects of support for professional learning?
Base: All (5,921)
12.8 Overall, survey respondents were less positive about LA support than they were about support from national bodies (Figure 12.2). The highest ratings for LA support were in relation to providing courses (36% thought this was 'very good'/'good') and for actively promoting professional learning opportunities for all teachers (35% 'very good'/'good'). Providing learning materials (24%'very good'/'good') and taking a coherent approach (19% 'very good'/'good') were seen as the least effective aspects of LA support for professional learning.
What are the challenges?
Balance of national priorities
12.9 One of the concerns most commonly raised by those in the qualitative research was that there are currently too many priorities in education.
There is so much going on for national agenda just now, healthy working lives, BGE, new curriculum, Developing Scotland's Young Workforce, the named person agenda, STEM, tracking and monitoring. I mean there's CPD out there for everything.
And they are all high priority and that's the thing out of all the things that you've mentioned there, they are all high priority. It's not as if you can pick and choose one...
Secondary Principal Teachers
12.10 While teachers said they supported the principles underpinning almost all the policies, there was a feeling that not everything could be a priority. Teachers often described feeling 'overwhelmed' by the number of initiatives and policies, and the impact that this had on their workload - they felt that there was simply not enough time to cover everything.
12.11 One of the perceived consequences of this was that, as teachers had to spend their CLPL time 'getting to grips' with all of the priorities, this left little time for them to cover anything else. This was an even greater concern for head teachers as they not only had to familiarise themselves with the issues, they then had to incorporate them into the school improvement plan and ensure that the information is disseminated to their staff.
12.12 Another consequence was the perceived impact on ITE. LA representatives often talked positively about new graduates' knowledge of, and ability to adapt to, changes to education policy. However, there was a concern from teachers that in order to cover all of the different, emerging priorities in ITE, the focus on core 'how to teach skill' had lessened.
12.13 Some participants felt that they could not comment on national support. This was due to the sheer volume of materials available from different national organisations, perceived duplication of guidance and advice (which, on occasion, was considered to be contradictory), and poor signposting to relevant information. As a result, they felt that they simply did not have the time to identify the best sources of support and did not know if there were any gaps in provision.
Loss of LA resources
12.14 Both teaching staff and LA representatives commented on the impact of reduced staff resources available in LA education departments:
- education officers had less time to develop as wide a range of CLPL activities as they would like (although this was mitigated to some degree by local authorities within some partnerships working together)
- more responsibilities were moving to individual head teachers, resulting in less time for them to participate in professional learning
- head teachers noted that senior education officers did not always have a background in education. There was a perception that this meant they did not have a full appreciation of the issues effecting schools.
12.15 While LA representatives felt that teachers had a greater focus on the impact of professional learning, they felt that the strategies used for measuring impact could be improved, particularly on a long-term basis. They felt that they were not able to provide this support due to the reduced staff resources available to them and that they required more national support on this issue.
Support for rural areas
12.16 Those working in rural LAs (particularly smaller ones) felt that national support for rural areas was vital as they do not have the same resources as larger local authorities, yet they are more affected by some issues (e.g. shortage of supply cover, lack of applicants for leadership positions). In addition, some logistical issues relating to the provision of CLPL are also exacerbated by their geography (e.g. how best to bring staff together, travel time and cost etc.). However, there was a perception that national support was focused on the Central Belt and was not sufficiently addressing the specific needs of rural areas - and so they were not getting an equitable level of support.
Key areas for consideration
- The number of national 'priorities'
- Better signposting to high quality resources
Email: James Niven
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