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.

2 Introduction

Teaching Scotland's Future

2.1 In November 2009, the Scottish Government commissioned Professor Graham Donaldson to undertake a review of teacher education in Scotland. The review followed a period of substantial change within the profession, including the introduction of A Teaching Profession for the 21st Century and the introduction of the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) in 2005. CfE offers a less prescriptive curriculum than earlier models and there is the expectation that teachers will tailor their programmes of learning to better meet the needs of their learners and introduce greater depth of learning. This, alongside other key policy developments, such as Getting It Right for Every Child (GIRFEC), Raising Attainment For All and Developing Scotland's Young Workforce, require the teaching force to have greater skills to meet the higher and changing demands of the education system. Professor Graham Donaldson's report 'Teaching Scotland's Future - Report of a review of teacher education in Scotland' was published early in 2011, setting out 50 recommendations for how improvements could be made to teacher education.

2.2 The review identified major strengths in teacher education. These included the all-graduate nature of the profession; the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) Standard for Initial Teacher Education (ITE) and the Standard for Full Registration; that parents in Scotland generally held the teaching profession in high regard; and that newly qualified teachers benefitted from an induction scheme and were guaranteed paid employment for one year, with the support of a mentor.

2.3 However, the review also noted weaknesses such as the ad hoc and fragmented nature of continuous professional development and aspects of ITE for the primary sector that needed improvement. For example, many teachers who followed the B.Ed. route into primary teaching were thought to have relatively limITEd lITEracy and numeracy skills and a lack of in-depth subject knowledge. The review also noted that post-graduate students had limITEd time to come to terms with all aspects of the primary curriculum.

2.4 The report identified Leadership as a key area for development, highlighting the increasing difficulty in recruiting head teachers that many education authorities were experiencing. Recommendations were made aimed at increasing the number and skills of leaders to meet the perceived shortage, and improve the quality of leadership. It recommended more opportunities for experienced head teachers to develop their leadership skills, and the establishment of a leadership college to improve leadership capacity at all levels within Scottish education. The review also suggested that teacher leadership skills should be developed from the outset of their careers within a distributed model of school leadership.

2.5 Changes to ITE were recommended so that future cohorts of teachers would be equipped with the right skills to work effectively with CfE. The report suggested that reforms to ITE would also contribute to raising the levels of professionalism within future generations of teachers.

2.6 The report recommended that professional development should move away from one-off courses towards a culture of career-long professional learning, and emphasis should be placed upon more school-focussed and collegiate learning linked to school priorities. These priorities were to be informed by self-evaluation and research evidence gathered by teachers within their daily practice. In order to encourage this cultural shift, the report recommended that the GTCS introduce Standards that recognise this continuous professional learning.

2.7 The Scottish Government accepted, in full or in part, all of the recommendations of the report and subsequently established a National Partnership Group to consider them in more detail. Ultimately this resulted in 20 substantial projects being taken forward by the National Implementation Board for Teacher Education, nearly all of which have now been completed.

Research aims and objectives

2.8 Ipsos MORI was commissioned by the Scottish Government in July 2015 to evaluate the early impact of Teaching Scotland's Future (TSF) on teacher education and professional learning.

2.9 The evaluation was based on an online survey of a representative sample of teachers at all career stages and qualitative research with teachers at all career stages as well as representatives from the 32 Scottish Local Authorities (LAs) and a range of national stakeholders.

2.10 The broad aim of the project was to:

  • explore views and perception of teachers, LA representatives and, national stakeholders on the impact of current teacher education and professional learning on:
    • teachers' skills, knowledge and practice
    • pupils' educational experiences
    • the culture within teacher education.

2.11 The specific objectives were to:

  • assess awareness and understanding of current professional development opportunities, including changes that have followed the TSF report such as revised Professional Standards, SCQF level 11 learning, Professional Review and Development (PRD), Professional Update, mentoring and the Scottish College for Educational Leadership (SCEL)
  • understand views on the quality and culture of current teacher education
  • understand views on the possible impact of the current teacher education provision on pupils' educational experiences
  • assess how much the increased focus and investment in career-long professional learning (CLPL) has supported teachers to maintain and improve their teaching skills and knowledge, and apply this to their teaching practice
  • assess how much the increased focus on professional learning is supporting and enhancing the confidence of early career teachers (years 1-6)
  • identify the impact that digital technology has had on the delivery of teacher education and the extent to which new teaching practices (or new pedagogies) made possible by digital technology feature as part of teacher education provision
  • assess the extent of changes (on some specific measures) since the TSF survey in 2010
  • identify differences between sub-groups (e.g. teachers at different stages, teachers in different geographical areas, teachers in primary/secondary/special schools).

Scope of the research

2.12 The purpose of the evaluation was to guide and inform future improvements in teacher education and professional learning and, ultimately, to help build the capacity of teachers and improve the learning of young people.

2.13 Some evaluations are designed to measure the impact of a specific initiative or programme of work, in order to assess whether it 'works', and whether it should be continued or rolled out. However, TSF was not a single programme of work; it was a wide-ranging review resulting in 50 recommendations some of which set out a vision for 21st century teacher professionalism while others specified particular actions. Moreover, TSF did not emerge in isolation from other policy developments or existing work that was already in progress.

2.14 This evaluation does not assess progress on each of the 50 recommendations, and, although some of the drivers and facilitators of change are discussed, it does not attempt to measure the precise contribution of TSF to areas where there has been progress. Rather, this report 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.

Report structure

2.15 The next chapter in this report explains the methodology (with further details in Appendices A to D). Key aspects of teacher education and professional learning are then explored thematically in the subsequent chapters as follows: the culture of professional learning; ITE; Probation; LA and university partnerships; CLPL activities; professional review and development; mentoring and coaching; leadership; and national and LA support.

2.16 Each of these chapters contain a section on what is working well, a section on what the challenges are, and ends by highlighting a few key areas for consideration.

2.17 The final chapter presents our overall conclusions.

Notes on terminology

2.18 Those who took part in the quantitative research are referred to as 'respondents' and those who took part in the qualitative research are described as 'participants'.

2.19 In the qualitative research, 'current probationers' are those who were part-way through their probationary year, and were asked to discuss their recent experiences of ITE. 'Early career teachers' are those who had completed probation and had up to five years' experience as fully registered teachers. These teaching staff were asked to talk about their experiences of undertaking probation and the subsequent early years of their career.


2.20 Most importantly, we would like to thank the teachers who generously gave up their time to complete the survey and participate in interviews and focus groups. Also, thanks to all the individuals from national stakeholder organisations and LA representatives who made time to contribute their views.

2.21 We would also like to thank James Niven, David Roy and Scott Brand and their colleagues from the Scottish Government for their support and guidance throughout the project.

2.22 Finally, we would like to thank the Research Advisory Group for their invaluable input into the research:

  • John Daffurn - Scottish College of Educational Leadership (SCEL)
  • David Kirk - Scottish Teacher Education Committee (STEC)
  • Ken Muir - General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS)
  • Jim Thewliss - School Leaders Scotland (SLS)
  • Robert Hair - Association of Headteachers & Deputes in Scotland (AHDS)
  • Susan Quinn - Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS)
  • David Drysdale - Education Scotland (ES).


Email: James Niven

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