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.

5 Initial Teacher Education

5.1 TSF identified the need for substantial developments within ITE in order to raise the overall consistency of quality within the profession and develop the capacity of teachers to respond flexibly to a new curriculum (CfE); be confident in their ability to address social disadvantage, work with additional support needs, and teach literacy and numeracy. Recommendations highlighted a need for more coherence between ITE and induction, with greater opportunity for teachers to continue to learn at SQCF level 11. The report also identified student placements as a key element of ITE, and recommended that universities and Local Authorities work more closely to deliver high quality placements.

What's working well?

Effectiveness of ITE

5.2 LA representatives considered ITE to be more effective than five years ago, and both teachers and LA representatives in the qualitative research noted an improvement in the quality of students and probationers.

5.3 In addition, students appeared to be confident going into their probationary year - two-thirds of survey respondents who had completed ITE at a Scottish university within the last five years thought that their ITE was 'effective' or 'very effective' in preparing them for their first post (Figure 5.1).

Figure 5.1 Overall, how effective do you think your Initial Teacher Education (ITE) at university was in preparing you for your first post as a teacher?

Figure 5.1 Overall, how effective do you think your Initial Teacher Education (ITE) at university was in preparing you for your first post as a teacher?

Base: All who completed ITE at a Scottish University in the last 5 years (903)

5.4 Teachers were asked in the survey if, in their experience of working with probationers over the last two to three years, they thought ITE was more or less effective in preparing probationers for their first post. Teachers with more than five years' experience were less positive about the effectiveness of ITE to prepare probationers than those who had more recently qualified. Fifty-four per cent of respondents said that it was 'effective' or 'very effective'. However, those in promoted posts were more likely to think that ITE was effective than classroom teachers, in particular depute heads (68%).

5.5 The survey also asked teachers if, in their experience of working with probationers over the last two to three years, ITE was more effective than it was five years ago. Views were split; 29% thought ITE was no more or less effective than five years ago, 17% thought it was less effective and 16% thought it was more effective than five years ago.

5.6 The main reasons given by teachers from the qualitative research for why ITE was effective was that students and probationers had improved knowledge and understanding of pedagogy, classroom management, behaviour management and ASN, and were better prepared to work with national policy changes and priorities, than they had been in the past. This meant that they came to their first post more prepared, more confident and better able to deal with the challenges of the profession.

5.7 However, it is clear from the survey results that not all teachers feel that ITE is as effective as it could be - although less commonly this was also reflected in the qualitative research. Some teachers felt that the proliferation of topics covered in ITE due to wider policy priorities (e.g. health & wellbeing, outdoor learning, GIRFEC etc.) had led to an erosion of core pedagogical skills.

5.8 Those in the survey who had completed ITE in the last five years reported that the most useful aspects were pedagogy/approaches to learning and teaching (81% found these very useful/useful), self-reflection (77% found these very useful/useful) and professional studies (68% found these very useful/useful).

5.9 This reflects the feelings of current probationers and early career teachers in the qualitative research who felt that the most useful aspects were those that provided them with practical strategies in the classroom - reflected in how positively they viewed the hands on experience they get during school placements (see section 5.18 below for more details).

Uni is very theory based and obviously that's good because you need that to be able to inform your practice. But, at the same time I could have done with a bit more like practical strategies as well in terms of actually how to implement certain things.

Current probationer

I thought mine [ITE] was amazing, I think that was down to my tutor […] I think my tutor made it a bit like classroom practice, and so many things that I did part of my probation year, he had taught me to do it when we were learning it

Early career teacher

5.10 The topic areas thought to be least useful by those who had completed their ITE within the last 5 years were; working with relevant professionals (42% found this very useful/useful), using digital technologies (43% found this very useful/useful), working with additional support needs (48% found this very useful/useful) and behaviour management (49% found this very useful/useful) (Table 5.1).

5.11 In contrast to the views of more experienced teachers outlined above, current probationers would have liked more input on ASN and behaviour management within core ITE programmes. To some extent this was purely about the number of inputs provided but, again, concerns were often related to the course inputs not providing enough in the way of practical strategies rather than not being provided at all.

As I say they've got so much to fit in it's not the Uni's fault because they did a great job in the time they had. I felt like the [behaviour management] course I was on, I thought it was great, but just in terms if you're asking are we all prepared? I think it could have been hammered home a lot more.

Early career teacher

5.12 Current probationers acknowledged that behaviour management is a difficult topic to cover because the problems, and appropriate strategies can vary in any given situation.

I think the behaviour stuff is so difficult, because it is going to be so different in every class.

Current probationers

5.13 In general, current probationers and early career teachers felt that literacy and numeracy were adequately covered during ITE - more so in primary than secondary. However, as with all aspects of ITE there was still a feeling that more practical strategies would be beneficial.

5.14 Current probationers felt that while literacy and numeracy were covered well, there were fewer inputs about how to incorporate health and wellbeing into teaching and learning.

Considering it's given the same weight as literacy and numeracy in policy there's very little on it compared to either of those.

Current probationer

5.15 In light of the national policy focus on Raising Attainment for All, current probationers were asked in the research to comment on the input they received on principles of social justice within their ITE. Overall, they were content with this input and felt that the topic was covered in depth by their university. However, there were still some who lacked confidence in applying the principles in their daily teaching practice. This was often more to do with feeling daunted about the extent to which they are able to help individual children in challenging situations than thinking that the courses provided were insufficient.

It makes you almost think that you should be able to change the world and when you go in you can't do that, you've been teaching for three weeks, you can't change that child's whole life

There was talk of teachers as activists and I'm not saying that's bad, I think it's an excellent aspiration, but I think it puts quite a lot of pressure on you as a probationer

Current probationer

Table 5.1 How useful did you find the following aspects of Initial Teacher Education (ITE) at university in preparing you for your first post as a teacher?

Very useful/useful Neither useful nor not useful Not useful/not at all useful DK/prefer not to say
Pedagogy/approaches to learning and teaching 81% 10% 9% *
Self-reflection 77% 14% 9% *
Professional studies 68% 14% 15% 1%
Child protection safeguarding 65% 18% 15% *
Assessment 61% 17% 21% *
Literacy 56% 19% 22% *
Numeracy 56% 20% 21% *
Classroom management 53% 18% 26% *
Subject content 52% 22% 24% *
Health and Wellbeing 50% 26% 21% *
Behaviour management 49% 18% 30% *
Additional support needs 48% 19% 30% *
Using digital technologies to support learning and teaching 43% 24% 29% *
Working with relevant professionals 42% 30% 22% 1%

Base: All who completed ITE at a Scottish University in the last 5 years (903)

5.16 Current probationers in the qualitative research viewed CLPL as an ongoing process and considered it to be integral to their professional lives. This suggests that improvements made to ITE have helped to embed the cultural values of TSF into those who have newly joined the profession.

5.17 One important value that was thought to have been embedded was that newly qualified teachers have a good appreciation of the fact that while they have an entitlement to CLPL, this must be undertaken in the context of pupil outcomes.

I think as you see new teachers coming into the profession, they understand that this is for [the pupils'] benefit. It's too impact on learners in the classroom.

Depute head teacher


5.18 Overall, respondents who had completed ITE in the last five years were positive about the support they received from their university during their school placement: 52% reported that it was 'effective' and a further 20% said that it was 'very effective' (Figure 5.2). There was no significant change since the 2010 TSF survey, which found that 54% thought that support from the university during their ITE placement was 'effective' and 20% said that it was 'very effective'.

Figure 5.2 Thinking about your school placement during your Initial Teacher Education, how effective was the support given to you by the [university/school] to help successfully complete the placement?

Figure 5.2 Thinking about your school placement during your Initial Teacher Education, how effective was the support given to you by the [university/school] to help successfully complete the placement?

Base: All who completed ITE at a Scottish University in the last 5 years (903)

5.19 However, the proportion of respondents who thought that the support provided by the school during their ITE placement was 'very effective' has increased substantially since the 2010 TSF survey (41% in 2015, compared with 28% in 2010).

5.20 Respondents who had completed their ITE in the last five years thought that the support they were given by the school during ITE placements was more effective than that given by the university (41% of respondents thought that support given by the school was 'very effective', compared with 20% who thought the same about the university). This is perhaps to be expected given that students work with teachers on a daily basis while on placement. Probationers in the qualitative research valued being able to discuss teaching strategies and practical solutions to problems they encountered with teachers in their placement schools.

5.21 In the qualitative research, current probationers stated that they had been given a range of placements during their ITE, allowing them to experience working in different sizes and locations of schools and with different year groups - although this was not the case across the board. They highlighted this as an effective means of broadening their skills base.

5.22 There was a sense from teachers, some stakeholders and current probationers that schools and universities were carrying out more joint assessment[6] of student teachers. Teachers and students welcomed this, viewing joint assessment as a fairer process that allows for teachers to comment more effectively on student performance over the duration of a placement.

Predictors of views of ITE effectiveness

5.23 Statistical analysis[7] was used to determine which variables from the survey best predicted a respondent's[8] answer to the question 'Overall, how effective do you think your Initial Teacher Education (ITE) at university was in preparing you for your first post as a teacher?'.

5.24 By far the strongest predictor was finding the support provided by the University during your school placement effective. Individual aspects of the ITE course that also had a strong influence were finding the pedagogy/approaches to learning and teaching element useful and finding Additional Support Needs element useful.

5.25 Other variables included in the model were the demographic variables[9], other individual aspects of the ITE course[10] and support provided by the school during school placement.

What are the challenges?

Aspects of joint assessment

5.26 While there was a perception that joint assessment was taking place more widely, teachers who participated in the qualitative research thought that the operational and organisational aspects of this activity could be improved further[11]. Teachers made suggestions for improvement in relation to:

  • the respective roles of the school and university in the assessment process (and the weighting of school and university input to student grades and passing/failing of modules) need additional clarification
  • the materials (e.g. forms, marking criteria) from universities that teachers use to carry out joint assessments are not always distributed to schools in a regular and timely way
  • the additional administrative and time requirements of joint assessment could be better supported or recognised in relation to teacher workloads
  • ensuring both schools and universities are up-to-date on current practice with each sector.

Aspects of school placements

5.27 Most of the concerns about ITE raised in the qualitative research were related to school placements:

  • There were mixed views about student supporters. While most current probationers thought that their own supporters had been helpful, there was a concern based on experiences of some of their fellow students that some supporters did not have the requisite skills to act in this role. The probationers who raised this point thought that supporters of students should be given mentoring training and detailed guidance on the role. This view was echoed in interviews with teachers.
  • Some teachers and school senior management said they were not regularly supplied with accessible information from the university about changes to assessments and ITE content when they were hosting student placements.
  • Teachers and senior management also indicated that there should be better protocols for communicating concerns about students to universities during placements.
  • Schools often found it challenging to know what individual students were capable of, and as result, provide suitable on-placement experiences. Teachers suggested that it would be helpful for universities to provide them with clarification on the ITE topics that students have covered and their areas of experience before each placement.
  • Current probationers also suggested that improved communication between university and schools could help to fill student knowledge gaps in an immediate and practical way while students are on placement (e.g. trying out different ways of integrating numeracy into lessons, or understanding Experiences and Outcomes within daily practice).

On the placements I felt there wasn't a connection […] between school and Uni, […] there was no real communication. I felt there were expectations on both sides that the other party would be providing a certain amount of learning.

Probationer teacher

  • Teachers and current probationers thought that assignment topics and submission dates were not always well co-ordinated in relation to placements (e.g. assignments being due the day after placement ends on a topic not related to the placement learning).
  • Teachers in a special school highlighted the fact that students very rarely, if ever, have placements in special schools/units. They felt that such placements (even very short ones) would be beneficial. They would be valuable for those who might want to work in a special school/unit and it would potentially increase the pool of such people. Moreover, it would give students more experience of different ASN strategies which would be useful in mainstream schools too - something that current probationers identified as being useful (see section 5.11 above).

5.28 Current probationers also highlighted the extent of portfolio work (e.g. writing up reflective lesson plans) which they felt was a considerable burden alongside school preparatory work during ITE placements.

Key areas for consideration

  • Joint assessment: further clarification and agreement of the respective roles of the school and the university
  • Student placements: improved communication between the university and the school on a number of aspects
  • Consider ways of incorporating more practical strategies into ITE - particularly in relation to behaviour management.


Email: James Niven

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