Independent panel on career pathways for teachers: final report

Description of work undertaken by the group and its recommendations for the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers (SNCT).

Section 4: Analysis of Evidence

Literature Review, Provided by Dr Steven Courtney, University of Manchester

4.1 The question of how, if at all, teachers' and leaders' careers should be structured through specific policy interventions has been a concern internationally for many years. As part of our evidence base a Literature Review was commissioned.

4.2 The review explored international approaches to teachers' career pathways, including those encompassing existing leadership, in the context of their policy environment. The methodology used was multiple case studies, with five contexts being purposely selected that speak particularly to the question under investigation. The methods employed consisted of an online database search, exploration of key websites and following up references.

4.3 Key Points emerging from the Literature Review

  • The review shows that varying levels of teacher autonomy exist in each of the countries examined, and where autonomy is high, recruitment and retention appear to be less of an issue.
  • It is certainly true that diverse education systems are experiencing problems with teacher recruitment and retention, and that these may have a knock-on effect on workload and teacher morale.
  • Differing contexts of the policy problems and attempted solutions presented mean that caution is required in adopting any approach that would involve Scotland simply "borrowing" potential solutions from other countries.
  • Four of the five case study countries have adopted some form of structured, competency or standards-based career pathways for teachers. Two of the five have some discrete career pathways for "leaders" or Headteachers.
  • The author suggests that there is a lack of evidence of a relationship between the specific career pathways in place within systems and the very good outcomes for young people that they have. Convincing evidence of a clear link between improving educational outcomes and the policy strategy of formalised career pathways is difficult to discern in the peer-reviewed literature.

4.4 Teachers

  • Australia - 4 discrete teacher categories (Graduate; Proficient; Highly Accomplished; and Lead) based on Teacher Standards and aligned to greater competence, higher skills and higher status, but not consistently to salary progression. Teachers apply for Highly Accomplished and Lead categories. Sabbaticals in place.
  • Ontario - career progression for teachers is through them gaining Additional Qualifications (AQs) and Additional Basic Qualifications (ABQs) certificated by the Ontario College of Teachers, the professional registration body. AQs and ABQs assigned to one of 6 schedules. Teacher assigned to one of 5 categories of teacher (A, A1, A2, A3, and A4) depending on experience and qualifications but with "minimal to absent pay-scale advancement".
  • Estonia - moving from a system of attestation (160 hours professional learning over 5 years with internal and external evaluation) to new career progression competency-based, model. Model is based on professional standards (Teacher; Senior Teacher; Master Teacher). Top two levels are voluntary and not salary- related. Career pathways and areas of responsibility include subject management; Deputy Head Teacher role; creator of professional learning materials/activities; mentoring of beginning teachers. Remuneration is through classroom release.
  • Finland - new Teacher Education Development Programme launched in 2016 aimed at creating a systematic and coherent structure in teachers' competence development (mostly related to building community cooperation; promoting research-based teacher education in STEM; and promoting induction of new teachers) during their careers. Competence development plans drawn up by every institution. Overseen by a new body, the Teacher Education Forum. Sabbaticals are a statutory entitlement for all employees in Finland. Teachers may progress in their career by becoming a Vice-Principal or Principal.
  • Singapore - Highly structured career pathway structure (Senior Teacher; Lead Teacher; Master Teacher; Principal Master Teacher) based on attainment of professional standards/criteria, including interview, performance appraisal and professional development. Separate leadership track for subject heads, Vice-Principals and Principals. Also, Senior Specialist track. Sabbaticals and study loans available to teachers.

4.5 Headteachers/Principals

  • Australia - Separate professional standards for Principals based around 4 "Leadership Profiles" which indicate increasing levels of skill.
  • Ontario - Principals must complete mandatory qualifications (Principal's Qualification Program), taught and assessed by an Ontario university with guidance provided by the Ontario College of Teachers. Serving Principals can take advantage of bespoke AQs for Principals.
  • Estonia - Has informal career progression for school leaders. Headteacher (not Headteacher as we know it but lead teacher responsible for learning and teaching); School Director (akin to Scottish Headteacher); Quality Assurance (for Ministry of Education); and School Owner). Moving to new competency-based set of professional standards. 3 programmes now in place for school leader cohorts (aspiring; new; and experienced school leaders).
  • Finland - Qualifications (masters level and national educational leadership certificate) and experienced-based requirements to become a Principal. Potential to progress career through becoming municipal education official/administrator.
  • Singapore- (see above routes for teachers). Flagship "Leaders in Education Programme" (full-time for 6 months) involves specially selected Vice-Principals and Ministry officers. Programme is based around "Five Roles" within a Framework of school leadership.

Literature review, case study countries

Literature review, case study countries

Comment from the Panel

4.6 The panel welcomes the findings and reflections in the literature review. The review offers perspectives from international contexts revealing ways of working which differ from Scotland. The international contexts have provided stimulus for a national discussion around how we recruit and retain high quality teachers and how can we might create a career pathway which embraces Scotland's unique context and fits within the ambition and scope of Scotland's education empowerment agenda.

Stakeholder engagement events


Infographic: Stakeholder Engagement events

Infographic text:

67,539 teacher surveys sent.
3,700 responses.
1,592 primary teacher responses.
2,094 secondary teacher responses.
350 responses to stakeholder survey.
6 National events.
77 individual questionnaires returned to marketplace stall at the Scottish Learning Festival.
2 articles in the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) magazine.

Events held by panel members through own organisational structure.

panel members

Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)
The Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers (SOLACE)
Education Scotland
Scottish College for Educational Leadership (SCEL)
The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)
University of Glasgow school of Education
General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS)
Scottish Council of Deans of Education (SCDE)
The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS)
Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (SSTA)
The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT)
School leaders Scotland (SLS)
The Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS)

4.7 In pursuing the Panel's commitment to a comprehensive consultation process there were six engagement events held across Scotland and hosted by panel members, the purpose of which was to ensure that all teachers had an invitation to attend an event to debate and discuss what might constitute a career pathway. Key stakeholders in Scottish education including all professional bodies, were represented on the Panel and invited to use their structures and meetings as a way of engaging with the work of the Panel. At all events an agreed presentation was shared, and a set of questions posed to structure the discussion.

4.8 The conversations were wide-ranging and offered opportunities for the teaching profession to share their views and experiences. Participants cited examples which they had found to be motivating and purposeful, such as secondments, years working abroad, temporary promoted positions, masters level learning and high-quality professional learning. Many of the teachers cited a strong mentor or guide as important in their career development. Common themes began to emerge which focused on issues around access, barriers, structures and recognition.

4.9 Access of opportunity to any suggested pathway was attributed critical importance, with participants being of the strong view that any career opportunities are available to all teachers. The need for consistent selection criteria was also seen as important. High on the priority agenda was the ability of teachers to access appropriate and high quality professional learning no matter their geographical location. Access to masters level learning, masters level qualifications and associated funding were cited as variables across Scotland. There were mixed responses as to whether engagement with masters level learning or qualifications was of high importance, and opinion was often divided.

4.10 Many of the discussions centred on opening up greater opportunities for all teachers to progress within a career pathway. At many of the engagement events teachers explicitly talked about the barriers which prevented them pursuing a career move, such as the lack of flexible and part-time work opportunities, geographical location, ethnicity, gender and age. Members of the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) community expressed the need for explicit recognition of the challenges they faced in securing promotion. Engagement events with members of the BME community reflected the need for real system change and a shift in culture to ensure greater representation of the complexion of the community in roles across schools and beyond the classroom in Scottish education. They highlighted the significant under-representation of BME teachers in leadership roles. There was clear agreement that the composition of the teaching profession should reflect the community that it serves. Currently this is not the case.

4.11 The current structure of the career pathway for teachers was seen by some participants as too restrictive, focussed on management and creating a recruitment bottleneck. Discussion around structures which would support the Scottish system reflected on the need for recognition around curricular expertise, Additional Support Needs specialism, pedagogical expertise and leadership related to particular policy initiatives. Many teachers talked about the transition from the role of classroom teacher to Principal Teacher, particularly if a faculty structure was in place, as being one which seemed an enormous leap. Discussion focused around the possibility of interim stages of career progression between these two positions and the possibility of leadership roles which were recognised through remuneration and time but were not necessarily at Principal Teacher level. The possibility of operating a flatter structure, involving equal reward for management of the school and for leadership of learning and teaching within a classroom context, as a possible structure, was also raised.

4.12 A recurring theme in the engagement events was around the recognition of the work teachers do beyond their contractual duties. Concern was expressed that there were varying practices across Scotland in terms of how teachers were rewarded for the roles they undertook in school.

4.13 Participants at the events in addition to the stakeholder responses acknowledged that the remit of the Panel was complex and that a single international example would not fit the Scottish system. Scotland had its own unique context and therefore needed to build its own system whilst learning from others.

Teacher survey findings

4.14 An electronic survey was sent to 67,539 registered teachers in Scotland. The survey collected both qualitative and quantitative data. Survey questions and response rates can be found in Annex B.

4.15 Analysis was done as a whole and separately for the Early Years/Primary and Secondary sectors. There were some differences between the sectors but broadly the issues raised were common. Overall, the analysis demonstrated that teachers were inspired by three key elements - their pupils, a strong mentor/ Headteacher/colleague, and a desire to improve and learn.

4.16 Overwhelmingly both primary and secondary teachers cited remuneration and professional and personal commitment as the two most highly influential factors in selecting a career pathway. Consistently across the teaching profession on-the-job development, and personal and professional learning opportunities were seen as the most important factors in supporting the career development of teachers.

4.17 Comments, both positive and negative, captured the narrative and represent the general feeling described by respondents. There was a widespread view that inspirational leaders are key to the future development of the teaching workforce and that high quality CLPL is critical to career progression.

4.18 A clear sense of social justice and vocation was prevalent, underpinning teachers' continuing professional development and inspiration in their daily professional lives. There were variable responses in the survey sample ranging from teachers who were inspired by staying in the classroom and teachers who were inspired to follow a promoted pathway within the existing career structures.

4.19 The comments identify professional learning and availability of adequate time as being critical in developing the necessary skills to become a better teacher.

4.20 The survey asked respondents to comment on the following opportunities within a career pathway:

  • career break
  • masters level learning
  • masters level qualifications
  • personal and professional learning opportunities
  • sabbaticals
  • secondments
  • on-the-job training
  • temporary acting up opportunities
  • placements outside of education.

4.21 The overall pattern of responses detailed that all of the above opportunities were perceived to be important in ensuring a supported career pathway. The greatest variety of views was around masters level qualifications. Views ranged from those reflecting strong support of masters qualifications as a vehicle for professional learning which has a deep impact on a teacher's ability to deliver high quality learning, to the view that a masters qualification does not necessarily make a good teacher.

4.22 There was clear consensus from the comments that promoted posts, whether full-time, part-time, permanent or fixed term, need to have time, training and support. Comments also revealed strong support for sabbaticals and secondments suggesting that they would professionally enrich and inspire teachers when they returned to the classroom.

4.23 Negative comments around the undertaking of additional responsibilities by teachers which were unpaid, and around notions of distributive leadership adding to the ever-increasing workload were consistent from respondents.

4.24 Respondents were asked to comment on international examples from the literature review from which Scotland could learn. Consistently respondents suggested that the literature review was too dense, and that they had no time to read about and digest the information presented in relation to the different career pathways outlined. The comments which were provided suggested that professional learning and salary were important, as was teacher autonomy and masters level learning. There was a clear suggestion that Scotland could create its own pathway, allowing this to grow from the demands of the system and the policy context. Further analysis of responses demonstrated that Australia, Canada and Finland were amongst the international examples which gained the most support. Respondents tended to detail the features of an international career pathway structure which they found attractive and exciting rather than point to a specific international system as an overall preference. Features which were seen as attractive included flexibility of opportunity and movement, mentoring, support for career development and progression, sabbaticals and remuneration.

4.25 The survey asked for any additional comments from the respondents. These were enormously wide-ranging, covering a variety of topics some of which were beyond the scope of the work of the Panel. On analysis, it was clear that much of the discussion was centred around pay and reward for leadership roles undertaken within the school system. Comments indicated concern by some in the secondary sector with the Faculty Head role. Some perceived it to limit career opportunities and considered it too big a leap from the position of class teacher. There was focus within the comments on the need to link responsibility to time and remuneration.

Stakeholders Survey Findings

4.26 An electronic survey was sent to all key stakeholders in Scottish education. The survey collected both qualitative and quantitative data. Survey questions and response rates can be found in Annex C.

4.27 Stakeholders' responses were wide and varied. Analysis showed key themes:

  • the growth of leadership posts as a result of additional funding
  • remits and responsibilities of roles not matching the actual tasks undertaken by the postholders
  • the lack of time to efficiently undertake tasks related to leadership posts.

4.28 The response data demonstrated a clear consensus that all listed factors were important in the creation of a clear career pathway for teachers. There was no suggestion that any of the factors explored in the survey were irrelevant. Factors identified in the survey were:

  • attractiveness of leadership roles
  • curricular specialisms
  • opportunities of sabbaticals
  • opportunities to lead
  • personal and professional commitments
  • requirement for higher qualifications
  • attractiveness of promoted posts
  • length of service and experience gained
  • opportunities for secondments
  • pedagogical specialisms
  • remuneration.

4.29 Overall, analysis showed that least important to stakeholders in terms of progress within a career pathway is the requirement for higher qualifications; of greatest importance was personal and professional commitment. Within the open text comments there was much focus on the balance in terms of value between masters level learning and relevant experience.

4.30 Overwhelmingly, stakeholders identified the need for appropriate salary and remuneration for the work of the teacher in a leadership role. Responses also cited the need for high quality support and mentoring to be embedded within any new system.

4.31 Equality of opportunity to apply for career opportunities and equity of access to professional learning were recurring themes amongst the stakeholder feedback. Responses cited numerous examples of varying provision across Scotland.

4.32 Often cited was the need to recognise expertise in a variety of different areas such as specialisms within teaching. It was often noted that leadership was enacted across the school and was not always hierarchical in an existing promoted posts structure. This was broadly in line with the teacher responses.

4.33 Consistent with the teacher survey responses also, there were three systems which comments seemed to favour as the most attractive from the international examples. They were Finland, Australia and Canada. There seemed some hesitation within the comments to make judgements around which system seemed the most attractive or that Scotland could most learn from. There were a number of comments supporting the Singapore career pathway, which had been highlighted previously in the Next Steps report, but these were fewer than the aforementioned systems.

4.34 In general, comments from stakeholders focused on the need for professional learning and time to support any new system. Time was a common theme, with a crowded curriculum, increased paperwork and accountability processes cited as being consuming of teachers' time. The comments encouraged ambition and the need to ensure that enjoyment and challenge were at the heart of any proposed new structure. Comments also suggested that curriculum expertise was essential to any route as was the time to carry out given duties.

4.35 The call for any additional comment in an open text box gathered wide-ranging comments covering a variety of subjects. In the main, the comments focused on the following key themes: teachers are overworked; teachers must feel valued; the system must meet the needs of all; and there must be a way to encourage and recognise the contribution of teachers who continue in the classroom.



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