International Council of Education Advisers: third report 2021-2023

This is the third formal report of the ICEA relating to their third two-year term (2021-2023) of work.

Strategic Area 1: Improve the teaching profession and professional learning

In the Autumn 2022, at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York, the Secretary General, in partnership with Education International, announced the creation of a High-Level Panel of 17 education Ministers and other leaders on the future of teaching, as a response to a widely agreed global crisis of recruitment, retention, and motivation of the teaching profession. The reasons for the crisis, among others, were identified as declining pay and status, increasing workload, deteriorating well-being, lack of professional autonomy and collaboration, weak support in special education and other areas, declining levels of satisfaction and the politicisation of teaching. The settlement in Scotland concerning teachers’ pay and working conditions, points to other aspects of the UN’s global agenda that are now also worth exploring in the years ahead. These include increasing the intrinsic satisfactions of teaching through greater opportunities to be involved in school-level innovation; more experience of being autonomous professionals working collaboratively together on improvement and innovation; moving away from top-down leadership to greater teacher leadership within and across schools; and providing appropriate pathways for career progression. In other words, as well as addressing factors that negatively impact on teachers’ satisfaction, the positive motivating factors of school leaders and teachers must also be improved. Ultimately, the quality of the schooling experience of Scotland’s young people will depend on the quality of their school leaders’ and teachers’ working conditions.

Other than working conditions, we also need to invest in the professional learning of educational professionals to address the changing needs of the young people. This kind of investment underpins any reform programme arising from the recent set of reports. The Teaching Scotland’s Future (Donaldson Report) report in 2010 has already argued that the quality and morale of the teaching profession in Scotland had to be central to addressing the challenges of raising standards for all, addressing inequity, providing a stimulating school experience and promoting the wellbeing of all young people. While much has changed since 2010 and significant progress has been made in taking forward some recommendations, the realisation of the aspirations of the report remains unfinished business.

CfE was predicated on much greater engagement of school leaders and teachers with key decisions about the curriculum and its realisation. Professional agency goes hand-in-hand with teacher quality and that in turn requires an ongoing commitment to continuing professional learning. In the past, the emphasis was on training teachers in specific skills and techniques associated with effective classroom practice. However, the teaching and learning process is becoming increasingly complex with new areas of knowledge, better understanding of child development, the advent of digital technologies and the impact of family situations (especially for the disadvantaged). Therefore, we need to support school leaders and teachers, individually and collectively, to grow professionally throughout their careers to meet these challenges.

One of the most important ways of building the necessary professional learning is through locally created collaborative networked learning systems (Madrid Miranda and Chapman, 2021). The General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) has developed a reference framework for professional standards and review processes in the teaching profession and there is a continuing need to create the conditions to encourage and support career-long professional growth. Moves towards greater local resourcing and decision making should provide for more customised approaches to professional learning. But greater clarity is required regarding the control over decision-making and about sources of support. In particular, the role of central and local bodies as facilitators of professional learning needs to be more clearly articulated. In addition, there is a need to provide external stimuli and challenge in order to inject fresh thinking into local collaborations. The emerging professional learning strategy should therefore include mechanisms to secure the engagement of universities and other sources of expertise and new ideas.

Specific Recommendations

1. The Scottish Government should continue to improve the working conditions of school leaders and teachers.

2. The Scottish Government, national agencies and local authorities should continue to strengthen approaches to professional learning as an integral part of the move towards greater collective agency and local decision-making.

3. The Scottish Government should articulate more clearly the role of national, regional and local bodies in facilitating professional learning.

4. The Scottish Government, national agencies and Regional Improvement Collaboratives should explore and expand professional learning opportunities beyond immediate localities to enable educators to learn from each other and collaborate wherever they are.



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