Professional learning for teachers: minutes January 2018

A sub group of the Strategic Board for Teacher Education.

Attendees and apologies

  • Gillian Hamilton - SCEL (Chair)
  • Ellen Doherty - GTCS
  • Robert Hair - AHDS
  • Susan Quinn - EIS
  • Zoe Robertson - SCoDE
  • David Roy - Scottish Government
  • Seamus Searson - SSTA
  • Michael Wood - ADES
  • Scott Brand - Scottish Government (Secretary)

Apologies were received from Barbara Coupar.

Items and actions

Gillian Hamilton welcomed colleagues to the first meeting and thanked them for volunteering to serve on the group that had been established by the Strategic Board for Teacher Education (SBTE).

The aim of the group was to produce national guidance that would bring further clarity and coherence to the area of professional learning for teachers. It was expected that the guidance would address equality of access, delivery and accreditation.

It is expected that the group will meet 3 times and report back to the SBTE. The first meeting would be a discussion on the content of the guidance. A draft would be produced for discussion at the 2nd meeting with the aim of agreeing this at the 3rd meeting. It was noted that this was a tight timescale and that agreement from national bodies may take longer than this timeframe allowed.

Professional Learning Guidance

Gillian suggested that the starting point would be the paper produced for the SBTE at the meeting on 15 September (SBTE/07/03). The discussion would be aided by scoping work that SCEL are undertaking around gaps in provision and this could be presented at the next meeting.

The group made the following points:

Aim of guidance

The group discussed what different stakeholders would want from the national guidance. They felt it should outline what is being offered to teachers and explain the connection to Professional Update and Professional Review and Development. It is about giving ownership to teachers and teachers seeing themselves as learners.

They also said that the guidance should recognise teachers’ individual needs. This would need to balance with generic guidance in terms of level of detail. Overall, the guidance should encourage more engagement with professional learning, build capacity and avoid being restrictive. It should also give teachers confidence and an opportunity to increase job satisfaction while avoiding tick box mentality and hours counting.

The guidance should also be relevant for providers of professional learning and ensure Government, employer and teacher expectations are outlined.

Definition of high-quality professional learning

The group felt that it is currently difficult for teachers to know what programmes and types of professional learning are high-quality. It is, therefore, important that there are agreed principles and indicators in the guidance on what constitutes high-quality professional learning.


The group discussed how accreditation would feature in the guidance. There was a need for better clarity around whether accreditation is about the quality of the programme or gaining academic credits. The new Regional Improvement Collaboratives and existing local authority/university teacher education partnerships will also have a role in accreditation. It was noted that not all high-quality professional learning is appropriate for accreditation.

Content of guidance and priorities

The group made suggestions on the content of the guidance. There was a need to avoid high-level priorities as they invariably change and will not always relate to the classroom teacher. However, general themes will be familiar to teachers such as ASN and pedagogy. These together with some of the themes from the Teaching Standards could be used as context. Another way to identify priorities would be to take them from a sample of teachers’ PRD.

The content would need to adapt to changing policy contexts and be flexible rather than a rigid pathway as all types of learning could be high-quality. It should also encourage a degree of self-reflection from teachers as well as building on the good work of the local authority/university teacher education partnerships. The important place of the Regional Improvement Collaboratives was mentioned and the need for them to engage with teachers.

The group recognised that currently resources are in different places, especially when subject specific. The guidance should assist teachers navigate the various resource hubs. The group agreed that a diagram showing model, resources and access would assist teachers.


Resources were seen as a pivotal to effective use of the guidance. It would need to be clear on areas such as support and funding. Where possible it should identify known resources in key areas, promote protected time and good practice on professional learning within the school day. The additional resource issues for teachers in rural areas needed to be recognised.

In summary

Gillian Hamilton said that she saw the guidance as covering broad principles and setting the direction of travel. These would cover quality and access ensuring equality and impact rather than input. It would not be restrictive on delivery organisations and would include a generic model. As a next step Gillian Hamilton would convene a drafting group and all members will be invited to this. Action: Gillian Hamilton


The group discussed accreditation of professional learning. At present both GTCS and SCEL accredit programmes. This may change as SCEL will become part of Education Scotland and clarity is need on whether or not Scottish Government can or should be accrediting programmes. A possibility is joint accreditation between GTCS and Education Scotland. The Framework for Educational Leadership will remain a free standing resource that will direct users to accredited programmes. The point was made that there needs to be a purpose to having professional learning accredited and many forms of high-quality professional learning do not lend themselves to accreditation. There was also a link between accredited learning and how career pathways may develop.

Agenda items for next meeting

The group agreed that the following items would form the agenda for the next meeting:

  • Draft national guidance
  • Input from SCEL scoping study
  • Accreditation process for PL
  • MyPL

Future meetings

The date of future meetings are:

  • Tuesday 27 February- 2.00 pm - Victoria Quay
  • Friday 23 March - 10.00 am - Victoria Quay


Action 1 - Invite group members to a drafting session of the guidance - Secretariat

Action 2 - Invite SCEL to present on their scoping study at the next meeting of the group - Secretariat

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