Strategic Board for Teacher Education meeting papers: November 2020

Papers for the meeting of the Strategic Board for Teacher Education on 9 November 2020.

SBTE discussion paper: teacher education in the context of COVID 


To provide SBTE members with a summary of the range of work that is being taken forward in partnership in response to COVID-19 to allow members to consider the challenges and opportunities that have arisen in respect of teacher education and to inform how we frame policy going forward post Covid. 

Teacher workforce planning

Current position

The Teacher Workforce Planning Advisory Group (TWPAG) advises Ministers on the required number of initial teacher education (ITE) students taking account of not only the teacher workforce planning statistical modelling exercise but also other intelligence relating to teacher supply and demand, including local and qualitative evidence. The statistical model estimates the required number of ITE students to maintain the current pupil teacher ratios (PTRs) at both primary and secondary level. 

A long running trend in the model is that it has consistently, over recent years, indicated a need to reduce the primary intake target. Until last year, however, the TWPAG were of the view that due to the pressure in recruitment reported by local authorities in the primary sector it was not the time to reduce PGDE primary target intake.

After considering all the factors involved in the 2020/21 exercise, the substantial reduction in teacher vacancies, challenges around securing places for a large number of primary probationers on the 2019 Teacher Induction Scheme and improvement in primary teacher recruitment, it was recommended to the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) that there should be a slight decrease of 110 PGDE primary places in 2020/21.  

There continues to be evidence that there is an over-supply of primary teachers. That is:

  • representation of NQT and RQT groups over the summer reporting difficulties in finding employment (over 700)
  • increased difficulty to place primary probationer teachers unless they are fully funded
  • low levels of primary vacancies reported in the 2019 vacancy survey
  • lower proportion of former probationers finding employment the following year as reported in the 2019 teacher census (especially permanent full time employment) down by 3% from 87% to 84%

The TWPAG and the Scottish Council of Deans of Education (SCDE) both recognise the ongoing need to keep primary targets under consideration as projections show the number of primary pupils has peaked and are projected to drop.

Potential additional pressures on teacher workforce planning

In addition to the issues surrounding the level of primary teachers required there will be other pressures on the TWP system:

  • the expectations of future employment by the extra teachers who have been employed through £75m additional funding for Covid 19 education recovery to compensate for any loss of learning suffered by pupils during lockdown, estimated at around 1,400 teachers
  • a significant increase in the number of students, around 285, who have deferred their probation placements to the next year
  • the uncertainties around EU Exit and numbers of EU teachers who will remain in Scotland
  • the UK Internal Market Bill, currently proceeding though the House of Lords, if enacted unamended, will potentially require the GTC Scotland to register a wider range of teachers from England that they currently do not
  • securing places for next year’s teacher Induction Scheme (around 3,000)

The Scottish Government provided an additional £80m for the recruitment of additional teachers and support staff to support Covid education recovery. £75m of this was dedicated to teacher recruitment with an expectation that this would provide employment for around 1,400 teachers. Over the summer there were representations from groups of post probationers, both recent and longer term, who had not yet secured employment. We understand around 700 of last year’s probationers were in this category and our ambition was that most would secure one year’s employment through the additional funding provided.

Teacher recruitment campaign

The Teachingmakespeople campaign to attract graduates primarily into hard to fill STEM subjects continues this year. New creatives are being developed to refresh the campaign and it will also take more of a focus on attracting people from BAME backgrounds into the profession. We expect the refreshed campaign to launch mid-November.

Due to Covid restrictions universities are unable to host their normal graduate recruitment fairs and instead are undertaking a series of virtual events. Union Connect are undertaking the field work for the teacher campaign and to date have attended events at Edinburgh and Strathclyde.  As sessions are bespoke to individuals we are unlikely to get the volume of footfall as in previous years. However the sessions for the Strathclyde event were very well attended but what is clear is that prospective ITE students have anxieties around the impacts of Covid restrictions on their ITE experiences.

The TeachinScotland website and the GTC Scotland booklet “So You Want to Teach in Scotland?” encourage people to consider teaching and gives information on the different sectors, entry requirements, ITE programmes and how to apply to them and the process for registration for teachers qualified outside of Scotland.

STEM bursaries

The STEM Bursary scheme continued this year with the aim of awarding 150 bursaries. Whilst the final report is expected from SDS we understand that all 150 bursaries were awarded at a cost of £3m. Consideration will need to be given to running the scheme next year in view of the current context.

Support during student placement and probation year

Student teachers develop an in-depth understanding of the complex processes of learning by engaging with theory, research and practice. Site based learning/placements in schools enable student teachers to connect theory to practice and develop professional expertise and knowledge of the complexities of schools and their place in the community.

Student placements have been disrupted during both 2019/20 and 2020/21 academic years. This has required revision to programmes and planning in case some schools are not open for the full five day teaching week. Where direct classroom experience is not available, Student Teachers will be expected to undertake some of their teaching practice through the use of remote learning, as they gain experience in leading learning in a virtual environment which will also count towards the required number of days of professional placement. Activities for at most 45% non face-to-face teaching will involve online learning; peer micro-teaching; and the delivery of ‘remote learning’ to school pupils. This provides learning flexibility within the planning of student placements.

GTC Scotland have introduced an early check for all probationers on TIS or the Flexible Route in September 2020 to ensure that they are making satisfactory progress towards achieving the Standard for Full Registration. Any probationers not showing sufficient progress as determined by the school and local authority may be awarded Provisional (Conditional) Registration at this time. GTC Scotland are supporting the relevant schools and local authorities to monitor the progress of any such probationers and ensure that the necessary remedial action is taken prior to them being awarded Full Registration.

  • GTC Scotland has also been working with local authority Probation Managers to identify and support individual probationers who require targeted, bespoke intervention. Commissioned materials from Hugh Smith, experienced teacher and ITE educator, are being issued to identified probationers between October and December. These three professional learning resources for targeted probationer teachers being a teacher in Scotland: Professional Values and Personal Commitment
  • being a teacher in Scotland: Knowledge and Understanding
  • being a teacher in Scotland: Professional Skills and Abilities

Individual probationers requiring further support to develop and implement their action plans will be offered one to one coaching from Sarah Philp, psychologist and experienced coach. The aim of this support is to provide individuals requiring additional support with the best chance of being recommend for meeting the Standard for Full Registration.

To support flexible route probationers, GTC Scotland has established a virtual school which it will manage. The aim of the virtual school is to provide those taking the flexible route through probation with a community network and to provide specific guidance and additional support to that which they receive through their employer. The virtual school will be organised into three groups, each with a key contact with specialist knowledge about the types of queries and concerns. GTC Scotland has invested in a digital solution to supporting the effective management of the virtual school.

From a local authority perspective the standard arrangements to support newly qualified teachers continues to operate but within the confines of Covid 19 restrictions. There is a designated (named) link mentor for each NQT at school level as well as a named person at central level. The issue this year is that class structures and pupil management reflect Scottish Government advice on reducing risks from COVID-19 and this is different from previous years. The same principle applies to NQTs in subject areas with restrictions (PE, Home Economics etc). This reduces the extent to which NQTs can deliver the breadth of curriculum. This does not apply to the same extent at SQA level since they do not normally teach beyond National 5 in their first year. Support for retrieval placements is a challenge as this is another activity to be covered in what is proving to be a very challenging time in schools. 

ITE delivery 

The Scottish Government has been supporting a number of our Initial Teacher Education (ITE) universities to deliver a range of alternative routes into teaching to address recruitment shortages. The overarching aim of these alternative routes is to attract talented graduates and career changers into the teaching profession. The programmes are varied in structure and include aligning blended distance learning models to existing PGDE programmes to enable students to learn at a distance, where their circumstances prevent them from undertaking a traditional full-time on-campus route. Universities are currently delivering much of their programme online and some newly accredited programmes have reduced the amount of time required on campus to address issues of rurality and access. Experience of online and blended delivery might open-up the possibility of more programmes being offered through these modes. 

Examples of these are:-

  • University of Aberdeen DLITE Primary and Secondary distance learning programme for local authority staff to study part-time to become qualified primary teachers
  • University of Dundee Learn to Teach (Primary) - this is an 18 month part-time blended learning programme to train existing local authority employees to become primary school teachers

Questions for discussion

What is SBTE view on:

Teacher workforce planning

  • a substantial reduction in the requirement for newly qualified primary teachers which in turn will lead to a need to further reduce primary ITE intake targets in academic year 2021/22 and the knock on-effect for university capacity and expertise
  • should teacher education numbers remain capped by SFC, or should a market approach be adopted?
  • how do we manage a potential large number of teachers seeking employment?
  • the impact of reducing ITE intake targets at this time of a pandemic, uncertainty around the impact of Brexit, and when teacher numbers are still under the political spotlight?

Teacher recruitment

  • what can be done to alleviate potential anxieties of future ITE students to maintain the attractiveness of teaching as a career and ensure we continue to attract quality applicants?

Support for ITE students and probationers

  • is there enough support for students’ and NQTs’ health and well-being to ensure positive retention rates; and what additional support is needed for probationers who had their final ITE year placements cut short or altered significantly?

ITE delivery

  • should more PGDE programmes be offered on a part-time or full-time distance learning approach?

Support for fully registered teachers

Part 1: Professional learning support from Education Scotland 

Current position

In March this year, the Leadership Team of Education Scotland took the decision to halt all in-person professional learning and leadership activity as well as all inspection related activity due to COVID. Processes were put in place to enable programme participants to either continue learning or to conclude their programme. 

When school buildings closed Education Scotland (ES) developed a programme of support for practitioners as they moved to remote online learning and learning at home. This included ensuring ongoing access to Glow and offering a range of resources intended to support practitioners in planning and delivering online learning. Education Scotland provides a range of online learning in each curriculum area through Glow and other platforms. The National Improvement Hub now includes links intended to support practitioners in developing online opportunities for learning at home  and the blog offers opportunities to explore a range of strategies, tools and guidance to support learning and teaching online. The National e-Learning offer  focuses on support for practitioners to improve the online remote learning of children and young people.

Professional learning opportunities offered by Education Scotland include: 

  • HM Inspectors have led a range of professional learning as part of a universal and targeted offer. Over session 19/20, Education Scotland worked to increase the capacity and capability of school leaders in curriculum innovation and design including the establishment of collaborative groups which developed papers to provoke thinking and to underpin the next stage of the work  .   Professional learning activities continue to be developed; working with the PLL team to enhance existing programmes
  • Attainment Advisors (AA) continue to provide bespoke support to their Local Authorities with a focus on supporting recovery, examples of this include approaches to differentiation, planning for improvement and learning and teaching during a full return and blended learning
  • NIF Officers delivered webinars on the ‘Assessment in the BGE’ paper that was published on the National Improvement Hub to support recovery. The NIF Officer team have engaged with local authorities with a focus on delivering key messages around assessment in the BGE in the current context
  • following publication of the Numeracy Professional Learning Resources in August 2020, national webinars in addition to bespoke Local Authority Career Long Professional Learning (LA CLPL) sessions are currently underway
  • specific curriculum support is also provided through Education Scotland’s national and regional teams including support for subject networks, subject specific career long professional learning (CLPL) events. Additionally bespoke offers of support aligned to a suite of CLPL events is also available in response to individual need in schools, clusters and authorities

Next steps

Education Scotland’s support for educators in this recovery year will continue to develop in partnership with the system with a core focus on people and place. For example, work to support curriculum design area continues in session 20/21, with plans to support peer review of progress in Learner Pathways and Interdisciplinary Learning (IDL), culminating in case studies to be shared more widely as part of a Festival of Curriculum Design. This work will be centred around regional areas and will involve participants from session 19/20, working with new participants to reflect and share their curriculum design journey.

Part 2: Education Scotland Professional Learning and Leadership Directorate

Current position

The Education Scotland Professional Learning and Leadership (PLL) team created a series of frequently asked questions which were shared with all programme participants and CLPL leads, added to the Education Scotland professional learning and leadership online resource and updated regularly. The team also developed a fortnightly newsletter (with nearly 17,000 subscribers) containing programme news, information on new professional learning activities as well as blogs and links to professional learning available across the system. 

The PLL team developed new approaches to connecting with educators by introducing a series of initial ‘Big Blethers’ which were conversational online sessions designed for colleagues to connect with each other and discuss key issues impacting them and their learners. These sessions then developed into themed ‘Wee Blethers’ and ‘Headspace’ sessions for headteachers to connect and share knowledge, experience and concerns with peers. A series of international seminars involving leading educationalists has been developed and will continue throughout session 20/21. 

Uptake and redevelopment of programmes

The closure of schools in March and a rapid move to online learning meant the ES PLL online resource experienced a sharp increase in registrations and visitors over April to June 2020. Due to this there was a 445% average increase in registrations, as well as a 726% average increase in unique visitors across April to June compared to the previous year. The PLL team and colleagues within ES continue to develop, revise and integrate new professional learning activities into the online resource with a number of developed specifically to support the system during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The majority of the PLL programmes have now been redeveloped to be delivered online. Applications for a number of these programmes took place earlier in the year, others are in the process of going live or will open later this year. There has been a substantial level of demand for a number of these programmes as outlined in the following table. 

Programme 2017/2018 2018/2019 2019/2020 2020/2021
Teacher Leadership 209 219 230 237
Leadership of Early Learning - 40 42* 60
Towards Headship 36 (cohort 1) 12 (cohort 2) 16 (cohort 3) 11
Into Headship 185 (Cohort 3) 176 (Cohort 4)  170 (Cohort 5) 257
In Headship 36 (Cohort 1) 38 (Cohort 2) 42 (Cohort 3) 36
Excellence in Headship 128 (Cohort 1)
117 (Cohort 2)
137 (Cohort 3)
87 (Cohort 4)
103 (Cohort 5)
52 (Cohort 6)
 75 (cohort 7)
Middle Leaders Leading Change     245     457
Aspiring to Middle Leadership     105 251

 *reflects 19 of 32 local authorities who responded to the call for participants.

In moving programmes online the PLL team have also developed and supported colleagues across the system in developing online facilitation skills to support educator development. The PLL team have engaged with colleagues across ES and regional groups to offer a series of ‘effective professional learning’ sessions designed to enhance understanding and skills in leading the professional learning of colleagues.  

Education Recovery Group – Workforce Support

In addition to the above support, the PLL team have been working in partnership with the GTC Scotland and Scottish Government to develop and deliver the additional package of professional learning support which was agreed through the CERG Workforce Support Workstream (workstream 6). This package was detailed in a previous paper to SBTE and includes the following themes:

  • mental health support for the schools workforce
  • coaching and mentoring education system offer
  • enhanced support for post-probation teachers
  • Columba 1400 values-based leadership programmes

Funding has also been confirmed to support SCQF level 11 learning through the Teacher Education Partnerships. A number of the partnerships have refocused their offer to support recovery. 

Next steps

As schools continue to operate while managing the virus the PLL team intend to: 

  • work in partnership to ensure the effective implementation of the additional support package
  • continue to redevelop existing programmes and resources to reflect the changed context participants are working in as well as the changed delivery of professional learning
  • open recruitment for the Supporting Teacher Leadership programme and agree next steps in supporting system leadership

Part 3: professional learning support from the General Teaching Council for Scotland, local government and professional associations

Current position

A wide range of support has been made available to the education workforce from partners across the system. These have been aggregated and shared through the joint communication  from the CERG Workforce Support workstream referenced in a previous paper to SBTE. This important activity has included:

  • GTC Scotland has commissioned support and in partnership with other organisations is delivering wider support as part of the national response to COVID-19. This has included the development of a Health and Wellbeing Hub  which provides a variety of resources and webinars to support colleagues’ wellbeing
  • EIS has provided online advice , resources and support including a new ‘Working at Home’ resource. It currently contains 4 main sections: Looking After Your Health and Wellbeing; Making Time for You: Daily Inspiration; Lockdown Learning Ideas; and Continuing Your Professional Learning
  • NASUWT has an online Coronavirus Guidance Hub  which provides the latest advice, guidance and FAQs including nation-specific guidance for members in Scotland. As one example of the support available online, 'Mental Health Advice for Teachers Working From Home' provides teachers with tips on managing your mental health during this time
  • SSTA have been supporting their members by disseminating COSLA and Government advice via direct email, providing direct telephone and email support and signposting to relevant resources which support newly emerging working practices and to any opportunities for professional learning 
  • Voice has provided online advice, resources and support to members as well as regular email and newsletter bulletins
  • AHDS commissioned Hive of Wellbeing to develop resources for members to support their own wellbeing and that of their team as they grapple with changes to the way that we work and lead teams. These resources can be accessed by AHDS members though the AHDS discussion forum on their website 
  • the SLS website  provides up to date information for both members and non-members. Weekly newsletter sent to all members summarising meetings/activities at which SLS is represented and members can access support from the Field Officer as required
  • employers across the education system have also been providing significant support to their employees throughout the pandemic. COSLA is working with Trade Unions and Councils to promote and ensure employees have access to appropriate advice and guidance during the COVID-19 response this includes FAQs for managers and employees , as well as a wellbeing page on the knowledge hub signposting to the supports available both nationally and locally 

ADES members have been participating in regular virtual meetings to share practice and emerging thinking around the response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. ADES working groups have been established around areas of key importance in relation to COVID-19 to ensure the appropriate system support is being put in place. 

Next steps

As organisations continue to develop additional support this will be made available through their respective websites. This developing support from across the system will be continually added to the joint communication and shared alongside the additional support professional learning package on Education Scotland’s COVID-19 education recovery website . 

Part 4: professional learning: questions for discussion 

The system has, in partnership, responded well to the challenge of supporting the profession, has updated a significant array of programmes, moved to online delivery and is engaging a record number of practitioners. There have been a number of challenges and opportunities arising from this response as follows. 

The challenges in meeting the professional learning needs of teachers have included:

  • balancing the need to respond quickly to demand whilst ensuring new activity is relevant and appropriate
  • building the capacity to effectively deliver professional learning online
  • ensuring that the volume of offers of support to the profession are complementary and not overwhelming 
  • balancing the need to provide specific professional learning to teachers whilst also ensuring support is available to the wider education workforce

There have also been professional learning opportunities arising out of the response to the pandemic which are worth highlighting. These include:

  • the ability to make more professional learning opportunities accessible to practitioners who might have faced barriers in terms of time and location with face-to-face delivery
  • the upsurge in demand for professional learning at a time when it might have been perceived by some as a lower priority
  • the ability to more rapidly bring together separate, but overlapping, strands of work into a single significant additional package of support for the workforce

All partners have demonstrated a commitment to building on the foundations we have collectively established and would therefore ask the Board to consider the following questions: 

Delivery model:

  • what do we know, so far, about the impact of the changed approaches to professional learning on educators? How can we build on our learning during this phase to shape future policy? 
  • what more can be done to support practitioners in using digital tools for their own professional learning as well as in their teaching? 
  • the GTC Scotland 5-year report on Professional Update (PU) showed that collaborative learning was the most popular form of professional learning.  How might that particular form of professional learning be better supported?

Access to learning:

  • has there been an impact of the changed approaches to professional learning on educators with protected characteristics? 
  • are there specific issues in particular sectors (primary, secondary, special, GME)?
  • to what extent are teachers in rural schools benefitting from digital delivery of professional learning offers? 
  • in era of greater online offering should your location (schools/LA/RIC/country) determine the professional learning you can access? 

Future need:

  • what are the areas of greatest need envisaged for professional learning over the current and next session?  
  • does the national model of professional learning  need to be reconsidered for a time where online delivery predominates? 
  • is there a risk that online programmes are perceived as having a lower status compared to their pre-COVID-19 face-to-face equivalents? 

November 2020

Curriculum and Assessment Board update 

The Curriculum and Assessment Board last met on 9 September 2020 

The Board discussed:

Curriculum offerings during the education recovery phase - Board members were invited to discuss how schools and other settings were designing and developing the curriculum in the context of changes made in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Improving curriculum design in relation to learner pathways and interdisciplinary learning (IDL) - Attendees were updated on work on learner pathways and IDL that Education Scotland had taken forward with educators and other relevant partners from across Scotland. This had culminated in the publication in two thought papers covering each topic. Board members were asked to provide their views on how this work could be promoted and maximised. 

The SQA Diet 2020 and preparation for the 2021 Diet - Board members were provided with an update of SQA plans to make changes to the delivery of national qualification in the 2020/21 academic year. This followed the conclusion of consultation work on the subject. Board members were asked to share their views on the proposed changes. 

The development of LGBTI curriculum benchmarks - CAB members were provided with an update on work to implement the recommendations for the LGBTI Inclusive Education Working Group – specifically the development of LGBTI relevant benchmarks. Board members were invited to share their views on the planned work. 

An update on the CfE Review - Board members were provided with an update on the progress of the CfE Review.  

The Board agreed:

Curriculum offerings during the education recovery phase

  • while schools and other settings were doing well in implementing guidance, that consideration should be given to the amount and clarity of guidance
  • the Scottish Government should consider further advice in relation to the delivery of practical subjects such as design and technology; the delivery of blended or remote learning; and supporting learners with additional support needs

Improving curriculum design in relation to learner pathways and interdisciplinary learning (IDL)

  • the thought papers were useful in setting out challenges and opportunities in relation to IDL and learner journey work
  • schools and other settings should be encouraged to use these resources to influence practice. Any resulting effective practice should be identified, shared and up scaled

The SQA Diet 2020 and preparation for the 2021 Diet 

  • the SQA’s consultation work was welcomed but there was a desire for the SQA to consult more frequently with the wider system
  • any changes proposed by the SQA should be promptly communicated to the wider education system

The development of LGBTI curriculum benchmarks

  • this work was welcomed but the exact delivery mechanisms would need to be considered. A short life working group was suggested
  • consideration should be given to how other protected characteristics are promoted within the curriculum

An update on the CfE Review

  • that Board noted the update

The Board is due to meet next on Tuesday 8 December 2020.

Curriculum and Assessment Board Secretariat 
November 2020


Scottish Education Council update

The Scottish Education Council (SEC) have not met since 15 January. The council were due to meet in March, but this was cancelled as a result of lockdown having just been imposed.

Neither the SEC nor the Education Leaders Forum (ELF) have met since. The C-19 Education Recovery Group (CERG) was formed in April, comprising members of both the SEC and the ELF, and the CERG have met 30 times to date. The initial focus of the CERG was on restarting in-school education, and producing guidance to support this. Since schools reopened the CERG have continued to meet on a weekly basis, focusing on the monitoring of the full time return of schools, the bedding-in and updating of the guidance, and outbreak management. This is supported with appropriate analytical evidence and scientific advice.

The operation of the CERG is likely to reviewed in November, with restart of the SEC/ELF likely to be considered at this time.

Contact: Glen Deakin, Improvement Team Leader (0131 244 1679)


Action tracker (meeting 18)

  • Secretariat to publish minute of 5 February meeting and associated supporting papers on the Scottish Government website - completed
  • Gillian Hamilton to share CERG paper on Headteacher support with the Board – completed
  • Board members to send any contributions for Teaching Scotland Magazine to Ken Muir – completed
  • Education Scotland to discuss with Khadija Mohammed how to ensure integration between the SAMME programme and the coaching and mentoring offer - The programme has now been endorsed by Education Scotland and their aim is to build opportunities for ngagement into the CERG Workstream 6 package of support. Discussions continue between Education Scotland and SAMEE on next steps
  • SBTE Secretariat to arrange a discussion between SG, GTCS and ES on future development options for MyPL - Meeting arranged for 18 November
  • David Roy to provide the Board with an analysis of Into Headship participants by local authority and convene a meeting with interested members to discuss this - Meeting arranged for 16 November
  • Secretariat to develop and circulate paper on teacher education within the context of the Covid pandemic – completed 
  • Secretariat to confirm date of next meeting. – completed 
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