Strategic Board for Teacher Education minutes: November 2020

Minutes of the meeting of the Strategic Board for Teacher Education, held on 9 November 2020.

Attendees and apologies


  • Andy Drought, Scottish Government (Chair)
  • Scott Brand, Scottish Government (Secretary)
  • Anne Paterson, Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RIC)
  • Barbara Coupar, Scottish Catholic Education Service (SCES)
  • Barrie Sheppard, National Parents Forum Scotland 
  • Darren Wapplington, NASUWT
  • David Burgess, Education Scotland
  • David Smith, Scottish Council of Deans of Education (SCDE)
  • Duncan Lawrie, Newly Qualified Teacher, Fife Council
  • Gillian Hamilton, Education Scotland
  • Jim Thewliss, School Leaders Scotland (SLS)
  • Ken Muir, General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS)
  • Khadija Mohammed, University of the West of Scotland (UWS)
  • Kirsty Elder, ITE Student 
  • Margaret Lannon, Scottish Council for Independent Schools 
  • Michael Wood, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)
  • Pauline Stephen, General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS)
  • Seamus Searson, Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA)
  • Sharon McLellan, Association of Heads and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS)
  • Simon Cameron, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)
  • Susan Quinn, Educational Institute for Scotland
  • Stuart Robb, Scottish Government
  • David Roy, Scottish Government 
  • Stephanie Walsh, Scottish Government
  • Fearghal Kelly, Scottish Government 
  • Ann Hunter, Scottish Government 

Items and actions


  • welcome and introductions 
  • previous minutes (14 September 2020) (SBTE/19/02) 
  • teacher education in the context of COVID (SBTE/19/03)
  • work plan and action tracker (SBTE/19/04 and SBTE/19/05)
  • AOB
  • schedule of meeting dates for 2021

For information:

  • Curriculum and Assessment Board update (SBTE/19/06)
  • Scottish Education Council update (SBTE/19/07)

Welcome and introductions

Andy Drought welcomed colleagues to the meeting. Apologies were noted from Dougie Atkinson and Gillian Campbell-Thow.

Minute of previous meeting 

The minutes of the meeting of 14 September were agreed as an accurate record. Andy Drought confirmed these would be published on the Scottish Government website, along with the supporting papers from that meeting.

Action point:

  • Secretariat to publish minute of 14 September and associated supporting papers on the Scottish Government website

Teacher Education in the context of COVID  

Andy Drought introduced the paper and said that it had been developed with input from a range of partners. He said that the paper aims to provide members with a summary of the range of work that is being taken forward in partnership in response to Covid 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. 

The paper is divided into two main parts with questions at the end of each section. These are:-

  • Teacher Workforce planning, teacher recruitment, ITE delivery and support for students and probationers 
  • Professional Learning support for established teachers

Teacher workforce planning, teacher recruitment, ITE delivery and support for student and probationers 

This part of the paper considered teacher workforce planning, teacher recruitment, ITE delivery and support for ITE students and probationers. 

Teacher workforce planning

The issue of a substantial reduction in the requirement for newly qualified primary teachers was discussed. The knock-on effect for university ITE providers was raised. Their staffing was very specialist and linked directly to intake numbers. Any revisions to intake numbers would require careful planning by universities and their position was that there is the need to avoid reducing university capacity and expertise.

It was also noted that the planning model needs to work for all parts of the country. An overall national reduction could impact negatively on local authorities in rural areas. More generally, the range and scope of ITE provision is different across the country and the Board needs to consider if this currently meets need. Rural ITE students may be better served by more on-line content in programmes with more grow your own initiatives such as Learn to Teach where students remain in their own communities. Also universities’ locations are not always seen as attractive to many in rural areas who are considering becoming a teacher. Teacher Induction Scheme preference waiver could possibly be better targeted to address these issues. 

One member offered the view that any intake reduction will impact on the ability to reduce class sizes, teacher workload and teacher class contact time while also having a detrimental effect on pupil attainment. Teacher numbers may need to grow to improve the system. While research on class size improving attainment is inconclusive, it was argued that the system had been moving to reduce class sizes over time, with legislation in place for primary and previous proposals for legislation to cover S1 and S2.

The argument was also made that there may be implications for the work being developed around career pathways if teacher numbers are reduced. Barriers to proposals on sabbaticals and secondments have been lack of staff to back-fill these opportunities. Staffing requirements for initiatives such as this require to be factored into the workforce planning model. 

The point was made that intakes had remained stable for many years. However, some members asked that rural factors are considered before any reductions are made and that the distribution of secondary places should also be reviewed.  

Action point:

  • Scottish Government to consider these points in their discussions on teacher workforce planning and circulate to members evidence supporting a reduction of primary intake target

Student placements

The issue of student placements in schools and the effect on teacher workloads was raised. It was felt by some members that the national guidance on this issue has resulted in increased work in preparing student assessments and ensuring compliance with local authority and school risk management protocols.  

It was pointed out that the reason tutors were not in school was in line with public health advice to minimise the number of adults in schools to those absolutely necessary. It was considered that more consistency in assessment guidelines between universities could help the situation, although a suite of assessment options were available. One member proposed that a generic local authority brief on risk assessment could also reduce the preparatory work involved for schools.  

It was agreed that stronger communications between all partners in this area will help improve the situation and ensure high quality placements for students.

Action point:

  • Scottish Government to ask the Student Placement Management Group to review its communications with schools

Teacher recruitment

It was suggested that Teacher recruitment campaigns consider identifying the barriers to teaching and better target those in rural areas. Campaigns should also highlight where and how students can undertake ITE.

ITE delivery

It was recognised that there is a place for blended study approaches within ITE to help with access and retention. The option of a 2-year PGDE was raised, which could bring the advantage of a stronger integration with the early phase career of a teacher.  

There was agreement that building on the learning from alternative routes is necessary to help with geographical recruitment issues. Together with consideration of where we are with university/teacher education partnerships and more general learning over the last year, this should help the Board develop their thinking in this area.

Action point:

  • Scottish Government to consider further issues of recruitment in rural areas

Professional learning for established teachers

This part of the paper considered how professional learning was being delivered, use of digital tools and how access had impacted on the various groups of teachers including BME and rural. It also considered future need and how best to deliver this.

It was noted that significant professional learning opportunities had been put in place for teachers with the aim of supporting them in addressing current challenges in relation to Covid. There were assurances that this was a balanced offer that did not overwhelm teachers and also gave them the opportunity to develop skills and knowledge not directly needed to address Covid related issues. It was asked that communications within the system joined up the offer from all partners. It was stated that teachers should be encouraged to engage with the vision for Scottish education and that the enthusiasm for collaborative learning should act as a motivator for school improvement.

Action point:

  • Education Scotland to ensure communications on professional learning joins up the offer from all partners

It was highlighted that on-line learning allows for easier access including reducing the time teachers need to take out of school. There are also opportunities for interest groups to be formed from across the country and for Scottish and international expert input. There had been an increase in engagement with professional learning in rural areas with digital tools being used for collaboration. On-line learning had also improved engagement for the SAMEE Coaching and Mentoring programme. Digital tools were allowing a national network of BME teachers to form and a sense of community was building.

It was raised that the structure of the school week needs to align with teachers’ professional learning requirements. Professional learning should be seen as part of everyday tasks. There is also a need to ensure that quality of learning has prominence over ease of access.

Concerns were raised about equality of access, especially for teachers in rural areas where connectivity issues existed. The bandwidth in some schools also presented an issue and these need to be resolved within the wider digital infrastructure agenda.

Concerns were expressed by some members about the quality of on-line learning in regard to interaction for participants. The interpersonal elements of learning were seen as an important factor.

It was asked if Excellence in Headship numbers had reduced and if this could be attributed to teacher workload. Education Scotland figures show that there are roughly the same numbers as last session. They have held 3 Induction events at around 25 participants per event, while previous events attracted around 30 participants per event. However, Education Scotland continue to hold one day online Inductions and as more cohorts are added this session then numbers are expected to be very close or even surpass last session’s total. 

The increase in teacher engagement with professional learning was welcomed especially in the current situation where teachers are dealing with increased workloads. There was also a need to ensure that the best of on-line and face to face learning was taken forward with a balanced approach and that clarity and purpose of learning was paramount. 

General discussion

It was suggested that a more systematic examination of the wider teacher education system was needed that could include many of the issues discussed at this meeting. One member noted there was a strong connection between the Review of Curriculum for Excellence, the work being taken forward by CERG and teacher education. Andy Drought said that a formal review would be resource intensive, but asked the Board secretariat to give consideration to future agendas to support discussion of these important strategic issues.

Action point:

  • Scottish Government to structure future agendas to support discussion of key strategic issues

Work plan and action tracker  

Work plan  

Andy Drought asked members to send any comments on the work plan to the Secretariat and confirmed the action tracker would be updated following the meeting.  

Date of future meetings

Meetings will be held in February, May, September and November in 2021. However, there is the possibility the Board may decide to have additional special meetings where required.

Action point:    

  • Secretariat to confirm dates of future meetings

SBTE Secretariat
November 2020 
Strategic Board for Teacher Education

Action tracker (meeting 19)

  • Secretariat to publish minute of 14 September meeting and associated supporting papers on the Scottish Government website - SB
  • Scottish Government to consider issues raised on workforce planning and circulate to members evidence supporting a reduction of primary intake target - SR
  • Scottish Government to ask the Student Placement Management Group to review its communications with schools - SB
  • consider further geographical recruitment issues - SB
  • Education Scotland to ensure communications on professional learning joins up the offer from all partners - GH
  • Scottish Government to structure future agendas to support discussion of key strategic issues - SB
  • Secretariat to confirm dates of future meetings - SB


Strategic Board for Teacher Education meeting papers: November 2020

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