“Teaching Scotland’s Future”

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 9th March 2011.

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Photo of Angela Constance Angela Constance Scottish National Party

There are three pillars to our approach to improving education in Scotland. The first is curriculum for excellence, which has now been successfully implemented in every school in Scotland.

The second is financial stability. The Scottish Government has set up an independent review of teacher employment to be chaired by Professor Gerry McCormac, to provide us with recommendations in the summer. That review and the review of teacher education in Scotland will deal with closely related issues, and we will have to consider them together. The cabinet secretary’s appointment of Graham Donaldson to the review of teacher employment group will, I hope, facilitate that process.

The third pillar is the continued pursuit of excellence in teaching—the subject of today’s statement. “Teaching Scotland’s Future” was published on 13 January. It is a groundbreaking piece of work. We believe that internationally it is the first to consider, as a single system, the full spectrum of teacher education and professional development. I therefore restate the Government’s thanks to Graham Donaldson and his team—I am pleased to note that Mr Donaldson is in the public gallery today. His report sets out a challenging agenda that the Scottish Government has no hesitation in accepting. We must now work to achieve the vision that it sets out.

Graham Donaldson makes it clear that, as we take forward that positive direction, we build on solid foundations. Scotland’s teaching workforce is well prepared and well supported. His 50 recommendations are designed to build on that strong base, ensuring that good practice is spread across the whole system.

As we undertake the work, it is increasingly understood that the public, private and third sectors must work together and with young people, families and communities to ensure that the full range of positive outcomes is delivered. There is agreement that early intervention to address risks, using the principles of getting it right for every child, is key to improving the life chances of those who might otherwise not achieve positive outcomes. We need to ensure that, through their education and development, teachers are enabled to contribute to that agenda.

I cannot during this statement refer to each of the 50 recommendations that Graham Donaldson made. The full Government response can be found on both the Scottish Government and review websites, and it indicates that we accept—in full, in part or in principle—each of the recommendations. Copies of our response can also be found at the back of the chamber.

I will highlight key aspects of the report that we need to take forward to achieve its vision. The most important partners in achieving that vision are teachers themselves. “Teaching Scotland’s Future” offers the opportunity to reinvigorate the concept of teacher professionalism.

Local authorities and universities have crucial roles in supporting teachers and working more closely together, and the report also highlights the contribution of national bodies. Making those partnerships work at a time of financial constraint will need detailed planning around implications—financial and otherwise.

To take forward many of the main recommendations in the report, the Government will set up a national partnership group for “Teaching Scotland’s Future”. In that spirit of partnership, we have asked the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland and the Scottish Teacher Education Committee—representing the universities—to co-chair the group alongside the Scottish Government. It will include other important national stakeholders, such as the General Teaching Council for Scotland and the new national agency for quality improvement in education. We will also ensure that it includes front-line teachers and school leaders—those who have to make any arrangements work on the ground.

The national partnership group will have a challenging agenda. It will look in detail at how partnerships between schools, local authorities, universities and others can deliver the best quality in teacher education across the range of a teacher’s career. An important part of that will be developing opportunities to work towards masters-level qualifications. Through this development, we are moving towards highly successful models of teaching seen elsewhere in the world, encouraging a thirst for knowledge and intellectual ambition in the profession.

That is a challenging agenda. That is why we will set up the partnership working group immediately and ask it to report back on its proposed work programme by September 2011.

We have also identified two areas in which it would be helpful for the group to devolve some of its work, and two working groups, reporting to the national partnership group, will be set up. The first will look at areas of priority—such as specific curriculum areas or aspects of learning and teaching—that might be important to address at different stages in teachers’ careers. The second specific group will be asked to develop the clear and progressive educational leadership pathway that “Teaching Scotland’s Future” suggests.

The important work that the national partnership group will take forward and oversee will set a substantial and demanding agenda into the medium term. However, “Teaching Scotland’s Future” sets out other directions that we need to build on now. That includes inviting the GTCS, as it moves towards its new independent status, as agreed by the Education, Lifelong Learning and Culture Committee last week, to consider how it might develop a more coherent approach to teaching standards. The GTCS will also be an important partner in work with the universities to reconceptualise and develop the traditional bachelor of education degree through which many of our teachers, especially primary teachers, come into teaching.

A final area in which we need to take steps now is in ensuring that the right people enter initial teacher education. Therefore, the Government will work with partners to improve selection procedures. Universities are autonomous institutions with the right to select their own students; however, they must also accept that there is a legitimate wider public interest in who trains to become a teacher.

As we discuss those wider ways forward on selection, there are areas in which we need to take decisive steps to ensure quality. We need to ensure that teachers have secured the higher level of literacy and numeracy skills that they need to develop those skills in others. Therefore, we will build on the existing high standards within the teaching workforce overall by undertaking work to ensure that new entrants to the profession have or develop appropriate standards of literacy and numeracy. We will take that forward vigorously and will aim to pilot approaches with the new student intake in 2012.

As we work with our partners, the actions that I have set out today will provide a collective challenge to us all. Professor Lindsay Paterson, writing in last week’s Times Educational Supplement, captures that well. He points to the role that we, in this chamber, must play alongside the universities, schools and others. I conclude with his words:

“The stability of purpose needed for lasting reform will require political consensus and strong leadership nationally. This revolution depends on us all.”