The Scottish Government accepted, “in full or in part”, all the recommendations in ‘Teaching Scotland’s Future’ and established a body called the National Partnership Group (NPG) to pull together a plan regarding how the recommendations might be implemented. This group was jointly chaired by representatives of teacher education institutions, ADES (Association of Directors of Education in Scotland) and the Scottish Government. This group formally submitted its report – really a proposed action plan – to the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Michael Russell MSP, on 18 September 2012. The report contains a detailed action plan which builds on the recommendations in Donaldson’s report and sets them to a very ambitious timetable.
On the 6th December 2012 Mr Russell responded to the NPG chairs indicating that he remained committed to the agenda set by Donaldson, accepted all the recommendations of the NPG and set about putting their recommendations into action. The first of these was to establish an Implementation Board which would push forward action on all the NPG recommendations. This board will have its first meeting on 13 December. The group will have ten members under the leadership of an independent chair – Professor Petra Wend who is the Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Queen Margaret University. There are two seats on the group for school based professionals. One will be taken up by a representative of class teacher unions and the other will be a representative of ‘Headteachers’. Jim Thewliss, former Vice-Convener of the GTCS and head of Harris Academy in Dundee will represent AHDS and SLS (our sister organisation for school leaders in Scottish secondary education) on the board.
The NPG recommendations
The report runs to twenty-six pages (and has six appendices which add about fifty more pages) and as such cannot be fully summarised here but there are three main strands to the NPG recommendations:
– Initial teacher education and early career development
– Career long professional learning
Much of what is contained in these recommendations may not be new to you as many of them are not new concepts or have been progressed to some degree since Donaldson’s report at the end of 2010. Some recommendations have been wholly overtaken (or perhaps implemented) by ongoing activity of other agencies – one such example is the considerable work being undertaken by GTCS and partners to implement professional update. AHDS has been closely involved in this important work and very much supports the GTCS focus on the need to revitalise the PRD processes in operation across Scotland as a foundation for Professional Update but also as good practice for a developing profession.
The developments in the GTCS work have been covered widely in the media and have been highlighted through these pages. They also cover the bulk of the recommendations falling into ‘career long professional learning’ in the NPG report. With that in mind we will focus on the planned changes to ITE & early career development and Leadership.
Initial teacher education and early career development
In the NPG report this section is referred to as ‘Integrated Early Career’ which describes fairly succinctly the aims and ambitions for the recommendations and action in this area. Recommendations relate to initial teacher education, induction and the early years of employment. These were, previously, largely seen as separate sequential steps in teacher development but are now being planned as a single continuous experience.
ITE will change considerably. Traditional BEd degree courses will be phased out and replaced with degrees which combine preparation for teaching with “in-depth academic study beyond the field of education”. This was a core recommendation of Donaldson and its implementation has already begun across Scotland. Traditional BEd courses will be phased out by 2017 and will no doubt be subject to considerable change over that period. This means considerable efforts on the part of universities and also brings an added dimension of complexity to teacher workforce planning since there will be a change to the type of qualification gained by teachers and a risk of greater ‘leakage’ to other professions. This will be an area to watch as the new system develops.
Other changes to ITE and the probation year are very much focussed on the ‘integrated’ element of the section title. A short quote from the NPG report explains the vision:
“Continuing engagement of universities in all stages of teacher education alongside an increasing role and responsibility for the teaching profession in supporting and assessing student teachers will result in a number of benefits for student teachers, probationers and school communities more widely. These benefits will include a closer linking of theory and practice, improved continuity in student and probationer placements and the creation of a mutually beneficial exchange between professionals in the school and university sectors…in the long term a more coherent early phase of a teacher’s career will result in the development of professionals with heightened skills and confidence. Ultimately this will result in improved outcomes for children and young people.”
The mechanism for achieving this will be formal partnerships between universities and local authorities. The vision aspires to partnerships which go well beyond the initial teacher education phase. The report sets out key elements which should be part of agreements. One of these elements, which you will have no doubt picked up from the reference in the quote above, is that “school based staff should have the prime role in the assessment of students when on placement”. There are clear potential workload implications for schools flowing from this. The report goes on to say that these must be taken into account in the design of the system but it will critical that school leaders are engaged in the process of agreeing partnership agreements – particularly where they will result in additional workload for them or for their staff.
Extracting leadership themes from the report is slightly more problematic as one of the core principles espoused is that leadership development should be ‘in with the bricks’ of teacher development. Indeed the theme of leadership shares a chapter of the report with career-long professional development. That said, there are three specific elements relating to leadership which will be of considerably more than a passing interest to aspirant and existing school leaders.
- A Framework for Educational Leadership
Annex C to the report is ‘The Framework for Educational Leadership in Scotland’. This was developed in response to Donaldson’s recommendation that a clear leadership pathway should be developed for aspirant leaders. The NPG felt that a ‘pathway’ suggested an artificially linear career progression and that a ‘framework’ better recognised the reality of the multitude of different career histories and approaches possible. The report suggests that the framework should be used “…as the basis for professional development planning, both for themselves and for the leaders that they support.” We would be interested to know your thoughts.
- Qualifications for Educational Leadership
The report makes clear that within five years all aspiring school leaders should have
“…an appropriate qualification or professional award in leadership, as evidence of meeting the Standard for Headship, before being appointed.”
The reason for doing this is to seek to ensure continued improvement in the standard of education leadership in Scotland’s schools. This is an aspiration which AHDS supports but it is not without difficulties. There is already a real problem attracting applicants for headteacher posts in Scotland (and to a lesser degree DHT and PT posts). This new approach will need to be carefully managed to ensure that it does not add to the problem. With this determination only taking effect five years from now there should be adequate time to develop the routes to evidencing the standard for headship and to get enough candidates on to the programme to ensure that there are sufficient quality candidates for selection panels to choose from. That said, there is a lot of work to be done to make this happen and AHDS looks forward to being part of that.
- Scottish College for Educational Leadership
There has been considerable discussion about what this college might look like, indeed there has been discussion about the establishment of such a college for a number of years. The difference this time round is that the establishment of the college has been proposed by Graham Donaldson, endorsed and expanded by the NPG and their recommendation has been passed to an implementation group to deliver.
While the report is not entirely clear about how the college will look it is absolutely clear that the college should: provide a focus for educational leadership (in and beyond school education); develop new leadership qualifications for school leaders; maintain the Framework for Educational Leadership; act as a portal to high quality learning experiences; commission learning opportunities; provide opportunities for leaders to share skills and expertise with colleagues from across the country and consider the development of national and local leaders in education.
These are all exciting developments in education leadership. They recognise and should provide a sustained focus on high quality leadership development. AHDS will have a keen interest in all of the work of the Implementation Board with a particular interest in these leadership-focussed plans.
Whether you view it as an evolution or a revolution in teacher education AHDS will continue to be involved in the discussion, debate and implementation over time. We would welcome your views on any or all of this now or as you start to see elements of it come through in LEA planning or in school (firstname.lastname@example.org).