Six months ago, we carried a story which declared: "It's the teachers, stupid". This, in essence, was the conclusion of an influential report from the global consultancy firm, McKinsey (co-written by Sir Michael Barber, a major figure behind Labour's school reforms in England over the past decade). It argued that raising the status and quality of teachers must be at the heart of any attempt to create a world-class education system.
Since devolution, Scottish ministers have invested many millions in teachers' professional development. Although CPD budgets are becoming an easy target for cost-cutting councils, there has been progress: no longer is CPD equated with sending teachers on external courses, many of questionable quality. It is now very school-oriented and classroom-based, a trend endorsed in the IPPR report. There is plenty of evidence that this is an effective way of building teachers' professionalism and raising school standards.
In Finland, which has perhaps the most successful schools in the world, teachers have an afternoon a week to plan, teach, and evaluate. Non-contact time, if used well, ought to provide these opportunities. The thrust ought to be about teachers seizing control of their own development, which can only be to the good. Perhaps, in the future, The Simpsons caricature will be seen as just that, a relic from times which have passed.