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Go back to school, key Scottish education agencies told

Qualifications and inspection organisations' staff are too 'distant' and should visit schools to shadow teachers, says parliamentary report

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Qualifications and inspection organisations' staff are too 'distant' and should visit schools to shadow teachers, says parliamentary report

Staff from Scotland’s national qualifications and curriculum-development organisations have been told to go back to school because they are too remote and do not understand how much bureaucracy they impose on teachers.

The call to provide “practical placements” for staff at the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and Education Scotland – which is responsible for both curriculum development and inspection – comes in a report into teacher workforce planning.

But the recommendation has been dismissed as “shallow” by Scotland’s biggest teaching union, which said that it would not help to address the critical issue of teacher workload.

The Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee report says that “for many teachers, the public bodies responsible for providing support to them were too distant” and recommended that they “go ‘back to the classroom’ to develop a clearer understanding of the challenges faced by Scotland’s teachers”.

These short placements would involve staff “shadowing a range of teachers” to gain “a deeper understanding” of how time-consuming SQA and Education Scotland processes are for teachers.

Reducing workload

Committee convener James Dornan added: “We are recommending reducing the ‘box-ticking’ elements of [teachers’] roles; providing financial reward and status for classroom teachers; providing more promotion opportunities; and setting manageable workloads for headteachers.”

The report also calls for “unnecessary barriers” to be removed to make it easier for teachers from outside Scotland to work in the country as one remedy to the teacher recruitment crisis.

EIS union general secretary Larry Flanagan said that “the notion of practical placements in schools for SQA and Education Scotland staff may appear to have a superficial attraction but it is a shallow, and somewhat trivial, response to concerns about teacher workload”.

He added that recommendations about lowering “overly restrictive” entry standards to teaching and allowing greater “flexibility” in recruiting from outside Scotland were “worrying” and “do not sit well with the need to maintain high professional standards”.

Mr Flanagan was supportive, however, of the report’s recommendations for better salaries and career pathways.

A spokeswoman for the General Teaching Council for Scotland said it had “already introduced steps to improve flexibility in registering applicants from outside Scotland”.

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