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Learning reps left out in the cold

Headteachers and continuing professional development co-ordinators are still ignoring union learning representatives, according to new research carried out for the Educational Institute of Scotland.

Speaking at the annual conference of the International Professional Development Association in Belfast last month, Alex Alexandrou, of Edinburgh University, warned that the reps, established to promote learning for staff, were handicapped by senior managers.

"Over the past six years, the EIS has trained up more than 100 learning reps. However, schools are not taking advantage of their expertise," says Dr Alexandrou, who was commissioned to undertake a two-part evaluation of their impact.

"The reluctance of headteachers to engage with learning reps could be down to lack of time or lack of interest in CPD. Yet learning reps can complement the work of the CPD co-ordinator in school by helping to reduce the cynicism some teachers have towards CPD."

Despite the black cloud over schools, Dr Alexandrou, who completed the first project in 2006, has uncovered a growing enthusiasm in national and local government.

"There has been a real change in attitudes to learning reps between the first and second phase of the project," adds Dr Alexandrou. "The strategic stakeholders such as Learning and Teaching Scotland and the Scottish Government are very supportive. The message is getting out there, but it needs to feed down into the schools."

The EIS has staged events with local authorities, promoting CPD to heads, to demonstrate how learning reps can support CPD co-ordinators. The idea is to force a change of attitude in schools. However, the findings have shown that up to 80 per cent of school learning reps still do not have formal time off and are carrying out their duties in their own time.

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