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No to OECD teacher survey

The Scottish Executive has turned down an invitation from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to participate in an international survey of teachers, similar to its survey on pupil attainment.

Scotland has performed above the OECD average in the three areas of pupil assessment surveyed under the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) - reading literacy, maths and science.

However, the Executive has told the OECD that gains associated with participation in the first such survey of teacher attitudes and competences would be outweighed by the cost and bureaucracy involved.

The first international survey of teachers, likely to be published in 2007, will focus on their views on continuing professional development and school leadership. It is also likely to include information on qualifications, competence levels and shortages.

A spokeswoman for the Executive said: "We decided not to take part after looking at the proposed focus of the survey. We are always mindful of the burden such large-scale surveys can place on schools and teachers, and we decided in this instance that the additional knowledge that would be gained by the survey would be outweighed by the burden on schools and the costs involved."

She added that the Executive already collected much of the information that the OECD would be assessing through other means such as the teachers'

census. The OECD survey would be on a 12-yearly cycle, which was too long to establish useful trends. "This has to be viewed separately from the Pisa results, which are a valid way of looking at how Scotland performs on the world stage, and the Education Minister's plans for a benchmarking club, which is a good way of comparing Scotland with similar countries."

However, Fiona Hyslop, SNP shadow education minister, called the decision "very short-sighted".

"Scotland is likely to perform well in such surveys. At a time when the Scottish Qualifications Authority is trying to export Scottish education qualifications, a good performance in such surveys would have a long-term benefit for Scottish education," Ms Hyslop said. "It would be a shot in the arm for a workforce which is continually under pressure from many quarters."

She said that in this kind of survey it was the long-term trends that were significant and which allowed proper analysis.

But David Eaglesham, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers'

Association, supported the Executive's reasoning and said that people were "continually obsessed with measuring things".

"It is the old thing of people knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing," Mr Eaglesham said. "My worry about the whole thing is that it penetrates sufficiently into the system to then become an end in itself rather than telling us something that is valuable."

Another concern was that such a survey might show that Scottish standards for teachers were unnecessarily ahead of other countries - and might make it tempting to ease back.

Michael Davidson, an analyst in the OECD's education directorate, said the organisation wanted to paint a descriptive picture of the teacher workforce. This might include gathering information about qualifications, career experience and age demographics.

The two key policy issues were continuing professional development and school leadership.

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