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Scotland opts out of teacher rankings

Scotland's decision to opt out of an international programme for measuring teacher quality is a "missed opportunity", according to the new head of educational analysis at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Michael Davidson said he believed it would improve standards in Scottish education if it participated in Talis (Teaching and Learning International Survey), which is linked to the Pisa survey.

In Scotland, the biggest gap in its pupils' attainment levels was within schools - not across schools.

"The people that can address that are teachers and schools. Unless we know more internationally about how teachers fare - their strengths and weaknesses - it is difficult for policy-makers and practitioners to move forwards fast in improving standards," he said.

The first Talis results were published by the OECD in 2008; the next are due in 2013 when some 30 countries or regions will take part, including England.

A Scottish government spokesman said it was "mindful of the burden surveys can place on the teaching profession". "Teachers are already asked to participate in the Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy teacher questionnaire and the Behaviour in Scottish Schools Survey. Scotland also participates in the international Pisa survey. Moreover, it should be noted that Scotland is by no means the only nation not signing up to Talis at present," he said.

Ken Cunningham, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, agreed, saying: "You would like to think Scotland would come out fairly high (in Talis). But there is a real danger that you jump into something that is too simplistic and formulaic and find yourself playing to the tests."

But Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the EIS union, said "an outward- looking confident country should be prepared to participate in well- recognised, authoritative international studies".

And Lindsay Paterson, professor of education at the University of Edinburgh, said Talis would place Scotland on the international stage and allow it to learn from other countries how to make the most of the interesting developments that were already under way.

"Talis deals rigorously with many topics which are at the heart of crucial initiatives the Scottish Government has admirably taken - notably on effective teaching, on school leadership, on teacher education," he said.

TESS Interview, page 16.

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