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Teacher swaps to boost learning

East Lothian is to set up a voluntary teacher exchange scheme in the next school session to spearhead improvements in the way pupils learn and teachers teach.

The initiative is part of an ambitious project called Exc-El, which has already set up a website to stimulate contact between teachers, as well as providing access to information and ideas.

The exchange scheme would allow staff to broaden their experience and see a wider range of practice. There has long been concern among teachers themselves, not just education officials, that they do not have enough opportunities to see beyond their own department or school.

The authority is organising a series of open forums , or "engine rooms", to discuss how the plans can be developed. These would also be used as a way of dealing with the many initiatives which land on schools and which are not always regarded as compatible with what schools want to do.

Interviews with staff have already taken place to help shape the Exc-El project, and East Lothian hopes that within five years it will be recognised as a leading authority in Scotland and the UK. It aims to develop "a coherent, sustainable and proven model of improvement which can be shared with others".

In a report to the council's education committee on Tuesday, David Cameron, head of education, stated: "The main focus of this was to seek views on why there appears to have been relatively little change in pupils' experiences and achievements despite the tremendous amount of apparent change there has been in school over recent years.

"There was a high degree of consensus among all those involved that schools had been asked to make too many changes and had never been given the time for these changes to bed in fully."

Mr Cameron went on to underline the importance of "transformational change" if there is to be a dramatic change in pupil achievement. "The clear implication of this view is that we need to focus on the quality of teaching," he said, but added: "There is no single way to teach effectively and we need to build on the strengths of staff rather than work towards a particular model."

The task is to achieve "a measurable shift in teachers' positive perception towards the teaching and learning initiative".

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