Career-long path to raise productivity

11th May 2001 at 01:00
Willis Pickard opens a four-page special focus on professional development by asking what the 35 hours a year provision built into post-McCrone contracts will really mean for teachers

From 2003, every teacher will have to do 35 hours of professional development every year. It will no longer be a matter of choice or chance: it is built into the post-McCrone package on pay and conditions.

This is focusing Scottish Executive minds as they strive to put flesh on the bones of the deal, and since the agreement in January was tripartite, it also places responsibility on the local authority employers and the unions.

The principle is one of cradle-to-grave provision during the working life of a teacher. Indeed, it starts before teachers enter the first classroom of their own, because the Scottish Executive sees the plans for initial teacher education as forming the start of a continuum.

A short-term review of how initial teacher education operates is under way. After the summer it will be followed by a wider inquiry which will involve as much of the education community as wants to put its oar in.

The extent of the trawl for ideas represents the ideal that ministers would like to extend to professional development generally. As one source said, the process is as important as the outcome. That could be fashionable rhetoric or it could signify a genuine belief that only if classroom teachers, the leaders of the profession and their employers all have a say in continuing professional development will it work, because only then will a sense of ownership be achieved. Yet another imposition on busy teachers is what, in theory at least, the Executive seeks to avoid.

So let's say our young teacher has gone through initial training - in the improved way that the current review is looking for. Newly qualified, he or she embarks on a one-year probation and works to a new standard being developed by, among others, the General Teaching Council for Scotland. Because the standard will be a national benchmark, achieving full registration should be less risky.

With support in school, the new teacher engages on appropriate work to cover the 35 hours a year of CPD. Like more experienced colleagues, he will be logging CPD activities in a portfolio. The nature of the portfolio, which will be the teacher's career-long vade-mecum, is at present the subject of detailed preparation in a ministerial committee, but again the views of the profession and employers are being canvassed because a balance is sought between core components, which will give it a national, transferable character, and options that may vary across authorities. Evaluation to ensure a professional standard is cardinal and is being developed in conjunction with the General Teaching Council.

So what will CPD consist of? Not just courses and formal qualifications, and that will affect who sets out to be a provider. The university education faculties intend remaining key players, and learndirect.scotland will also have a role. Other recognised providers could include employers and the unions. The Educational Institute of Scotland is already getting involved in CPD, not least because training for activists will include portfolio-worthy activities.

Taking on responsibilities in school will rank with attending courses to notch up a tacher's 35 hours, and since one of the past criticisms of CPD has been the time wasted on attending tokenistic sessions of no relevance to a teacher's working life, the emphasis on recognised provision through day-to-day school activities is likely to grow. Here, surely, should be an opportunity to make sport and other pupil-oriented out-of-hours involvement count if CPD is meant to show commitment beyond class teaching.

January's report A Teaching Profession for the 21st Century sets out a new promotion structure and the notion of a chartered teacher. Both tie in with CPD. Every teacher in Scotland is about to be asked to contribute to the Executive's thinking on chartered teachers as part of the work of a consortium comprising the management consultancy firm of Arthur Andersen and Edinburgh and Strathclyde universities. Bill Thomson, of Strathclyde's professional development unit, said that consultation had to demonstrate "support from stakeholders, not by simply flying in and saying 'Here it is' ".

Chartered teachers will have demonstrated, partly through their portfolios, skills in the classroom. They will also be expected to have mastered ideas about the theory of learning and teaching that build upon their initial teacher education experience.

Striking the balance between principles and practice poses a challenge in marking out chartered teacher territory, but the Executive hopes several things will be clear. There will be recognised qualifications and independent assessment; there will be no cap on the numbers eligible for the status and the pay that goes with it.

What about teachers affected by the changes to the existing promotion structure? Much work remains to be done in defining the new "principal teacher". It is less of a priority than the chartered teacher. The new principal teachers, who will be in primaries as well as secondaries, need to know what should be expected of them. The fear is that without rigorous definition they will be promoted dogsbodies.

In some ways setting parameters for headteachers is easier. Their benchmark qualification already exists but is being reviewed. The issue of support for, and requirements of, existing heads, as opposed to aspirants, has to be looked at, too.

In the staffroom our eager-beaver probationer sits down beside a 50-plus greybeard, traditionally time-serving and cynical. Not for him, surely, 35 more hours' CPD with no end in sight except the pension that can't come soon enough.

The national agreement sees it differently. It hopes that long-serving teachers will find a new challenge or be allowed to wind down productively through a scheme due to start next year. Although promotion may not be on any 50-plus agenda, changing demands may offer opportunities such as CPD in mentoring. Taking on responsibility for a school's commitment to social inclusion or equality is another possibility.



One-year probation standard; Review of headteachers' qualification and support for practising heads; Winding-down scheme ready.


All teachers committed to 35 hours a year of CPD; Nature of portfolio agreed; Recognised providers in place; Chartered teacher status defined; Job-sizing exercise for senior promoted staff completed; Principal teachers' parameters being set.

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