The last report by HMIE on the implementation of the national teachers' agreement found signs that they were working together in a more collegiate way and there were better approaches to continuing professional development.
Nearly three years on, the inspectorate finds encouraging practice in many, but not all, schools. And the impact of the greater opportunities for teachers' CPD on pupils' learning, as well as the benefits of collegiality and chartered teachers, is not clear enough.
These factors are the holy grail if Curriculum for Excellence is to be implemented successfully, according to the HMIE report, Learning Together: Improving Teaching, Improving Learning.
But failure to use available resources to the full could lead to superficial change, it warns. And there is a risk that energies are directed towards activities which will not lead to the outcomes for learners sought under CfE.
"Will children and young people gain, for example, deeper conceptual understanding, more developed powers of analysis and more firmly- established skills in literacy and numeracy? Will they develop attributes such as resilience and discernment more fully?" asks the report.
These outcomes will follow, HMIE suggests, only if schools do the following:
- improve the rigour of professional review and development; in the best practice, these discussions are informed by the line manager's direct knowledge of the teacher's strengths and development needs in teaching, gained through observation and discussion;
- pay more attention to the CPD needs of support staff, which are identified less systematically than those of teachers;
- continue to use existing staff expertise as well as that of external providers for locally-based CPD;
- capitalise on high-quality online resources for self-directed learning, such as Glow, the schools' intranet service, and HMIE's own Journey to Excellence online resource;
- extend the use of joint training with other children's services staff beyond the usual partnership of senior staff and teachers with a pastoral remit;
- improve curriculum and subject-specific CPD for both primary and secondary stages, which is uneven across the country; priorities include aspects of science, modern languages, and financial education and "concept development" in mathematics;
- improve training for pre-school staff to develop their understanding of children's learning;
- introduce a more consistent approach to the professional development of youth workers and others involved in community learning and development.
The report nevertheless identifies "encouraging features of progress": CPD is being embedded more fully in the life and work of schools; there was evidence of enhanced teacher professionalism and raised morale where teachers were directly involved in activities to implement CfE; and evidence of a positive impact on children's learning through teachers using the Assessment is For Learning programme.
Some schools used pupil questionnaires to evaluate the impact of CPD programmes, ranging from co-operative learning to critical skills.
A few now involve support staff in collegiate-time activities but this broader involvement of staff in school-improvement activities is not widespread, says the report. Again, only a few schools involve support staff in working groups.
Some authorities have established secondary subject networks which provide a forum for specialist development and learning and are open to all teachers, not only principal teachers, which had been the case formerly.
VARIATION ON CT ACCREDITATION
HMIE also found a wide variation between authorities in the number of chartered teachers who had gained accreditation or who were en route to it; in some there were around 40 per 1,000 teachers and in others more than 100 per 1,000 teachers.
Although the number of CTs was growing, said HMIE, the number currently fell well below the level required for an average of one chartered teacher in each school. Nevertheless, there was "real potential" for this group of teachers to make a significant impact on the learning of children in Scotland.