This month, after almost two years of waiting, the recommendations of the Donaldson report on teacher education have started to be translated into action.
The National Partnership Group, which the government appointed to represent universities, local authorities, schools, individual professionals and national organisations in seeing how Graham Donaldson's proposals in Teaching Scotland's Future could be implemented, finally reported - and the Scottish government responded with pound;3 million over the next three years to provide higher-quality learning for teachers.
The delay was attributed by government sources to the parliamentary recess and the education secretary's busy schedule. And suggestions that Michael Russell had asked for the implementation report to be "beefed up" were denied by the chairs of the group.
Little was changed between the draft and the final versions, says Richard Edwards, representing the Scottish Teacher Education Committee, and Glenn Rodger, for the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland - and indeed, the government has accepted the NPG's recommendations almost in their entirety.
That should come as no surprise, given that the third chair was Rachel Sunderland, head of the people and leadership unit in the Scottish government's learning directorate.
The NPG report contains no radical departures from Professor Donaldson's report. It endorses his key proposals on:
- concurrent degrees replacing traditional BEds;
- a better continuum from the start of initial teacher education throughout a teacher's career;
- a presumption that most continuing professional development should be of master's level;
- higher entry levels for teacher training;
- a stronger emphasis on aspiring teachers' literacy and numeracy standards;
- and a focus on leadership at local and national level.
The group has called for the creation of a National Implementation Board to take forward a number of its key recommendations, not least of which is its proposal for a Scottish College of Educational Leadership.
The learning minister Alasdair Allan has ruled out any possibility that the college will be a bricks and mortar one, but it will be up to the implementation board to devise a blueprint for its format.
Now that the report and the government's response to it are in the public domain, there is pressure to push ahead - hence the ambitious timetable for some of the recommendations (see panel, page 15).
Petra Wend, principal of Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh and an expert in leadership, has been appointed as chair of the implementation board. She will be expected to drive forward the leadership agenda that is integral to the report.
Partnership and the need for collaborative working are at the heart of the NPG's thinking, as they were for Graham Donaldson.
"If we are to achieve tangible improvements in the quality of students' experiences, effective collaborative partnerships between schools and universities must be an essential part of any future landscape," Professor Donaldson had said.
One of the NPG's recommendations is that "all local authorities and universities providing initial teacher education should enter into formal partnership arrangements by the start of the August 2013 academic year to help ensure this aspiration and the benefits that can be gained from effective partnerships, are made real".
This section of the report is "disappointingly vague", says Professor Donaldson. "Local partnerships should focus not on the process of partnership but on the impact they must have."
Glenn Rodger, co-chair of the NPG and director of education at Scottish Borders Council, envisages his authority entering into a formal partnership with the University of Edinburgh, largely on grounds of proximity, but also because it already engages closely with it. The difference in future would be that the relationship is more formally structured.
"If there is going to be a greater role played by practitioners in the assessment of students, what does that mean and how do we apply that at local level?" asks Mr Rodger, pointing to one of the areas that such a partnership agreement will have to address.
The partnership should not, he suggests, be focused solely on the initial teacher education phase. Instead it should encompass teachers' career-long professional development and leadership training.
But if classroom teachers are being expected to take on some of the student teacher assessment responsibilities previously carried out by university tutors, should universities not be expected to hand over some of their funding to schools?
It is not likely to be as straightforward as that, says Mr Rodger. "It might be that, rather than having a physical transfer of money, we say, `What should the total partnership look like?'"
So if schools are taking on a greater workload in terms of supporting student teachers, there may be a quid pro quo elsewhere, in the probation and lifelong career development phases, for instance, he says.
He points to the new "teaching hospital" model being developed in Glasgow, where the universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde are helping to fund a post based in the city council to coordinate the programme.
Mr Rodger insists that the NPG was right not to be too prescriptive in describing how local authorityuniversity partnerships should work, arguing that it should not be a "one size fits all" model.
"If there is a benefit for an authority in having two formal relationships with two universities, that's fine," he says.
A great deal of work will have to go on over the next few months, acknowledges Professor Edwards, head of the school of education at the University of Stirling. His own institution and the University of Edinburgh have created posts specifically to liaise with local authorities on partnership working, but he is keen to debunk suggestions that "every university will have a partnership with 32 authorities".
That each local authority might have a partnership with each university is equally "not credible" and would introduce a huge overhead into the system, he says.
When it comes to partnership, however, Scotland's seven institutes of teacher education will have to forge new relationships with each other. From a situation where they were essentially competing to attract students, undergraduate and postgraduate, in future they will be expected to accredit each other's courses as part of the focus on encouraging teachers to do more master's-level CPD and to manage an e-portfolio of career-long learning.
Professor Donaldson, former senior chief inspector of education, has made clear that he sees the most important aim of the report as raising the overall quality of teaching consistently across the country.
While some commentators, including the outgoing president of School Leaders Scotland, Neil Shaw, are concerned that the emphasis on master's- level professional learning lacks rationale and is simply aping practice in Finland, others' concerns lie more in how that goal is to be achieved.
Iain Smith, former dean of education at the University of Strathclyde, told TESS he felt the NPG report had been "largely silent" on the issue of improving continuing professional development for the whole school workforce, teachers and others.
"And where it is not silent, it seems sold on standalone online materials. We know such materials, while they have their place, simply do not work on their own," he says.
"Scottish schools need national CPD support, perhaps along the lines of what has been pioneered by organisations such as Tapestry and SSERC (Scottish Schools Education Resource Centre); and that needs some face-to- face interaction at national and local levels; and the organisation of teachers to work together, ie, not depending on them to interact as individuals with the Education Scotland website," he stresses.
Larry Flanagan is even more forthright in his comments about the state of some currently-available CPD.
"A lot of what is offered as CPD is mince," says the EIS general secretary, who says his union is keen to drive up standards of professional learning.
His main concern is how master's-level CPD will be resourced and whether teacher morale is sufficiently buoyant for individuals to want to self- finance additional study. He also feels the chartered teacher programme, which was at master's level, was dumped too hastily.
Mr Flanagan believes that without the financial incentives that were built into the chartered teacher programme, there will be relatively low take-up of master's-level study, or even the new Scottish Master's of Education - and that could, in turn, have implications for university provision.
Mr Rodger, on the other hand, believes that take-up will be healthy because a) teachers see it as good professional development per se and b) it will help them to move up the promotion ladder.
Delivery of the aims of both the Donaldson report and the subsequent NPG report is riding on the various sectors coming closer to each other's thinking and bringing about a change of culture.
Mr Flanagan believes that the NPG report has been driven by the university sector trying to find financial returns for itself.
"It seemed to be totally unaware of where schools and teachers actually were at the moment in terms of morale and workload. There needs to be an injection of reality into how some of these things will be taken forward and the pace at which they can be taken forward," he says.
Professor Edwards takes a very pro-teacher stance, however, railing against how some of the media covered the NPG report, concentrating almost exclusively on the literacy and numeracy failings of teachers and the need for them to be tested in these areas.
"Anyone who wants to focus on these things needs to spend time in classrooms watching teaching. Donaldson made the point that we are building on the strengths of teachers and that it is becoming a more challenging profession because the range of things young people have to learn is increasing and the complexity of the lives they are going to face is increasing," he explains.
"While the NPG proposals might not be perfect, they are a very good response to the challenges we will face in the future and that young people in schools will face in the future."
January 2011: Publication of Donaldson report, Teaching Scotland's Future.
March 2011: Creation of National Partnership Group, co-chaired by representatives of the Scottish government, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES), and the Scottish Teacher Education Committee (STEC), to implement the report.
June 2012: NPG submits draft report to the government.
September 2012: NPG submits final report to the government.
November 2012: Scottish government publishes its formal response to the NPG report, saying it will provide pound;3 million to provide higher-quality learning for teachers, the first pound;1 million to pay the course fees of teachers who were part-way through the chartered teacher programme when it was closed.
Case study: Glasgow West Teacher Education Initiative
The Glasgow West Teacher Education Initiative was piloted in 2011 and funded by the Scottish government. It involved a partnership between the University of Glasgow and the city council, but its most notable feature was its focus on "hub" or "teaching schools", similar to the teaching hospital model used to train doctors.
The concept of hub schools was proposed by Professor Graham Donaldson in his report, Teaching Scotland's Future, although it was not included in his list of recommendations.
The pilot project, which involved 31 student teachers doing two placements in a cluster of two secondary schools (Hillhead High and Notre Dame High) and 11 primary schools in the west end of Glasgow, has since been extended more widely in Glasgow and now involves the University of Strathclyde, Irvine Royal Academy in North Ayrshire, a cluster of schools in West Dunbartonshire and four secondaries and their associated primaries in North Lanarkshire.
The pilot entailed university tutors being placed in the "hub" schools on a full-time basis, with one of the schools hosting a weekly seminar. Students took part in "learning rounds" - a model of observational learning devised by Professor Richard Elmore of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
To oversee the development and roll-out of the programme, the position of teacher-education co-ordinator has been created and jointly-funded by the council and the two universities.
The key features of the programme were:
- University tutors working in a cluster of schools alongside students and teachers for the duration of each placement block;
- CPD for all school staff and tutors in advance of the scheme starting;
- Joint assessment of students by university and school staff leading to a single, agreed report;
- Regular seminars for all students in the cluster, to which all available school staff are invited and which school staff may sometimes lead;
- Each student hosting a learning round involving other students in their group, a university tutor and any invited teachers who observe and feed back in a non-judgemental way;
- Observed lessons by university tutors and teachers jointly;
- Collective support for students and staff.
The perceived benefits of the approach include better support for teachers in assessing students; joint assessment of student performance by tutors and teachers leading to a shared understanding of standards; CPD opportunities for teachers which could lead to professional recognition by the General Teaching Council for Scotland; better linking of the university experience with the school placement; and early intervention in addressing problematic issues.
Initial teething problems, which were subsequently addressed as the pilot project progressed, included a lack of uptake of opportunities by some teachers and some uncertainty over roles. Some students also expressed concern that the university tutors working in schools were not necessarily sector or subject specialists.
There has been a general move on the part of participating local authorities not to focus in future on specific "hub" schools but to spread the programme across all schools, largely on grounds of equity.
Future steps for implementation
Autumn 2012: Education Scotland to have published a framework for educational leadership.
Autumn 2012: National Implementation Board to be established.
January 2013: Education Scotland to have developed interim solution for replacing CPDFind with online support through a professional learning portal.
Spring 2013: General Teaching Council for Scotland to have undertaken a review of entry requirements to courses of initial teacher education.
June 2013: STEC to have delivered proposals for an agreed framework for accrediting prior learning and the creation of a Scottish Master's of Education.
August 2013: All local authorities and universities to have entered into partnership arrangements for the provision of initial teacher education and beyond.
August 2013: GTCS and Education Scotland to have developed an e-portfolio to record learning outcomes.
August 2013: Research to have been completed into government-led evaluation of routes to headship, including Scottish Qualification for Headship and Flexible Route to Headship.
August 2013: Scottish College for Educational Leadership to be established.
September 2013: Education Scotland to roll out pilots on diagnostic tests for student teachers' literacy and numeracy. National Implementation Board to have concluded evaluation of pilot studies for new model of professional learning.
Date to be confirmed: National Implementation Board to publish annually the key priorities for teacher learning.
August 2017: All aspiring headteachers required to hold a qualification or professional award in educational leadership.