The Educational Institute of Scotland is well on its way to meeting its initial target of 50 local authority-based learning representatives, with at least one in each authority and additional personnel in larger areas.
If this year's tranche all pass the required online Masters level postgraduate course in June, there will be 47 qualified school representatives plus 13 further education representatives. Eventually there should be a learning rep in every educational establishment in Scotland.
Their role is to research continuing professional development opportunities and to inform teachers about quality training. They also support teachers in accessing chartered teacher courses, leadership and management courses, the Scottish Qualification for Headship and other accredited study. And they work with local authorities to identify CPD needs and encourage the introduction of quality programmes.
"People are coming forward because they see this as a way of helping colleagues and believe they can give support others can't," says Lyn McClintock, the project administrator.
"Local authorities have their own CPD co-ordinators, but we felt that our members were more likely to come forward to speak to their peers. We are not competing with local authority co-ordinators.
"Our learning reps give independent advice and have no agenda to push people in any direction. They simply give advice on the best CPD opportunities available," she says.
The online course, run in conjunction with the University of Paisley, takes about four months to complete. It involves at least 150 hours of work, including two assignments. There are no face-to-face meetings, although there is a discussion board and the EIS does encourage aspiring reps to meet those already doing such work.
"Most reps have done a chartered teacher course, which enables them to offer advice," says Ms McClintock. "Their understanding is based on experience of mentoring others and they know how to juggle time to manage substantial CPD."
Part of the success relates to the role being seen as a congenial trade union position. It is not confrontational and has nothing to do with salary or grievance procedures. "As a result we have members acting or training as learning reps who were previously not active in the union," she says.
Hugh Donnelly, one of four EIS local authority level representatives in Glasgow, says enquiries tend to come from schools without their own CPD co-ordinators. Questions range from "What control will I have over my own CPD development?" to "What are the routes, time and costs involved?"
"I've only been doing it for this session and I find it rewarding," he says. "To me, it's part of lifelong learning. It's about keeping yourself and your colleagues in touch with developments in communication and CPD opportunities.
"Being a learning rep gives you a perspective on developments, which helps you manage your classroom work," he says.
Mr Donnelly, who teaches English and French at Hillpark Secondary, gets the equivalent of a half-day per week for such duties, but he has to watch time carefully, as he is taking a chartered teacher course as well as being an accredited lecturer at Paisley University. "Time is very precious. It is a commitment but a worthwhile and rewarding one," he says.
The EIS is also piloting an undergraduate course with Paisley for teachers and FE lecturers who want to be learning representatives in a school or college.
"The postgraduate Masters module is at too high a level for single establishment learning reps, so we are piloting this course with the first 17 teachers and three FE lecturers completing it this month," says Ms McClintock. These new representatives will work in conjunction with the local authority representatives.