Fiona Hyslop

27th November 2009 at 00:00
Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop's speech to the School Leaders Scotland annual conference in Cumbernauld

Thank you Carole for that introduction and thank you colleagues for inviting me to address you.

I want to use most of my time with you today to focus on your conference theme of `Respecting Professionalism'. I will:

  • Set out my vision for education in Scotland.
  • Set out what the demands are, as I see them - essentially what do we mean when we talk about teacher professionalism and leadership in the context of Curriculum for Excellence.
  • Finally, I will set out where we are now and what the key steps are as continue to strengthen the system. As I do that I will set out my views on HMIE's "Improving teaching, improving learning" report published on Wednesday. As part of that I will reflect on some of the core messages emerging about CPD and, building on that, I will make an announcement about an important next step in relation to the range of teacher education, including professional development.
    • However, before I move on to address those points, I want to deal head-on with a couple of the controversies that we've seen recently.

      It is disappointing that, as we look back on a period of significant achievements over the last year, we have to deal with persistent misconceptions, generated from both within and outwith the profession. I welcome debate but it must be based on reality and avoid over-simplification.

      The first of those sets of misconceptions has been around assessment and qualifications. I respect Carole Ford and her achievements but I believe the coverage surrounding her speech has generated much more heat than light.

      We can all agree that we need to ensure that Curriculum for Excellence delivers high quality learning and teaching, with effective arrangements for assessment and qualifications that follow and support the new curriculum.

      Both the new Assessment Strategy which I published in September and the direction for new National Qualifications I announced in June are designed to raise standards and expectations in a way which many of you have argued for in the past.

      It is not the case that the views of SLS and the other headteacher associations have not been taken into account in those developments. I am proud of the unparalleled involvement of the education profession in its development and SLS has been involved at every stage.

      From that involvement you should know that detailed arrangements have not yet been set out. That's because many of your fellow professionals are still helping to shape them and I will ensure that they continue to do so.

      For example, on Wednesday the Qualifications Governing Group discussed ideas for assessment of National 4 and 5, focusing on how they can be structured to support learning and recognise achievement, without creating unnecessary hoops for learners to jump through.

      To do this requires a new approach and a new mindset. We simply won't have the same approach to unit assessment and we will recognise the difference between different subjects. Of course, a lot of work remains to be done to make this a reality but in the case of National 4 and 5, we are talking about qualifications which won't be in place until 201314. We need to use this development period for constructive dialogue.

      SLS will continue to be involved in discussions and decision-making on those elements, in particular through the Management Board and Qualifications Governing Group.

      You can do that in the knowledge that your involvement has already been influential. It was this Government who put SLS on the Management Board. It was this Government and me personally who stood by the advice of SLS and headteachers not to have an external exam for National 4. I was heavily attacked, you may recall, by sections of the media for that decision - but I respected your professional advice. It was unfortunate that Carol forgot that in her speech.

      All of these developments promote higher quality learning and teaching and give more autonomy and professional responsibility to teachers - I know that is important to you, given the theme of your conference.

      That ethos of professional responsibility also underpins the national system of quality assurance and moderation for 3 to 18, which will be developed to support educational professionals in achieving greater consistency and confidence in their professional judgments.

      The next steps are clear.

      • The Framework for Assessment will be published early in the New Year to provide more detailed guidance on the parameters and approaches to assessment in Curriculum for Excellence.
      • We will also provide detailed guidance on the Quality Assurance and Moderation system that will be put in place to support the Framework. The Framework will be followed by practical examples to illustrate the standards and further support will be given from summer 2010 through the new National Assessment Resource. Literacy and numeracy across curriculum areas, stages and experiences and outcomes will be an initial priority for the National Assessment Resource.
      • The SQA will continue working on the new qualifications. Their development programme will involve extensive engagement with the profession on the practical detail of the proposals.
      • LTS also has a key role in all these developments and will be keen to hear your views.
      • As I highlighted earlier, these changes have at their heart an increased focus on, and respect for, the autonomy and professional responsibility of teachers. I will ensure that continues to be the case.
      • And I can assure you that this Government does not make policy based on the front page of TESS. So there will be no assessment of the four capacities for you to worry about.
        • It is particularly unfortunate that we have to deal with misconceptions like these from within the profession, while also facing under-informed and simplistic analysis from outside it.

          This has been a year of successful achievement by pupils - and their teachers - across Scotland. Together they have delivered record exam results. Entries at Higher and Advanced Higher rose by 3.2% and 4.2 % respectively, despite falling school rolls Pass rates at both Higher and Advanced Higher are at a record high. Standard Grade pass rates are at their highest since 2000.

          However there are those who want to run down Scottish education - and run down your abilities and achievements with your pupils.

          The recent report from the Centre for Public Policy for the Regions is a case in point. It said England had overtaken Scotland. Well, let's look at their claims in relation to exam results.

          Since 2005 the proportion of pupils in England apparently achieving their target measure of 5 or more A to C grades at GCSE or SNQ equivalents increased from 56.8 per cent to 69.7 per cent.

          It is worth noting that an individual who completed a GNVQ in computing and a C grade in art would be included in these figures. The increase for GCSE performance only was significantly smaller - rising from 51.9 % to 55.8 %.

          One has to question whether the growth in performance hasn't actually been driven by a broader and changing measure of performance, rather than a transformation in attainment as some commentators would suggest.

          As a more direct comparison, in Scotland 69.8% of pupils achieved the equivalent of a GCSE pass in English compared with 60.2% in England; 57% of Scottish pupils achieved a similar standard in a science subject compared with only 51.3% in England; and 48.6% of Scottish pupils achieved this standard in a modern language compared with only 30.9% in England.

          These partial and poorly researched reports add little to the debate on Scottish education.

          So, having addressed some of those misconceptions what then is the true state of Scottish education today?

          I believe it is in good health.

          I also believe we need it to be better.

          That's why this Government's focus is firmly where it should be - on our children and young people.

          I've spoken about my vision for a National Education Service. Just as we have a NHS cradle to grave, so we must have a National Education Service that draws together schools, colleges and universities, with a commitment to pushing forward with reform to reach the highest standards.

          Our unremitting drive is to ensure that all our pupils experience excellence in learning and teaching, firmly benchmarked against effective practice internationally.

          This has been the year during which Curriculum for Excellence has gathered momentum, with most of the remaining national building blocks in place. Notwithstanding my earlier comments, I want to express my thanks to School Leaders Scotland for your role in making that happen, through robust and constructive participation in the Curriculum for Excellence Management Board.

          We are now at a watershed moment as our focus turns to implementation of Curriculum for Excellence. Much is already being delivered and I see that each and every time I visit a school.

          However it is clear that significantly more needs to be done.

          We need to see every school working consistently and effectively towards implementation, with a particular focus on the necessary professional development for staff.

          That's where the theme of your conference, "Respecting professionalism", really resonates. As I see the work that is being developed around the country, what is particularly impressive is the commitment and professionalism of staff and their leaders within schools.

          We certainly need to respect that professionalism. Through Curriculum for Excellence we have demonstrated that we are respecting it and more than that - we are building our aspirations for the most significant educational change in generations on redefined and enhanced professionalism.

          That is the key to really making sure that the promise of Curriculum for Excellence is delivered. It's therefore vital that:

          • We all understand the current strengths of professional leadership across education.
          • That we understand why we need an enhanced definition of professional leadership in the face of our challenging agenda.
          • And that we can identify clearly the areas for development.
            • Firstly, then, what does it really mean when we talk about reinvigorated and enhanced professionalism and leadership in teaching?

              The fundamental building block is that every teacher, in every classroom, in every school must fulfill their professional responsibility to lead learning and teaching.

              What does that mean in practice? It means:

              • Teachers who are able to model confidence, motivation and a professional ethos to learners.
              • Teachers who are equipped with the new knowledge, understanding and skills they will need to create the curriculum for their learners
              • And it means teachers who are enthusiastic about working collegiately to share and improve their own practice and that of their colleagues.
                • While every teacher has a professional responsibility to lead learning in the context of Curriculum for Excellence, it's obvious that, as classroom teachers continue to learn and develop throughout their careers, they will have more to share with their colleagues.

                  Individual teachers make the greatest difference to the progress which learners make. This reinforces the responsibility which each teacher has to continue professional learning throughout their career and to learn from the best of others' practice.

                  The other building block involves the role of you and your colleagues, in formal leadership roles within the system. Your role is vital.

                  In a system in which we expect all teachers to enhance their professionalism, some might ask whether the role of formal leaders somehow diminishes. My view is quite the contrary - in such a system the importance of your contribution is even greater.

                  However it is a different contribution. It needs a greater focus on leadership alongside traditional management and highlights the need for approaches that set free the talent and professionalism of the workforce. That implies a number of demands:

                  • It demands that you and your colleagues focus on pushing up standards in learning, teaching and achievement for all our children and young people.
                  • It demands that you ensure that all teachers continue to develop professionally - that you `lead learning'.
                  • And it demands a sharing of that focus beyond the school, building partnerships for learning across the community.
                    • Importantly respect for professionalism is something that has to be shared between teachers and headteachers - not just between Government and headteachers.

                      That is a big test for you in the context of assessment in Curriculum for Excellence - particularly in relation to literacy and numeracy in primary, where teachers will be expected to use the National Assessment Resource, developed by professionals, implemented by professionals and quality assured by professionals.

                      There may be a number of ways in which headteachers can be empowered to meet those demands. East Lothian Council, for example, is exploring a proposal that would bring local primary and secondary schools together in clusters under community-led boards. The proposals are at an early stage but represent an interesting suggestion of a way to achieve community empowerment.

                      Let's be quite clear, however, that these ideas need to balance the pressures on school leaders. You and your colleagues' focus must be on leading in learning and teaching. That role is paramount.

                      Different structures may work in different areas and I do not, at this point in the debate, wish to dictate those centrally. However what I do insist on is that, whatever the approach, we see headteachers enabled to work with their staff and wider community to instill excellence at the heart of every strand of learning and teaching.

                      I've had many opportunities to discuss how we can do that at first hand with colleagues around the country. It was also a key focus of the national events for headteachers that the Scottish Government has held this year.

                      In March, for the first time in memory, all secondary heads in Scotland were invited to come together at Celtic Park. More than 250 were able to attend. In addition over 1300 people have attended the five subsequent events around the country for primary and early years leaders.

                      I get a clear sense from those discussions that there is a growing, shared understanding that the vision for professional leadership that I've just outlined is right.

                      However if there are barriers in your way you need to tell me what they are and I will try to remove them.

                      Part of our collective responsibility is to engage in a critical debate about leadership and professional responsibility in education. That dialogue needs to be based on evidence and I was very pleased to see the publication earlier this week of HMIE's report "Improving teaching, improving learning".

                      This is an important and timely document. It gives clear messages that will be useful to local authorities and schools as they continue to develop the professional ethos that will underpin the successful implementation of Curriculum for Excellence.

                      I want to take a few moments to set out my views on some of the key messages from the report, which include reference to continuing professional development [CPD], collegiality and Chartered Teachers.

                      In relation to CPD, the report strongly reinforces its central importance. It confirms that much is going on and that it is increasingly focused on the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence. It makes the point that CPD needs to achieve the greatest impact on outcomes for children and young people and so needs to make the most effective use of time, expertise and resources.

                      It recognises that often the most effective CPD is that where teachers are collegiately working with their colleagues, with a focus on children's learning. When they do this, they need to be open to learn from others, including from local and international evidence of successful practice.

                      Though it is of course not cost-free, the message is clear that approaches like that are often the most effective - both in terms of cost and the impact that they have in changing practice.

                      It remains the responsibility of local authorities to resource CPD. The Government has reinforced that message as I and my Ministerial colleagues have met with senior councillors and officials from each and every local authority over the course of the last nine months.

                      The Scottish Government for its part has delivered what it can to add capacity to the system, in particular enabling the extra in-service day and putting in place four million pounds [pound;4 million] for the 100 extra teachers for Curriculum for Excellence.

                      However I am keen that, above all else, we focus on outcomes from CPD. It is the responsibility of everyone to make sure that we are able to demonstrate impact - improved learning and teaching and so improved outcomes for learners - from CPD.

                      I am glad that we will be able to further develop approaches to CPD in an environment that is positive and forward-looking - including promising examples of how `Glow' can be used.

                      The report also gives very positive messages about collegiality in schools. It provides evidence that many teachers are becoming more open to learning from the best of each other's practice. Although individuals should be responsible for their own CPD as professionals, we need a more structured approach by headteachers to shaping the abilities of their teams.

                      Improved collegiality indicates that we increasingly have a shared agenda and that stands us in good stead for what will undoubtedly be challenging times ahead as the impact of the pound;500 million cuts from the Westminster Government affects budgets.

                      It is therefore also important that we see evidence of the value of all the investment that we make in Scottish education and that also applies to the final area that the HMIE report focuses on - that of Chartered Teacher.

                      I again welcome the fact that the report found evidence of the value of chartered teachers in some schools. However we need to make sure that value is consistently maximised.

                      The revised Standard for Chartered Teacher, developed in partnership by the Scottish Government and GTC Scotland, has now been launched and is complemented by a very helpful Code of Practice from the SNCT.

                      Together these give much greater clarity to the existing roles of Chartered Teachers and provide a framework within which schools, headteachers and chartered teachers can work together to make sure that the contribution of their expertise makes the maximum difference for learners.

                      The messages from the "Improving teaching, improving learning" report are key ones. As Graham Donaldson says in the report: "The benefits of the Teachers' Agreement have yet to be fully realised. Successful implementation of Curriculum for Excellence relies on this."

                      I expect that schools and local authorities will use the report to gauge their own progress and areas for development and address its recommendations.

                      The messages are clear - that's not in the main about money. Effective CPD is based on evidence, is about teachers working with other teachers and is focused on making an impact on each learner's progress. You have a key role in making sure that's the case in your schools.

                      Local authorities also need to look to what they can do to maintain and build that capacity. You can be assured that I will continue to press them to do so.

                      We know that Curriculum for Excellence will increasingly make different demands on Scotland's teachers - that applies to CPD but it also applies to our whole system for teacher education in Scotland from initial qualification, through induction and ongoing professional development.

                      We face a time of change and one of challenge. Not least is the need to ensure the very best outcome for every pound of public spending. I believe that now is therefore the time to take a hard look at whether our existing system of teacher education in Scotland is as well developed as it can be to support the flexible, creative, learner-centred teaching profession we need over the next generation.

                      I'm therefore very pleased to be able to announce today that I am setting up a review to consider the best arrangements for the full continuum of teacher education in Scotland.

                      The review will consider initial teacher education, induction and professional development and the interaction between them. This recognises that a teacher's professional development does not end at graduation or at the end of induction but continues throughout his or her career.

                      Here are some of the key questions that I expect the review to address:

                      • What kinds of teachers do we want teacher education to develop?
                      • What model of teacher education is right moving forward?
                      • How do we organise the initial qualification, induction and professional development of teachers in a way that is coherent and effective?
                        • Those are some of the major questions facing us and I want them to be given the fullest consideration. Let me be clear that this is a fundamental review. We owe it to Scotland's pupils to make sure that nothing is off the table and nothing definitely on it.

                          We also need to make sure that this review is inclusive - that every stakeholder is fully engaged. The review must also be evidence based and I want it to take account of experience, evidence and best practice from Scotland but also from across the world.

                          We therefore need one of the biggest hitters in Scottish education to take on this task.

                          I'm therefore delighted to also be able to announce today that Graham Donaldson, shortly retiring from his role as Her Majesty's Senior Chief Inspector, will lead the Review, reporting directly to Ministers.

                          The review will begin in January 2010 and will report by the autumn of 2010. The timescale for implementation of the review's conclusions will be determined by the nature of the conclusions themselves.

                          That will be a crucial piece of work and I look forward to its conclusions. In parallel with that we also need to address other immediate concerns.

                          Headteachers play a key role in developing the profession and it is important that, as we look at how we develop a profession of leaders, we reflect on the particular position of headteachers themselves.

                          As you will know, we recently published another useful source of evidence on these issues - a research report on the recruitment and retention of headteachers in Scotland.

                          The report raises a number of concerns and it is important that we hear those. It should not be the case that the predominant picture of the headteacher role is a lonely one.

                          It is undeniable that there are pressures and issues in balancing work and life for headteachers. Local authorities, as the employers, do need to carefully consider their support for the welfare of all their staff.

                          There are also clear messages for you and your colleagues in this report.

                          I was struck by the fact that, where headteachers are able to cope best with the pressures, it is through a greater sense of collegiate working and being able to develop a strong leadership team across their school. In other words, it is important that headteachers don't end up being their own worst enemy by trying to bear their responsibilities alone.

                          Current headteachers need to ensure that they are developing people into leadership roles within their schools. Local authorities need to ensure that there are clear pathways to more formal leadership posts. The message from this report is that that is not happening consistently enough.

                          I expect my officials to quickly take forward discussion with a range of other partners, on how these issues are addressed. Given that the report's recommendations were in the main directed to local authorities, we do need to ensure a partnership approach to those discussions.

                          The aim should be a culture change that sees headteachers genuinely developing leadership teams and local authorities supporting them with improved pathways for development as teacher leaders grow in experience and perhaps start to aspire to formal leadership roles.

                          The Scottish Government will continue to play its part in those developments, providing support and assistance where possible and I know that SLS will, of course, also be involved.

                          Over the last few weeks we've had wide ranging and very public debates about the place of schools in our society and the roles of local authorities, headteachers and Government.

                          It is right that we continue that dialogue. If we are to achieve our vision of an education system that is genuinely the best in the world we have to guard at all times against complacency and the stifling conformity of received wisdom.

                          It has to be founded on genuine evidence and I've already dealt with some of the misinformation that has characterised the debates of the last few weeks.

                          Instead I want, in conclusion, to return to one fact that gets to the heart of what it means to be a headteacher in our society. It's again a message from the recruitment and retention research report and it tells us that an overwhelming percentage - 88% - of headteachers really value their role for the difference they can make for children and young people's learning.

                          That's a true measure of the difference headteachers make . I for one will never take that for granted.

                          We need to focus on building the role of headteachers to lead their colleagues in learning and really making that difference - all the time and for every child. Misconceptions, over-simplifications and scaremongering do not help us to do that.

                          We all need to keep our focus on the children and young people that we serve and I intend to continue working with you all to achieve that.

                          Thank you.

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