Good time to take hold of professional growth

2nd December 2011 at 00:00

It hasn't been a happy week for teachers or heads. Nobody enjoys a strike (p5), particularly not people who regard themselves as professionals and wish to be treated as such. Teachers matter, as Graham Donaldson writes in this week's lead Comment (p35), and their professionalism matters. It's something we have seen grow over the past decade, and one of the successes of the McCrone agreement. A key instrument in that has been continuing professional development, the subject of this month's special issue. In it, we can see how CPD has evolved, moving increasingly from external agencies to internal groups within schools and local authorities, and being driven more by teachers who, to use Donaldson's words, "want to grow".

Take the primary teachers who spent a week of their summer holiday at Satrosphere, the science centre in Aberdeen (p22). Some lacked confidence in teaching science and technology, but after a few days of interactive workshops and hands-on experience, they were enthused and energised, and couldn't wait to get back to the classroom. They also planned to pass on what they had learnt as CPD for their colleagues.

In Moray, more than 600 primary teachers have undertaken CPD in critical skills. TESS writer Jean McLeish visited Logie Primary (pp18-21) to see the difference it had made to the children: they were more independent and took greater responsibility for their learning. Headteachers and HMIs had observed it too. This is the impact on young people's learning that Graham Donaldson wants to see as "evidence of teachers' own development".

In Fraserburgh Academy, principal teachers are running informal networking lunches once a term (p24), leading to better teamworking and improved relations among staff, with a greater understanding of each other's roles. PTs are working together now for the pupils' benefit.

All over the country, teachers are being coached and mentored in schools, and turned into leaders (News Focus, pp12-15). South Lanarkshire has leadership programmes for all stages of a teacher's career, Borders has one for future leaders, and the Ayrshires have an early headship model, where experienced heads work closely with new ones.

What we are seeing is staff at various stages in their careers taking responsibility for their professional growth. What we are not yet seeing, though, is clear progression on the career ladder - hence the controversy over chartered teachers (p7) and the difficulty in recruiting heads, caused by the job-sizing toolkit (p14). These are not insoluble problems and the chance to resolve them exists now, under the review of teachers' terms and conditions. It will take a cleverer negotiating committee (SNCT) than that of 2001 to capture the bigger picture and the finer detail, but if it can achieve that, new opportunities should open up and Scotland could achieve a sensible career pathway.

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