McCormac review may have some answers

27th May 2011 at 01:00

As if it's not enough to have legal battles looming over cuts to supply teachers' pay and the loss of conserved salaries, Cosla has sparked another row with its submission to the McCormac review of teacher employment (p5). Teachers should spend more time teaching and have their summer break cut by a week, which could be used for continuing professional development, argues the local authorities' umbrella group. The unions are fuming and teachers will have none of it, they say.

CPD is one of the crucial areas being covered by the McCormac review; it was also one of the biggest challenges for teacher education, said the Donaldson report in January - hence our decision to devote a special issue to it this week. The requirement to do 35 hours a year was laid down by the McCrone review a decade ago, to keep teachers abreast of developments, like other professionals. It was to lead to continuous improvement of their skills, but implementation, said Donaldson, has been "patchy".

Ten years ago, TESS ran stories on the new register of CPD providers, how teachers might get certificates for attending courses - even for attending the annual Scottish Learning Festival (p23). Many of the registered providers have fallen off the list as more CPD is done in-house, but the best ones, such as Tapestry (p18), remain.

The system has moved on, with support now provided by national agencies like Learning and Teaching Scotland and the General Teaching Council for Scotland, which henceforth will have a duty to re-accredit teachers, probably every five years, to ensure continuous improvement.

The urgency for CPD has grown with Curriculum for Excellence. But just when the need for financial and human resources is greatest, the economic conditions are harshest. Different management arrangements will be needed to retain capacity, argues Cosla; CPD plans should not be left to individual teachers.

The picture that emerges in this week's TESS is one of creative initiatives driven by schools, like the Early Adopters Group of 23 primaries and secondaries pioneering different approaches to the curriculum (pp12-15). Or teachers' own schemes such as TeachMeets, started by free-thinking individuals in Edinburgh and spreading like wildfire through the UK (p22). These demonstrate the leadership skills which have flourished. It is, as Donaldson reported, an improving picture but a haphazard one.

What happens next will be down to Gerry McCormac's report in September and the responses of Education Secretary Michael Russell (p6) and the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers. But there is a clear pattern emerging in the Government's call for teacher re-accreditation; Donaldson's call for a new Standard for Active Registration; and Cosla's call for the standards for full registration and headship to be used as a framework. All of these could fall into line.

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