Deputy minister Peter Peacock explains why the education department is determined to provide teachers with constant opportunities to upgrade their skills.
I have never failed to leave any school visited without being enormously impressed by the obvious commitment and dedication of the teachers I have met. The job that teachers do is fundamentally important to our society and exacting.
I recognise that and I also acknowledge their need to be given better support to do the job. There are a number of ways in which we can do that. One is by ensuring that teachers are constantly given the opportunity to refresh their professional skills.
I want to see teaching become recognised as the leading learning profession, constantly adapting to change and new challenges. The professional status of teachers needs to be enhanced.
This is why education minister Sam Galbraith and I are absolutely determined that continuing professional development should be established as an entitlement for, and an expectation of, every teacher. That means raising the status of continuing professional development within the teaching profession and the education community more generally, and ensuring that it is embedded in the culture of education. That means a strategic approach with clear and sustained ministerial support.
I am pleased to say that the strategy committee on continuing professional development, which I will lead, is now taking shape, following consultation with representatives of the profession, education authorities and others. The committee will hold its first meeting in Edinburgh on October 4.
We are very keen to work with teachers, to access their knowledge, enthusiasm and new ideas. Our CPD strategy must be innovative but it also needs to be realistic and relevant and address all issues of concern to the profession. That is why teachers will be well represented on the committee - in total seven members will be teachers.
Other areas of the education service are also represented - Sir Stewart Sutherland, principal of Edinburgh University, Matthew MacIver, of the General Teaching for Scotland, Bart McGettrick, dean of education at Glasgow University, and Gordon Jeyes, director of children's services at Stirling Council, have agreed to serve on the committee.
We have also gone out of our way to involve those with experience in other fields. Education by its very nature should be outward looking. Our CPD strategy for teachers hould reflect lessons learned and applied elsewhere.
So I am pleased that Mike Kinski, formerly a human resources director of Scottish Power, and Ann Roberts, a self-employed HR specialist and consultant, have agreed to join us. Teachers should benefit from their extensive experience of training and human resource issues in the private sector.
At the first meeting I shall be asking the committee to address a number of major issues:
* oversee the development and implementation of a national strategy for teachers' CPD;
* ensure that the strategy reflects national priorities for school education, in particular the raising of standards and improvement in levels of attainment;
* ensure the effective promotion and marketing of CPD to teachers, parents, policy makers and other stakeholders * ensure the strategy, and standards and programmes forming part of the strategy, address future as well as current requirements of schools and teachers;
* consider any other strategic issues relating to teachers' professional development. The committee will also consider extending its remit to oversee issues relating to initial teacher education - the building block on which CPD rests.
Clearly the strategy we produce must be relevant to individual teachers, pupils, schools and authorities. But it also needs to send out a powerful message to the general public, demonstrating that teaching is a demanding profession requiring the highest standards of its members and helping ensure their place alongside all other professionals.
The committee will also be overseeing the establishment of a framework of performance standards and associated development programmes for the teaching profession.
Work on the "standard for full registration" at the end of probation is well under way and work on the "expert teacher standard" will begin shortly.
Other specific areas the committee will examine include the role of the GTC in CPD, a feasibility study for a National Staff College (to develop and pilot CPD programmes and carry out quality assurance) and the outcome of the formal negotiations on the McCrone committee recommendations.
These are exciting times for CPD and I look forward to chairing this committee.
Above all I am looking forward to the dialogue and debate with the teaching profession which will be a vital part of putting ideas into practice.
Peter Peacock is deputy minister for children and education.