The Scottish Qualifications Authority has begun a long-term project to improve the quality, delivery and understanding of its qualifications, by reviewing the training needs of those who contribute to assessment and certification in education.
The aim is to ensure that they have opportunities to update and develop their own knowledge, skills and expertise. The intention is to improve understanding and enhance the delivery of assessment, to make it more flexible and transparent.
"It's about giving teachers and lecturers an enhanced understanding of the processes behind qualifications and about practical impacts, such as the use of IT," says Neil Robertson, the SQA's deputy director.
Stage one is to focus on the teachers, lecturers and trainers who develop, set and mark exams and qualifications and provide quality assurance. At the same time the modernising of higher national certificates and diplomas will continue to be supported.
Within two years the project will include the wider education community.
This will include, for example, informal educators in community learning and English for speakers of another language.
"In discussion with universities, colleges, the General Teaching Council for Scotland, Learning and Teaching Scotland and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, we intend to develop new qualifications for CPD for teachers, lecturers and trainers. We will establish workshops to promote understanding of the standards and website activities and to promote partnerships with the other providers, including e-learning companies.
"The outputs will be new training programmes, qualifications, workshops and e-learning support" says Mr Robertson.
"We intend to be more transparent - for example, about how we set prelims and how they can affect appeals. We want to help teachers and candidates and we'll give them a recipe of what we'd expect."
The SQA began its "scoping" work a year ago, looking at existing training before developing new ideas. The programme is seen as a recognition of the CPD challenges for teachers now.
"We began to check out more systematically the needs of local authorities, colleges and schools," says Martyn Ware, the SQA's business manager. "It's about building on the current and developing CPD and lifelong learning agendas. And it's about us taking active steps to improve our own delivery."
New developments are to be rooted firmly in established practice and made more flexible.
One strategy will be to dissect the SQA's traditional 40-hour units, making CPD more accessible and flexible, while allowing the smaller chunks to be joined up to create a significant learning experience with opportunities to access qualifications.
"Qualifications will not be compulsory. Teachers will be able to access them if they wish, but they will not be a requirement," says Mr Ware.
"Teachers will be given opportunities to access support from print and web sources and from other colleagues undertaking similar CPD, so that we can establish different communities of practice within local authorities, colleges and schools.
"It's about building on what goes on already on an informal basis but making it more systematic. It's about quality improvement," he says.