Still scope to boost the input of experts

16th November 2012 at 00:00
Their contribution in schools can be increased and improved, says study

There remains significant potential to increase and improve the contributions of external experts in schools, concludes a new report.

External experts are not, however, a substitute for the professionalism of the teacher, stresses Education Scotland's document.

One of the most controversial recommendations in the McCormac report on teacher employment was that non-teachers be allowed to take classes on their own. And when Renfrewshire Council two years ago proposed using non- registered sports or cultural staff to cover primary teachers' non-class contact time, teachers threatened strike action and parents protested.

When education secretary Michael Russell commissioned the Education Scotland report into the use of external experts earlier this year, he was therefore at pains to stress that he was "not proposing a variant on the model proposed by Renfrewshire Council".

He asked the body to consider the current arrangements for making partnerships, identify best practice and recommend whether further safeguards or guidance were required.

No further national guidance was required, concluded the report, The Involvement of External Experts in School Education.

However, the use of experts - anyone from Active Schools coordinators to college lecturers delivering courses - was often informal, ad hoc and largely dependent upon "the initiative of individual teachers and schools". There was a need to ensure that all schools were aware of the relevant resources and how to engage with them, it found.

Appropriate planning between the expert and teacher was vital for a successful visit, it continued.

"Effective planning takes account of what children and young people have learned previously and ensures that expectations are appropriately challenging."

But the use of Curriculum for Excellence experiences and outcomes in planning was "uneven" and "too superficial", the report found.

Evaluation, meanwhile, needed to be a more consistent feature of partnership working.

emma.seith@tess.co.uk

ALL THE DIFFERENCE

An Education Scotland report into the impact of staff qualifications in the early years found that particular qualifications make a difference. Key findings in Making the Difference were:

- When a teacher had a background in early years, it helped to make a positive difference to learning; where the teacher had little or no specific early years experience, the impact was limited;

- The impact on the quality of children's experiences was less where staff had no higher-level qualifications;

- There was a significant variation in access to a teacher across early years;

- The BA Childhood Practice Award was beginning to show a positive impact on children's learning in the early years.

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