`Tick-box' approach threatens future of Professional Update

19th June 2015 at 01:00
CPD scheme may be stymied by line managers, study suggests

The fledgling Professional Update scheme risks being written off as "a bureaucratic tick-box exercise", according to a new study.

PU is also being hamstrung by unhelpful line managers who are supposed to guide teachers through the process, the report by the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) says.

The research finds plenty of positives, too, with many teachers reporting that PU has enhanced their career. But the EIS teaching union has decided to investigate the implementation of the programme, citing "major concerns".

PU was first mooted in 2010 as a way of ensuring that teachers consistently added to their skills. Initial fears that it would become an "MOT" for teachers were largely overcome as the emphasis was placed on CPD rather than assessing competence.

The scheme officially came into force last August and all teachers will ultimately have to update their details on the GTCS website annually, as well as having their record of professional learning signed off every five years.

The report analyses the second phase of a trial programme that finished last year, involving 14 local authorities and seven independent schools.

Findings about the central process of "professional review and development" (PRD) are described as "very concerning", with questions raised about how committed some senior school staff are to helping teachers. Although this criticism relates to only a small number of cases, they occurred in primary and secondary schools across several authorities.

"It is unclear how a reviewer [usually a line manager] can confidently sign off an individual's engagement in PU without fully engaging in the process," write GTCS researchers Zo Robertson and Patricia Morris. "Perhaps more concerning is the possible perception that this is simply a bureaucratic exercise of `form filling' which, if left unaddressed, could lead to a `tick-box' approach to PU and, at worst, may limit the potential value and impact of professional learning."

PRD meetings were found to be little - if any - use by nearly a fifth of respondents. One said: "My PRD meeting was only a couple of minutes long and was signed off with minimum engagement and no individual CPD aspect being reviewed."

The researchers said such "very negative experiences.could potentially lead to individuals believing the process is bureaucratic, rather than becoming a meaningful part of their practice and development". The first key issue that must be addressed is the "knowledge, understanding and skill level of the reviewer".

`Major concerns'

Overall, the report notes the "generally very positive perception and early impact of PU", with many teachers considering it "very valuable" and "already impacting positively on them".

At this month's EIS annual conference, education convener Susan Quinn moved successfully for the union to investigate PU's implementation, and to monitor any attempt at "inappropriate use by employers" - ie, as a test of competence rather than for helping teachers to improve their practice.

Ms Quinn said: "We have major concerns about the implementation of PU.What has become clear is that policy into practice is not all that it might be."

David Baxter of the union's Dundee association described the implementation of PU as "a missed opportunity". He called for urgent action, arguing that teachers were in the dark about its requirements, while help for supply teachers was patchy.

Divided opinion

TESS forum users comment on Professional Update:

Yet again, we have to blindly work out a career-reshaping bit of bureaucracy, with little to no pennies spent on training or wage increase.


I actually think the GTCS system is pretty easy to use. You don't need to write screeds of stuff.What I think will be the killer is when they start asking for the "reflective" stuff - "How did you introduce this in your teaching?"


It is going to be very interesting observing careerist line managers feign interest in the CPD and career advancement of others.


Up until 2010 we were trusted to teach, develop courses and resources and inspire kids; now there is hardly any time to teach, never mind develop stuff.


There are a lot of stupid things in our workload. I can't understand why this is some kind of deal-breaker.


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