Education secretary Fiona Hyslop is preparing to act to stop teachers' continuing professional development falling victim to council budget cuts.
Ms Hyslop spelt out her determination to "tackle this head on" when she expressed "serious concerns" last week that spending on CPD in some areas was being cut back at a time of major curriculum and assessment change.
In this year's TESS investigation of council spending plans for 2009-10, six authorities said they would make reductions of various kinds in CPD budgets. But general pressures on budgets are putting activities at risk in other areas, according to headteachers. Only East Renfrewshire said it would increase CPD spending, by 3 per cent.
Speaking to the Educational Institute of Scotland conference for heads and deputes (p6), Ms Hyslop revealed that she had already made representations on the issue to the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives. She said she would be making an announcement soon on how the Government plans to support CPD.
In her speech, Ms Hyslop made it clear she expected to see "a big drive on existing CPD time" and "to support teachers with more quality development opportunities".
She believes she has made a start by allowing one extra in-service day this year and for the following two years, which "will be devoted specifically to preparation and will help teachers with the time and space required to get the implementation of the new curriculum right".
Making it clear that continuing professional development must be at the heart of the reforms, she continued: "Teachers need to be given CPD opportunities - not just being sent on courses but, more importantly, space and time in school for professional dialogue with colleagues to think through, to talk through and to agree how best to implement the curricular changes that we are looking for."
Ms Hyslop stressed that ineffective CPD could torpedo a key government policy and hence create political embarrassment. "We know that for change to be successful and sustainable, it must come from within and be led by practitioners," she declared.
Larry Flanagan, education convener of the EIS, said: "Perhaps the biggest issue at the moment is that of resources and, in particular, CPD - seen by all as key to delivery."
The conference also heard a call from the head of the inspectorate "to place professional development, covering subject and pedagogy, at the centre of our approach to change". But Graham Donaldson urged a fresh approach. "We need to re-think professional development," he said. "It's got to be about putting teachers in touch with teachers, giving them time to learn from each other and establishing a completely new learning environment."
He and the Education Secretary said the responsibility to create the climate to ensure that CPD would make a difference rested with headteachers. "We need brave and effective leadership which engages the abilities and determination of reflective professionals," Mr Donaldson added.