Workforce - 'MOT for teachers' not tough enough

29th November 2013 at 00:00
Managers raise concerns in pilots for accreditation scheme

A flagship government scheme once dubbed "an MOT for teachers" has been branded "a soft approach" by a school manager who took part in the original trial.

The unnamed manager said that the Professional Update reaccreditation programme, due to be rolled out across the country next year, did not offer enough opportunity "to prompt or challenge" staff, who might choose training courses that did not suit their real needs.

His comments were published in the first evaluation of the pilot programme, which started in August in three local authorities, a private school and a university. The evaluation relates only to the original pilot participants but trials are now running in about half of Scotland's local authorities.

The scheme will be carried out every five years and is due to be launched nationally by the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) in 2014.

According to the evaluation, several of the school managers who participated in the pilot believed that the guidance on Professional Update meant the meetings they had with their staff lacked challenge and focused too much on support.

However, only a tiny minority of teaching staff believed that meetings were skewed in this way. Ultimately, the researchers concluded that the evaluation showed "a positive response to the Professional Update process". Overall, nearly three-quarters of teachers and school leaders thought that the correct balance had been struck.

Other concerns raised in the evaluation included the workload implications for teachers. The scheme will require them not just to record continuing professional development but to keep a portfolio of evidence showing its impact.

One teacher who took part in the survey described the requirement as "overkill" and the researchers called for "further discussion and clarity" about what might count as evidence.

Workload could also be an issue for line managers, the survey found, depending on how many staff they had to review. Questions were further raised about whether line managers had the skills to run professional review and development meetings, after it transpired some had had little or no training.

The evaluation comes with a health warning owing to low rates of participation. Although 247 teachers and 98 managers were invited to take part in the research, only 47 teachers and 14 managers did so.

Kay Barnett, one of two EIS union representatives in the Professional Update working group, said that the teaching union's continued support for the scheme depended very much on how it worked in practice.

Meanwhile, Ken Cunningham, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, said that although the scheme had to support and encourage professional progression, it must also challenge teachers. "There is also an issue over resourcing: it has to be manageable within the resources that schools currently have," he said, adding that it was still "early days" in the scheme's implementation.

Responding to the findings, a GTCS spokesman said that the point of a pilot was to "gather a range of views both positive and negative" so the process could be improved.

"The report includes recommendations that we look at the concerns raised by teachers and we are doing this," he said.

In response to concerns from some respondents that managers were confusing the scheme with competence procedures, the spokesman said that Professional Update was "absolutely not about `weeding out bad teachers'". He added that it would not be an "additional burden on already very busy teachers" but rather a support to teachers "to develop their professional skills".

He said: "The issue of mentoring is equally important and we are monitoring government-funded research into this area."

More information on Professional Update is available via the General Teaching Council for Scotland's website. See bit.lyGTCSprofessional.

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