Training ‘on right path’ – but there’s still a long way to go

25th March 2016 at 00:00
Five years after Donaldson report, teacher training has made ‘real progress’ but funding still a barrier to CPD

BACK In January 2011, a report found that teacher training needed to be more rigorous and student teachers’ English and maths skills should be improved. Listing 50 recommendations in total, it said that school placements were too variable, and that there was “huge variation” in the engagement of teachers in personal and professional development.

The full impact of Teaching Scotland’s Future, Graham Donaldson’s report into improving the quality of Scotland’s teachers and headteachers, has been assessed in a review published earlier this month. So what effect have those recommendations had?

How much progress has been made since the original report was published?

“On the path, but not there yet” is the message from the latest review. It flags up some encouraging factors: the proportion of teachers reporting that they face barriers to accessing professional learning has “greatly decreased”, from 68 per cent in 2010 to 42 per cent in 2015.

Additionally, 43 per cent of teachers thought that staff were more engaged with ongoing training than five years ago. The teachers also commented that self-reflection was now “ingrained” in those entering the profession.

Sounds good…?

Not all in the garden is rosy. There was a “widespread view” that not all teachers had embraced the changes, with “the longest-serving teachers” most resistant.

The report also highlighted two key barriers to career-long learning for teachers: the lack of supply cover and too many competing national priorities, which left no time for professional development.

A lack of money was also an issue. School and council budgets were the most common barrier cited by teachers to their ongoing training (59 per cent). Teachers said that theyfelt demotivated when training was thwarted and had considered paying for courses out of their own pockets.

Did they find that training opportunities had improved?

Teachers were split on the issue. Researchers asked if there was more variety in professional learning opportunities now than five years ago; 33 per cent thought there was while 30 per cent thought there was less. Common issues included lack of money, supply teachers, time, as well as opportunities being driven too much by national priorities as opposed to individual needs.

What was the review’s verdict on Initial Teacher Education (ITE)?

It was effective, according to 64 per cent of teachers who had completed the training in the past five years. However, a large minority – 21 per cent – of those who had experienced ITE thought that it was ineffective.

What were they most enthusiastic about?

The most useful aspect of ITE was pedagogy and approaches to learning and teaching: 81 per cent of new teachers found these useful. The new teachers wanted more input on additional support needs and behaviour management. Literacy and numeracy were adequately covered, they said. However, more than 20 per cent said ITE was “not effective” at preparing them to teach these subjects.

What did they say about school placements?

There was a “substantial increase” in the proportion of new teachers who thought that support from schools during placement was “very effective”, up from 28 per cent in 2010 to 41 per cent in 2015. Support from schools for students on placement is now considered more effective than support from universities.

However, teacher trainees’ concerns around school placement remain. The report made it clear that there was still some way to go before communication flowed smoothly between schools and universities.

How do probationers rate their experiences?

Probationers viewed the support that they received from schools “very positively”, said the report. However, experiences of being mentored still remained “mixed” and new teachers complained about a lack of places on some key courses. The report’s authors also said that more support was needed for those probationers who came through the flexible route, as opposed to the one-year induction scheme.

What do the authors conclude?

That there has been “real progress in many areas of teacher education” and teachers are more engaged in professional learning, but there’s a long way to go before Donaldson’s vision is realised.


To read the full report, Evaluation of the impact of the implementation of Teaching Scotland’s Future, published by Ipsos MORI, go to

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