Attending the IFTRA (International Forum of Teacher Regulatory Authorities) conference this week in Dublin was an interesting experience for me. The international flavour of the conference and the sharing of expertise and practice was exciting, as we discussed how teachers are regulated in various places including, Ontario, New Zealand, Australia, Netherlands, South Africa, Eire and of course here in the UK, in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
What was particularly interesting for me was the high esteem GTCS is held across the world. Now working with GTCS and being a teacher, I had not appreciated that Scotland are world leaders in supporting the teaching profession, both as a regulatory body and in professional learning. Other countries represented at the conference are looking to Scotland as an example of excellent practice.
The conference held in Dublin, was themed around Leadership in partnership – the professional role of teachers. Professionalism is still a notion I am wrestling with and I believe the GTCS along with the profession, have to define what this means for teachers across Scotland through the Professional Standards, however, alongside professionalism sits fitness-to-teach. Are we as teachers, professional (as in we display the desired behaviours and dispositions) or are we each a professional (as in we display the desired behaviours and dispositions but also are regulated through professional standards), I would argue the second.
Teachers across the world are held in high esteem by the public, however, policy makers are increasing the things that schools need to deliver, not just curriculum but wider achievement and societal issues to which education can contribute but not cannot fix alone. In this world of the immediateness of social media and a more connected world of complex decision making, students need to develop the skills to survive and thrive in the global digital economy, and schools have been placed at the centre of this, to support all of our young people across the world to develop these skills.
Teacher professionalism and teacher regulatory bodies must look back to learn from good practice and equally things that didn’t have an impact. GTCS must also always be looking forward to better support teachers to become more professional, to know, articulate and display their core values and commitment to social justice, for teacher to take ownership of their own learning and be life-long learner and improve the life chances of young people.
We are at a tipping point or watershed moment (OECD, 2105) with era change through a raft of interconnected issues such as;
· knowledge society
· employment patterns
· patterns of family life
· migration and inter-culturalism
· inclusive schooling
· gap between rich and poor internationally
· destructive subcultures and youth
· transparency and accountability
At this time we are also faced with a changing role of teacher professionalism, there are attitudinal and cultural changes to be made around how teachers view themselves, their own learning and work. The role of a regulatory body is not always seen but is in place to promote public and professional confidence and interests in education. Within this, there is a strategic role for GTCS, as Professor John Coolahan puts it, GTCS has to be the “fulcrum of trust by society and profession”. There is also a changing role for communication, partnership working and leadership across the education system with an emphasis on supporting teachers but the regulation element of the GTCS work must always be high on the agenda.
This changing role can be evidenced across education systems as teachers take on the notion of being life-long learners and the GTCS supports teachers in this through PU. As a profession there are standards which have to be met and adhered to in terms of conduct and behaviour. There are also universal standards of practice which support teachers learning journeys and enrich the professional discourse of what we believe is a professional educator in Scotland.
Part of this changing role is supported through ITE provision as we set expectations of new teachers to develop the skills, abilities and disposition which will lead to career long professional learning and the best outcomes for young people. GTCS’s role in this is to accredit ITE programmes ensuring they have the correct duration, rigour, delivery, use research and appropriate school practice to support new teachers to develop into enquiring practitioners. This is enhanced through partnership working with the local authorities and schools. In Australia, all ITE programmes also have to demonstrate that their students have impact on student outcomes, this is an interesting proposition but what would this look like in student placements and into the probation year and how can it be measured?
There are indirect influences that should be taken into consideration in supporting the changing role of teachers, as teachers are expected to move from individualism to working collaboration in learning communities to support development planning. The role of self-evaluations and professional learning of teachers within this also influences the changing nature of teaching. The engagement of parents in learning is at the forefront of the policy drivers as a means of making changes to how teachers and young people learn together to improve outcomes for all.
Being both creators and consumers of research will also support teachers to improve their professional status as they begin to make research enriched decisions and improve their understanding of learning to support young people achievements and attainment. There are still some questions as to the self-funding or budget available from the government to enhance teachers through Masters level accreditation and learning. Being both creators and consumers of research is evident in GTCS’s professional standard in enquiry into practice and supports the changing role of teachers and the aspiration of enquiring profession.
Harry Cayton, Chief Executive of the Professional Standards Authority, gave an excellent keynote on regulation, discussing the impact and implication of the Right-touch Regulation paper, here. Regulation has to be centred on people and be a framework that connects the teacher as a human being to the work they engage in on a daily basis. The research finds that people are better regulated by those they work with every day, based on values rather than a set of distance regulation and compliance, therefore the values must be at the heart of the regulation. GTCS have made values the core of the professional standards with the Professional Values and Personal Commitment as the first section and underpins each standard. Teachers must be responsible for their actions which are based on the shared values and thus become accountable and develop resilience in their working life. It would be interesting research for GTCS to find out how teacher resilience (buoyance) is developed and then GTCS would be able to further support teachers in this area.
Standards for teachers have to written for and with teachers so they are transparent and can be adopted and embedded into the psyche of teachers. Doing this creates a framework in which professionalism can flourish and organisations can be excellent (excellence can be defined as the continuous performance of good practice combined with continuous improvement).
The Right-tough regulation document provides a framework for a solution orientated approach to regulation which keeps it clear and simple, and focuses on only using the regulation to achieve the desired effect – no more, no less. For teacher professionalism this would involve creating more space and time for learning and teaching and the human elements of the job, with a shared vision for the level of risk and a regulatory system where professionalism can flourish.
So, as a regulatory body, GTCS ensures that all teachers on the register are provided with a framework of minimum standards through the Standards for Registration. Within these Standards and the CoPAC document, which outline the behaviour and conduct expected of a teacher in Scotland, GTCS ensures that all teachers are of a benchmark standard across Scotland, ensuring quality of teaching and learning for all young people. This carries with it the function to discipline teachers who fall below this minimum standards for expected conduct and behaviour. The second and growing element of the work of GTCS is supporting teacher professionalism through professional update. This involves supporting teachers to engage in using the standards to signpost their learning journey, undertaking professional learning and enquiry into their own practice to improve their skills, knowledge and abilities, sharing their finding through professional dialogue with colleague both within their establishment and beyond.