Teacher Workforce Planning for Scotland's Schools A Scottish Parliament Education and Skills Committee Quick-Read

In April 2017, the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee began an inquiry into teacher workforce planning for Scotland’s schools, looking at the challenges around the recruitment and retention of teachers. The Committee has now published its findings – click on the link below to access the full report.

Why did the Committee carry out this inquiry?

The Committee decided to look into the issue of teacher recruitment and retention because of concerns over teacher shortages, including classroom teachers in certain geographical areas, subjects such as STEM subjects, headteachers and supply teachers.

The Scottish Government’s proposals for education reform were announced on 15th June 2017, two weeks after the Committee finished taking evidence on this inquiry.

The proposed changes include many that are closely linked to the subject of this inquiry but, because of the timing, the Committee’s report does not look at these proposals in detail or give the Committee’s opinion on them. The Committee plans on carrying out a separate piece of work to scrutinise the proposed reforms in more detail. You can keep up to date with this and other work of the Committee on its webpage.

The recommendations that the Committee includes in the report can only be based on how things are currently but the Committee recognises that the Government has already taken action to deal with a number of issues and it will take time for this to work.

How did the Committee gather views and opinions?

The Committee asked teachers, trainee teachers and school support staff to share their views through questionnaires, and also asked for written submissions from relevant organisations. A high number of responses were received, including almost 700 questionnaires. The Committee is grateful to everyone that took time to share their views in writing. The Committee considers the overview provided by the questionnaires to be so valuable on a number of issues that this evidence will also be used for its future work looking at the Government’s proposed education reforms. You can read more about the written evidence received on the Committee’s webpage:

The Committee also took oral evidence at its meetings. On Wednesday 10th May, the Committee heard from a panel of 5 trainee teachers followed by a panel of 7 teachers. Hearing directly from those with lived experience was of huge value to this inquiry and the Committee would like to thank these teachers and trainee teachers for sharing their views and experiences publicly. The Committee appreciates that this is a big step for those involved.

The Committee also heard from a number of relevant organisations and would like to thank everyone who gave oral evidence to the inquiry. You can watch all of the oral evidence sessions on the Scottish Parliament’s YouTube channel:

Recommendations from the Committee

Workforce planning process

The Committee has asked for a response to its report and the suggestions for improvement from the Teacher Workforce Planning Advisory Group, who is responsible for assessing the need for more teachers before recommending the intake for teacher training courses each year. The Committee has also made suggestions to improve how the Group accesses the information that it needs (from the Scottish Government, education authorities and others) and that the Group should commission an independent evaluation of its work, including how to make this more transparent. The Committee has also recommended that there should be more focus on localised planning, along with bigger efforts to attract candidates locally.

Recruitment & training

During the inquiry it became clear that one of the biggest issues facing recruitment into teaching is that the profession of teacher is not thought of highly enough in our society – this puts young people off becoming teachers, along with hearing about the experiences of existing teachers. Tackling these challenges is crucial to encourage more people to become teachers.

The Committee recommends that the General Teaching Council for Scotland, or its replacement, the Education Workforce Council for Scotland, reviews entry requirements to teaching courses to make sure innovative solutions are being put in place wherever possible. One example comes from Moray House where, for one of its courses, teacher graduates have to achieve Higher English by the time they leave the course rather than when they start it.

When it comes to course content, the Committee has said that online safety should feature in all teacher education courses, as well as practical teaching skills dealing with the difficulties of supporting a range of children with additional support needs and that all teachers should receive high quality baseline training which prepares them to support pupils with a range of additional needs. The Committee has also highlighted the concerns it heard about the quality of literacy and numeracy in teaching courses, and the Governments acknowledgement of these issues, and has recommended the Government investigates the extent of these problems. The Committee has recommended that the Government considers making one organisation responsible for the accreditation of all initial teacher training courses.

With school based student placements for trainee teachers, the Committee has recommended that there should be service level agreements between education colleges and education authorities as standard to allow students to feedback their experiences. Any recurring or important issues should then be reported so they can be resolved. All teachers should be prepared and supported to take on the role of mentor for trainees or probationers and mentoring should feature in these agreements as standard. The Committee heard about issues to do with where students are placed geographically, including childcare and other practicalities not being taken into account. The Committee welcomes efforts to improve the placement system and has asked for an update from the Education Workforce Council for Scotland at the end of the next academic year.

The Committee heard about some excellent work being carried out by education authorities to remove financial barriers and allow for flexible learning for people from the local area who want to move into teaching as mature students. The Committee is hopeful that there will be more opportunities for collaboration between education authorities to make sure more local approaches to teacher recruitment can be carried out. The Committee has also said that bringing in teachers from elsewhere in the UK should be an immediate priority to help deal with teacher shortages.

Retention of teachers

In its report, the Committee highlights the distance and disconnect between Government agencies (such as Education Scotland and the SQA) and teachers which has become apparent throughout this inquiry and other work the Committee has done. The Committee appreciates that the Government’s education reforms are in part aimed at overcoming this. To help reduce teacher workload, the Committee recommends that Education Scotland and the SQA carry out short placements in schools to work shadow teachers so that they can develop their understanding of the concerns raised and the practical issues they face. Following this, Education Scotland and the SQA should produce a joint piece of work on ways they can simplify their processes and the documentation they issue to teachers. This piece of work should include a focus on headteachers with the aim of identifying responsibilities that can be removed from them. The Government should take the recommendations from this into account in taking forward its proposals for reform, making sure additional responsibilities for headteachers either aim to reduce workload or can be de-prioritised/cease altogether to make sure the introduction of reforms is manageable.

In the questionnaires the Committee received from teachers, the issue of pay was raised frequently in the context of an increased cost of living and the need for pay to reflect workload. The Committee highlights this to those involved in pay negotiations and recommends that the introduction of something similar to a chartered teacher scheme is considered to make sure teachers feel valued and are motivated to keep teaching.

The Committee raises concern about the lack of opportunities for teachers to be promoted because of current structures within schools. The Committee believes that the Government should take steps to address this issue and make sure structures within schools don’t prevent talented candidates from being promoted to headteacher level.

The Committee heard about issues relating to supply teachers and the impact that the lack of supply teachers has on schools with teaching shortages, such as preventing teachers taking time away from the classroom for continuous professional development. The Committee recommends that pay negotiations look at amending terms and conditions for supply teachers due to concerns that the pay for initial days of a placement is insufficient. The Committee has also asked for all education authorities to let them know if they follow the practices raised, i.e. that a vacancy is only considered eligible to be filled by a supply teacher weeks after the need for cover arises.

The Committee heard from large numbers of teachers that they have seriously thought about leaving the profession early. The Committee has suggested that the Scottish Government issues a survey to ask all teachers in state schools if they plan on leaving the profession early and when. This would help inform the Government’s workforce planning processes as well as its wider work. The Committee is also concerned at the number of headteachers who appear to be thinking about leaving the profession and says that all of the bodies on the Teacher Workforce Planning Advisory Group should be aware that there may be an increasing shortage of headteachers in the future.

Impact of teacher shortages on schools

Education authorities should have a duty of care to its employees and therefore a clear sense of the impact of teacher shortages. The Committee is concerned that there may be a disconnect between some education authorities and schools. The Committee has asked for each education authority to submit details of how they ensure they can undertake a duty of care role, along with information on teacher shortages. The Committee will consider the information it receives and will share responses with the Government to help inform work on its education reforms.

The Committee once again would like to thank everyone who shared their views and experiences with them as part of this inquiry. Keep up to date with more ways that you can get involved by following the Committee on Twitter.

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