Our professionalism and commitment are equal to the tasks in hand
Ken Muir, GTCS Chief Executive
The wide variety of articles and information in this edition of your Teaching Scotland magazine reflects not only the range of exciting things happening in Scottish education, but some of the challenging issues facing the teaching profession.
“Social justice” is a phrase that is often heard but not always readily understood, not least in how educators can live that value, which is core to GTC Scotland’s Professional Standards. As we engage in a national conversation to help inform the revision to these Professional Standards, and I encourage you to engage in this (see bit.ly/gtcs-national-conversation). Professor Rowena Arshad provides a timely and insightful reminder on how, as professional educators, we can live our commitment to social justice.
Talking of values, another much-used current expression is that of “inclusive education”, something lying at the heart of the Scottish Government’s National Improvement Framework. Our article “Designed for Diversity” relates to the challenge facing teachers and other educators of how to respond to the increasingly diverse communities within which we now work and ensure high-quality learning for all. The article explains how the National Framework for Inclusion can be used as a tool to help challenge teachers and others to think deeply about their role in promoting equality and justice. In a further article around this challenge, Jordan Daly, the co-founder of the group Time for Inclusive Education, reflects on the progress being made in schools to address LGBTI issues – something that has become more prominent and something with which teaching staff and others often find difficult to engage with. In his article, Jordan sets out how we can create an education system which fully values LGBTI learners and the means by which educators can be supported in doing so.
Addressing stereotypes such as gender bias and promoting student engagement in STEM careers are yet further issues faced by today’s professional educators.
These two come together in our article on the Primary Engineer programme, one of 50 professional learning programmes accredited by GTC Scotland and recognised at our recent Excellence in Professional Learning Awards event. The case studies within this article show the very tangible benefits for teachers and their students from their engagement in this exciting programme. Still on the issue of addressing gender bias, we focus in the article “A question of balance” on how some of Scotland’s colleges and universities are tackling gender under-representation in traditional programmes through the active implementation by staff of gender action plans.
And still on the theme of equality, GTC Scotland is proud to publicise the marvellous work of the organisation Changing Faces, the charity that campaigns to transform the way children with disfigurements are perceived and treated by their peers. Changing Faces offers some excellent workshops that are proven to transform culture and inform anti-bullying policies within establishments, as well as support teachers to deal with the psychological and social needs of children and young people with disfigurement.
What really draws all of these articles together in this edition of Teaching Scotland is the importance of professional teachers engaging in high-quality professional learning to help them to address, individually and collectively, some of the challenges being faced. That is why GTC Scotland plays the key role it does in supporting professional learning and the enhancement of teacher professionalism. The commitment of all of our registrants to benchmark their professional learning needs against the Professional Standards and have their professional learning signed off every five years by GTC Scotland through Professional Update is a clear pledge from all registrants to the importance they place on maintaining and enhancing their professionalism. And as we have just completed the third full year of implementing Professional Update, we have included an article reviewing how it is working and what further steps are needed to make it even more effective.
Much of what I say in this keynote is well summed up in the article on Shared Learning, written by Avril Wilson, recently retired headteacher at Windygoul Primary School in East Lothian – one of GTC Scotland’s Excellence in Professional Learning Award winners this year. In it, Avril highlights the importance of teacher professionalism and shared professional learning, and creating a culture that allows these to thrive, as being the prime ingredients that impact positively on school improvement. It’s an excellent practical example of what all the research findings tell us makes the biggest difference in improving attainment and wider achievement – the quality, commitment and sheer professionalism of our teachers and those others who deliver and support education in Scotland.