The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Opinion: Your Professional Standards and Code

Chief Executive and Registrar, Ken Muir, talks about the refresh of standards for educators in Scotland

It seems that rarely a week goes by without another report or document crossing the desks of hardworking teachers, often with a request for some kind of response or action. Although the relevance of these requests might be well understood, finding the space and time to respond can often be difficult. GTC Scotland is well aware of these very real challenges but is urging all registrants to give consideration to responding to the consultation currently running on www.gtcs.org.uk. This consultation is on the two key documents that are central to the work of all teaching professionals on the Register – your Professional Standards and Professional Code (formerly known as the Code of Professionalism and Conduct).

Given the ever-changing nature of the education environment in Scotland, it is important that our Professional Standards and Code are reviewed regularly to ensure they remain aligned to, and reflective of, the contemporary environment in which they operate. Following an extensive period of engagement with the profession and stakeholders over the past 18 months, GTC Scotland has drafted and put out for consultation until 20 December its refreshed Standards and revised Code. Both are the product of much deliberation by working groups with membership from a range of interested bodies and a widespread “national conversation” which involved listening to the views of teachers and others from across Scotland. This “national conversation” included engagement with user groups and the commissioning of a report from Children in Scotland which provided valuable perspectives on what children and young people feel leads to the most effective teaching and learning.
It is because of this much-valued input from such a wide range of contributors that GTC Scotland is genuinely able and proud to say that the Professional Standards for teachers and the Professional Code command widespread respect, written by teachers for teachers, and owned by the profession.

A refresh for the profession

The Professional Code now combines the previously separate Teacher Code and Student Code. In a more streamlined and accessible form, it continues to set out the expectations of conduct that all teachers share and commit to as professionals; what teachers can expect of each other; and what learners, their families and the public can expect from those registered with GTC Scotland.

The refreshed suite of Professional Standards builds on those produced in 2012 and comprises the same Standards for Registration (Provisional and Full); the Standard for Career-Long Professional Learning; and the Standards for Leadership and Management. The latter incorporates the Standard for Headship which will be a requirement from 1 August 2020 for appointment to the post of headteacher in local authority and grant-aided schools. The professional values; knowledge and understanding; and skills expected of teachers remain largely unchanged.

The Standards for Registration remain the baseline for entry into the profession and the professional competence expected of teachers. Importantly, and uniquely in teachers’ professional standards worldwide, the emphasis on Learning for Sustainability is retained and enhanced. There are also more obvious references to aspects of equality and diversity and additional support needs.

What is different in the refreshed Standards and revised Code is that they are set in their contemporary context through a booklet entitled Introduction to the Professional Standards and Professional Code  which now contains much of what previously introduced each of the individual Standards. This has allowed the Standards and Code to be slimmed down and be more readily useable; a request that came through strongly from many who took part in our national conversation. The introductory booklet has also allowed the closer alignment of the Code with the Standards to show how both can work together as tools to support professional learning, rather than being seen simply as providing benchmarks. Throughout both the Standards and the Code, links will be available to further guidance booklets on key topics important for the maintenance of teacher professionalism such as engaging appropriately online and maintaining safe boundaries with children and young people.

The 2015 OECD report on Scottish Education referred to the teaching Standards in Scotland as “bold” and “inspiring”, “[enshrining] the desired characteristics and qualities of human capital”. However, the OECD also questioned “how deeply the GTCS standards have moved from the theory to the practice and become embedded in the professional culture of the Scottish educational system”. The refresh and revisions being made, taken together with the professional guidance booklets, are all designed to work together to address this issue.

Changes to the Professional Standards and Professional Code are designed to promote and encourage meaningful lifelong learning and development. They are integral to teachers’ professionalism and play a central role in providing public assurance and maintaining trust and confidence in the teaching profession in Scotland. It is for these very reasons that you should try to find the time and space in what we appreciate are incredibly busy schedules to respond to this important consultation. Your support on this will be greatly appreciated.