GTC Scotland

The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Comhairle Choitcheann Teagaisg na h-Alba

Revising the Professional Standards

Following consultation and focus groups, we find out what educators think about the refreshed and restructured Professional Standards.

  The Professional Standards describe teacher professionalism in Scotland, and have multiple purposes:
  • to create a shared language for teaching professionals;
  • to develop and enhance professionalism;
  • to support career-long professional growth;
  • to provide a framework for Initial Teacher Education, probation and leadership pathways and programmes; and
  • to ensure and enhance public trust and confidence in the teaching profession.
The refreshed Professional Standards were subject to public consultation in 2019. Following recommendations, the ‘Being a teacher in Scotland’ section was added, highlighting that the professional values of social justice, trust and respect and integrity are at the heart of what it means to be a teacher in Scotland. This roots the Professional Standards as a framework that supports what it means to become, to be and to grow as a teacher in Scotland. The refreshed Standards also have an increased emphasis on equalities and diversity, additional support needs, digital literacies, and Learning for Sustainability (LfS).

Delli Woodhead, Science teacher, the Royal High School, Edinburgh


“For me the biggest change in the Professional Standards has been the language. Last year, I was doing my Initial Teacher Education and I found the (current) Standards quite overwhelming and difficult to understand. I often found myself asking my mentor what exactly they meant/were asking of me. This meant I probably did not engage with them as effectively as I could have. The change in language, coupled with more in-depth information (professional actions) within the Professional Standards, makes the whole document more accessible to all educators regardless of where they are in their career.

“Despite just beginning my teaching career, I can say that it is very difficult to truly capture what it means to be a teacher in Scotland. The addition of the appropriately named ‘Being a teacher in Scotland’ section begins to underpin the professional values that teachers across Scotland have or are striving for. It introduces our commitment to social justice, trust and respect and integrity and highlights how as educators, we are instilling these values in our pupils.

“Being a Science/Biology teacher, I am especially passionate about LfS, to which my subject lends itself effortlessly. I look forward to seeing how LfS can be embedded into our values and commitments as teachers across all stages and subjects.”

Jill Burdett, class teacher, Sunnyside Primary School, Clackmannanshire


“The new Professional Standards feel fresh, holding a more comprehensive relationship to the reality of the changing role of the teacher. They feel more relevant to the reality of the career, offering support to the most crucial aspects of the job, including holding social justice and equity at the heart of what we do. The concepts of equality and diversity and technology are now threaded throughout the Professional Standards, representing the new and accurate challenge which practitioners face.”

Martine Leitch, Headteacher, Croftfoot Primary, Glasgow


“The 2021 Standard for Headship illustrates the complexities of leadership within the current climate in which we are working. There is a strong emphasis on strategic vision and the role of a school leader in empowering others to influence change. “The importance of relationships with all stakeholders is embedded across all three sections of the 2021 Standards for Headship and recognises the importance of educators designing a curriculum to meet the needs of the community in which they serve.

“There is a significant emphasis on pedagogical leadership throughout. As school leaders, we must be confident to discuss pedagogy, policy and practice to ensure that we can achieve the best possible outcomes for our children and young people.

“Throughout my career, I have become increasingly aware of the impact of a practitioner’s conceptualisation of children and childhood upon their pedagogical choices. I was delighted to see this reflected within the ‘Being a Teacher’ section, which illustrates the importance of seeing the whole child.

“The ‘moral purpose’ of education and the role of the teacher as a ‘moral agent’ have been greatly explored and many attempts made to ascertain the impact of a teacher’s values upon the acquisition of the knowledge, skills and attitudes considered necessary to be an ‘effective practitioner’. The complexities of this are recognised within the Professional Standards and the importance of reflection and self-evaluation are embedded throughout each section.”

Diana Ellis, Global Education Adviser at WOSDEC


“I am delighted to see the renewed commitment to LfS across the revised Professional Standards. From our perspective, supporting schools with global citizenship, there still remains a misunderstanding for many teachers that LfS just means all things green and environmental, associated only with the natural world and separate from social justice.

“Some teachers will have had quite a deep experience as a student, with modules at university dedicated to unpicking LfS and exploring what we mean by a just and equitable future. Others have barely heard of it even though LfS has been around a long time now and was a key feature of the 2012 Professional Standards.

“For me the bigger change is the more explicit ‘rights-respecting’ and ‘real-world’ language coming across through more of the Professional Standards now, and the importance of trauma-informed teaching and learning. I hope that the resulting impact is more leverage for university programme developers and local authority probationer managers to ensure that an understanding of real-world issues through global citizenship, the UNCRC and rights-based learning are key components of professional learning in the early phase of a teacher’s career.

“Now, more than ever, we have a moral imperative to ensure our school communities are fully equipped to forge forward on their LfS journeys.” 

Approving the Professional Standards

Last month, GTC Scotland’s Council approved refreshed and restructured Professional Standards for teachers, which will come into mandatory use in August 2021.

Ken Muir, Chief Executive and Registrar of GTC Scotland, said: “I would like to thank everyone who responded to the consultations or took part in a focus group. The Professional Standards have been written by the teaching profession, for the teaching profession and capture what is means to become, to be and to grow as a teacher in Scotland today.”

A period of enactment support will begin, allowing teachers and others to engage, explore and understand the relevance of the Professional Standards, before formal enactment on 2 August 2021.

A revised Professional Code was also put out for consultation in October 2019. Further engagement with registrants is required and our ambition is to have two Codes (one for teachers and one for lecturers) in place by August 2021.