The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Enhancing professionalism in education since 1965

Professional Update FAQs

We have put together this FAQ about Professional Update in order to keep you as informed as possible about progress with the initiative.

We will continue to update this FAQ document as we receive new queries from the teaching profession.

Background on Professional Update

1. Why was Professional Update introduced?
  • The General Teaching Council for Scotland has been tasked by the Scottish Government with introducing a scheme of re-accreditation for teachers.

    The Scottish Government placed this duty on GTC Scotland on 17 March 2011 as part of the Public Services Reform (General Teaching Council for Scotland) Order 2011 which set out the Government's plans for granting independent status to GTC Scotland from April 2012. We have adopted the title 'Professional Update' for this process.

2. What is Professional Update for?
  • We recognise that some teachers will have concerns about Professional Update and that it is therefore important to secure a consensus on a suitable way forward. Tangible benefits for teaching, for teachers, for learners and the reputation of the teaching profession will only result from a system which is seen to be supportive of teachers and is introduced in a way which is acceptable to them.

    The teaching profession is constantly changing. GTC Scotland therefore anticipates that an effective system of Professional Update will ensure that teachers have:

    • a responsibility to consider their development needs
    • an entitlement to a system of supportive professional review and development which can:
      • assist them to identify constructive ways to update their skills
      • provide access to opportunities which can address those areas identified as requiring support
      • help them to manage change
      • offer a focus on ways in which they can enhance their careers
    • confirmation that they have maintained the high standards required of a teacher in Scotland's educational establishments. (The Standard for Full Registration is the baseline standard for all fully registered teachers. It is now normally attained at the end of the Teacher Induction Scheme but is maintained thereafter throughout a teacher's career.)

    GTC Scotland also recognises the need to ensure that proposals are practicable; supportive of teachers and not constrained by bureaucracy; and that they allow individual teachers the opportunity to identify and meet their future needs.

3. What has happened so far?
  • In order to look carefully at the issues around such a scheme, GTC Scotland set up a Working Group. This group includes representatives from the following organisations:

    • GTC Scotland
    • Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS)
    • Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (SSTA)
    • National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT)
    • Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)
    • Education Scotland
    • Association of Headteachers & Deputes in Scotland (AHDS)
    • Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC)
    • National Parent Forum Scotland (NPFS)
    • Scottish Government
    • School Leaders Scotland (SLS)
    • Scottish Teacher Education Committee (STEC)
    • Scottish Council for Independent Schools (SCIS)

    The Working Group has spent a great deal of time liaising with other members of the educational community, listening to concerns and seeking balanced, sensitive and practicable ways forward. GTC Scotland has also been able to learn from the experiences of other comparable professions (e.g. medicine, dentistry, accountancy, and teaching professions in other parts of the world) which have already introduced similar schemes.

    From 2011, we have organised a series of meetings across the country with teachers to discuss our early thinking about Professional Update, and we held a formal consultation on Professional Update which took place between 1 February 2012 and 7 March 2012. We received 185 responses to the consultation and you can review a summary of those responses on our Consultations page.

    In August 2012, we embarked on a series of pilot programmes of Professional Update with three local authorities, North Lanarkshire, East Renfrewshire and Perth and Kinross and an independent school, Erskine Stewart's Melville. These have helped us plan how Professional Update will operate in phase 2 of the pilot programmes and how we will roll this out nationally in 2014.

    From August 2013, around half of the local authorities in Scotland will be participating in the pilot, as well as a further six independent schools, three universities and a number of registered teachers working in Education Scotland.

4. Has GTC Scotland looked at other organisations for models of recording professional learning?
  • Yes, we have looked at a number of other organisations who carry out variations on Professional Update. These have included the General Dental Council, the General Medical Council, and a number of teaching bodies in Australia, amongst others, who have implemented similar schemes. While our system of Professional Update will be different in its approach to these other organisations, it has been useful to gain an insight into systems of Professional Update elsewhere.

Aims and Benefits

5. What are the key purposes of Professional Update?
  • One of the first outcomes of the Working Group was to come up with a name for the scheme that better reflected its aims which are:

    • to maintain and improve the quality of our teachers as outlined in the relevant Professional Standards and to enhance the impact that they have on pupils' learning
    • to support, maintain and enhance teachers' continued professionalism and the reputation of the teaching profession in Scotland.

    We have decided that Professional Update is a suitable title for this process. A total of 85% of the respondents to our consultation agreed with this.

    GTC Scotland acknowledges that Scotland's teachers are already committed to maintaining high standards (as expressed in the Standard for Full Registration) throughout their careers. We know too that teachers will take advantage of opportunities to develop their skills and are committed to ensuring that the quality of teaching and learning and the standing of the teaching profession can be maintained and improved through ongoing professional review and development (PRD).

6. What is the value of keeping a record of Professional Learning?
  • Teachers across Scotland have been required to maintain a professional learning record for a number of years. We would hope that Professional Update would build on this already established practice. A record and plan helps teachers to reflect on practice and to link planned learning to their individual, school and local authority development needs.
7. What are the key messages of Professional Update?
  • Professional Update aims to:

    • maintain and improve the quality of our teachers as outlined in the relevant Professional Standards and to enhance the impact that they have on pupils' learning
    • support, maintain and enhance teachers' continued professionalism and the reputation of the teaching profession in Scotland

    An important part of our message is that Professional Update will:

    • Support teachers
    • Not add to their existing workload
    • Encourage teachers to develop new skills
    • Provide an opportunity for teachers to evidence the skills they currently have
    • Help teachers identify appropriate professional learning opportunities

    Professional Update is about helping teachers to develop their skills and evidence those skills in a formal, supportive setting.


Roles and Responsibilities

8. What will be the GTC Scotland role in the initiative?
  • GTC Scotland will have a validating role in the process, ensuring that local authority PRD systems are robust and that teachers are enabled to demonstrate the skills they already have as well as learn new ones. We have developed validation guidelines, which we are using to validate local authority processes as part of the pilot programmes of Professional Update. We have also developed validation guidelines for use in the independent, university and college sector.

    We anticipate that much of the work required to operate Professional Update will be carried out by local authorities and other employers with GTC Scotland providing advice and support as required.

9. Who will have responsibility for managing my professional learning?
  • It is the responsibility of every individual teacher to manage their professional learning. However, as with current systems of PRD, line managers will play a supportive role, encouraging teachers to reflect on practice with a focus on continuous improvement and assisting in the identification of professional learning activities and opportunities which will contribute to this.
10. What will the role of middle managers be in Professional Update?
  • All leaders who undertake PRD meetings with their staff will have a key role to play in the process. It is anticipated that coaching approaches will be central to the success of Professional Update, and leaders and managers who carry out the process will be encouraged to develop skills in this area.
11. What if I simply don't have time to do Professional Update as my focus is on the classroom?
  • We understand that some teachers will feel this way, particularly when taking into account other current pressures in the education sector. However, the time to complete the Professional Update process will come out of the existing time for teachers. We are not asking teachers to do more work than they currently do. The intention of Professional Update is to support teachers, not add to their burden of work.
12. How would Professional Update affect teachers who are working abroad at the moment but intend returning to teach in Scotland in a couple of years time?
  • It is anticipated that all registered teachers will be included in the process of Professional Update, with the process adjusted to suit the needs of different types of teachers. The process will also be adjusted to suit the needs of registered teachers working outwith the classroom but within the education sector as well as registered teachers who are currently working outwith the education sector.
13. How will Professional Update cater for supply teachers?
  • It is anticipated that all registered teachers will be included in the process of Professional Update, with the process adjusted to suit the needs of different types of teachers, including supply teachers. Supply teachers have been involved in the pilot programmes of Professional Update, and their feedback will help ensure that we develop a process which meets their needs.
14. Will Quality Improvement staff be required to undergo Professional Update?
  • It is anticipated that all registered teachers will be included in the process of Professional Update, with the process adjusted to suit the needs of different types of teachers including those working outwith the classroom but within the education sector such as Quality Improvement Officers, Senior Education Managers and Directors of Education.

Looking Forward

15. What might Professional Update look like?
16. Will Professional Update apply to all registered teachers?
  • Yes. All registered teachers will be included in the process of Professional Update, with the process adjusted to suit the needs of different types of teachers. The process will also be adjusted to suit the needs of registered teachers working outwith the classroom but within the education sector as well as registered teachers who are currently working outwith the education sector. Our Professional Update Position Paper which can be read below provides more detail on this:

17. Will Professional Update standardise professional learning across Scotland?
  • Nationally, provision of professional learning varies widely, in order to meet individual and local needs. It is anticipated that Professional Review and Development (PRD) will play a central part in the process of Professional Update. We know that, where PRD operates successfully, it provides a valuable opportunity for teachers to reflect on their practice and to consider how they can improve their professional skills and knowledge. It is envisaged that GTC Scotland will have a validating role in Professional Update, ensuring that local authority PRD systems are robust and that teachers are able to demonstrate the skills they already have, and learn new ones.
18. Will professional learning just be about courses or will reading and other activities be included?
  • Professional learning is what teachers do to ensure their professional knowledge and practice is informed, up-to-date and stimulating. We believe that by undertaking a wide range of high-quality, sustained professional learning experiences, teachers are more likely to inspire pupils and provide high quality teaching and learning experiences, enabling learners to achieve their best. It is important that professional learning provides rich opportunities for teachers to develop and enhance their professional knowledge and practice, in order to progress the quality of learning and teaching and school improvement.

    It is not anticipated that Professional Update would place restrictions on forms of professional learning. Indeed, we would hope that the process would encourage teachers to reflect on their learning and continue to enhance knowledge and practice, through engaging in a wide range of opportunities. View further information on Professional Learning.

19. How will Professional Update be different from what teachers do currently?
  • Professional Update will help develop consistency of practice across local authorities by ensuring a sharper focus on the impact of PRD and professional learning. There will also be a requirement for teachers to evidence this learning more systematically as part of the process. View further information on evidence of impact of Professional Learning.
20. Would the time to complete the Professional Update process come out of the existing 35 hour allocation of time for professional learning?
  • Professional Update will build on existing processes in place such as PRD and participation in professional learning. We are keen that any process of Professional Update is not a bureaucratic exercise and does not add to teacher workload.
21. How will we meet the identified professional learning needs on current restricted budgets?
  • It is important to remember that professional learning is much more than attendance at courses and other events. Increasingly, it is understood that professinoal learning covers a range of development opportunities including team teaching, professional reading and research, observation of classroom practice and participation in teacher learning communities and working groups. View further information on Professional Learning.
22. How will high quality, subject professional learning be arranged and funded?
  • The organisation of professional learning will continue to be led by local authorities, schools and individual teachers.
23. How would we ensure availability and quality of professional learning?
  • The organisation of professional learning will continue to be led by local authorities, schools and individual teachers. The GTC Scotland has developed a system of accrediting professional learning which leads to the award of Professional Recognition. Local authorities, universities and other providers of professional learning can find out more about this at:

    Accreditation of Programmes Leading to Professional Recognition

24. How will we evidence teacher development and impact on learning?
  • Teachers already maintain a professional learning record. We would envisage that this would continue, with a sharper focus on evidence of impact on learning. As part of the pilot programmes of Professional Update, we are testing an on-line professional learning profile, where teachers can log their professional learning activities and link their learning to the appropriate GTC Scotland Professional Standard.
25. Is Professional Update a tool to get rid of poor teachers?
  • Professional Update is not a tool to get rid of poor teachers. Professional Update will focus on continuous improvement rather than on determining whether or not a teacher is, or has remained, competent.

    In line with the GTC Scotland Code of Practice on Teacher Competence, competence cases will continue to be handled by local authorities in the first instance, with cases of alleged serious professional incompetence referred subsequently to GTC Scotland for resolution. In addition, it is hoped that the small number of cases which lead to a formal review of the competence of an individual teacher may be assisted by the improvements in Professional Review and Development arising from the introduction of Professional Update.

    Our Professional Update Position Paper which can be read on the main Professional Update page provides more detail on this.

26. I am concerned that there will be duplication of systems used to record Professional Update?
  • We are currently exploring a range of possibilities for recording information, including MyGTCS. As part of the pilot programmes of Professional Update, we are testing an on-line professional learning profile, where teachers can log their professional learning activities and link their learning to the appropriate GTC Scotland Professional Standard. We are also looking at existing mechanisms in a number of local authorities. We are committed to avoiding any duplication of systems. Our job is to make this process as straightforward for teachers as possible and not to add to their workload.
27. When will the scheme officially start?
  • The target date for a national roll out is August 2014.
28. When will I be required to complete the Professional Update process for the first time?
  • The national roll-out of Professional Update will begin in August 2014. In the first phase of the pilot process, teachers with GTC Scotland registration years ending in a 7 and a 2 were invited to take part. In phase 2, teachers with registration years ending in an 8 or a 3 have been invited to take part. The use of registration years for this purpose has worked well, and we have confirmed that we will continue to work in this way when we roll the process out nationally. Therefore, registered teachers will be required to complete Professional Update on a 5-yearly cycle as follows:

    • 2014/2015 – teachers with registration years ending in a 9 or 4
    • 2015/2016 – teachers with registration years ending in 0 and 5
    • 2016/2017 – teachers with registration years ending in a 6 or 1
    • 2017/2018 – teachers with registration years ending in 7 and 2
    • 2018/2019 – teachers with registration years ending in 8 or 3 etc.

    Teachers who participate in the pilot schemes in 2013/2014 and 2014/2015 will be deemed to have completed Professional Update for a full 5 years from their initial completion of the Professional Update sign off process.

29. How should I be preparing for Professional Update?
  • From August 2014, engagement in the Professional Update process will be a condition of registration with GTC Scotland. National implementation will be on a phased basis, as outlined in the question above. Teachers will not be asked to provide retrospective evidence in the PRD process prior to 2014. GTC Scotland will continue to take every opportunity to communicate with the profession to ensure that all teachers are aware of the timescale of implementation, and what will be required of them to complete the Professional Update process.
30. Which of the GTC Scotland Professional Standards will I reflect against?
  • The Professional Update process requires all registered teachers to reflect against an appropriate GTC Scotland Professional Standard. The revised suite of Professional Standards, which came into effect on 1 August 2013, includes The Standards for Registration, the Standard for Career-Long Professional Learning and the Standards for Leadership and Management. For teachers who have achieved the Standard for Full Registration, GTC Scotland has developed Standards which offer constructive support for teachers as they consider how they might develop their professional knowledge and skills through on-going self-evaluation and professional learning. The Standard for Career-Long Professional Learning has been developed to support teachers choosing to reflect on this Standard as part of their Professional Learning, whilst the Standards for Leadership and Management have been developed to support the self-evaluation and professional learning of those in, or aspiring to, formal leadership roles in schools.

    Whilst the revised standards have been designed to meet the needs of teachers at all career stages working in Scotland's schools, they may not all be directly relevant to teachers working outwith the school system, e.g. centrally based local authority staff, teachers working in universities or national organisations. Therefore, in addition to the revised Standards and related support materials, GTC Scotland also plans to develop guidance notes and support materials for teachers working outwith the school system, to be piloted in the next phase of the Professional Update pilot.

31. What will happen if I cannot complete the process in my designated year?
  • GTC Scotland recognises that there will be a number of circumstances which may make completion of the Professional Update process within the designated timescale difficult, including career breaks, extended illness, maternity/ paternity/ adoption leave, and occasional supply work, for which extensions to the five year sign-off period may be required. If a teacher is unable to complete the process in the designated year, then the teacher should have the opportunity to request a deferral. This deferral request will be made at local authority/ employer level and the decision notified to GTC Scotland. Deferrals will normally be granted for a period of one year. GTC Scotland will develop an administrative process to record this deferral and extension process effectively and will develop clear guidelines for this process, including the process of application and qualifying criteria.
32. Some staff in my school fear that Professional Update will eventually be used to manage salaries in the way that the PRD system for support staff does. Will that eventually be the case?
  • As salaries are not part of our remit and Professional Update is for GTC Scotland registration purposes, this would not be the case.

    We realise that there is a separate system of PRD for support staff but Professional Update is intended to be a process for continuous improvement and is linked to professional learning. Therefore, we would not envisage Professional Update being used in this way.

33. I work within the education sector (but not in the sector to which I am registered) but continue with my GTC Scotland registration and undertake professional learning. Will this count or will I no longer be able to maintain registration with GTC Scotland?
  • We have consulted on exactly how Professional Update will operate. We held a number of meetings across the country to gather the views of teachers and there was a formal consultation on Professional Update which took place between 1 February 2012 and 7 March 2012. The Professional Update Working Group, which includes Unions, the Scottish Government, Universities and other education providers, continues to look at a range of issues.

    How Professional Update will operate in respect to someone in your position has still to be decided. However, you will not be required to give up your GTC Scotland registration. We have a number of teachers registered who no longer work in schools, who are retired, who work abroad, and yet maintain their GTC Scotland registration. We would have no issue with you continuing to do so, as long as you continued to meet whatever the Professional Update scheme requires in terms of self-evaluation against the GTC Scotland Professional Standards and professional learning.

34. If Employers and not GTC Scotland are to deliver Professional Update through a process of professional review and development, will COSLA and SNCT encourage a standard format throughout Scotland? If not, how would parity and equality between authorities be achieved?
  • Our initial thinking is that there would be national advice which all stakeholders should follow, validated by GTC Scotland, which should help ensure that there should be a culture of equality and parity across the country. It will however be the employers who will have a responsibility to deliver, in association with their employees, a system of PRD which meets both national principles and local needs.
35. How will we be helped to work within this proposed framework of coaching and mentoring?
  • We held a consultation on exactly what Professional Update will look like for teachers. Research indicates that coaching and mentoring approaches to Professional Review and Development have proved successful and this is an area that will continue to be explored further in the coming months. We would plan to share further information about coaching and mentoring approaches as part of the PRD process with teachers and with local authorities, and we recognise that this would need to include information about training and support.

    Our Professional Update Position Paper which can be read on the main Professional Update page provides more detail on this.


Contacts

For further information about Professional Update, contact:

T: +44 (0)131 314 6000
E: professional.update@gtcs.org.uk