The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Enhancing professionalism in education since 1965

Review of the Professional Standards

Your Professional Standards, Your Professional Voice

Charlaine Simpson, Senior Education Officer

The Review of the Professional Standards continues to gather pace with almost 30 National Conversations having already taken place, and many more to come.

The GTCS Senior Education Officers felt it was time to pause and analyse the data already gathered to ensure we have coverage from all sectors and stakeholders, and to start to think about the key messages from the feedback.

Key messages from the feedback so far

The National Conversation is structured around three key questions:

  • What works?
  • What doesn’t work?
  • What would you change and how?

What works?


"The Standards are truly aspirational and give teachers in Scotland a strong framework to be bold and progressive in our practice. The foregrounding of social justice across the standards is crucial in establishing that education doesn't take place in a vacuum, and only through full, holistic engagement with all the factors that shape a child's life experience can meaningful, transformative education take place. This, taken in conjunction with the explicitly outlined professional values element, are part of what makes me proud to work within the Scottish system. Please don't change them - they make me want to strive to be a better teacher.’
Online submission

Share your thoughts on the Professional Standards by completing an online submission

  • Professionalism is clearly signposted through the first strand in all Professional Standards. The standards are a ‘very good codification of professionalism’ and ‘covers everything I need to consider’ as a professional.
  • Through the centrality of leadership, learning for sustainability and professionals values, they ‘epitomise what a teacher is and does – the essence of their role, skills required and knowledge needed to understand the role.’

Supporting teachers

  • They are ‘aspirational’ and ‘set clear expectations’ of professional standards and are a ‘very effective tool’ for teachers by providing clear progression.
  • The Professional Standards encourage ‘reflection’ and ‘set clear expectations’ that are ‘reasonable’, ‘realistic, holistic and relevant’.
  • Some teachers have said that they are very useful as they ‘create a framework for teaches to review their practice’. The Professional Standards were also described as very useful when ‘working collaboratively’ or, as one local authority officer said, ‘while leading/facilitating CLPL sessions with staff’.


  • The resources that support the use of Professional Standards, such as the coaching wheel, were found to be ‘really helpful’.

Professional learning

  • Practitioner enquiry gives structured opportunities for professional learning in an area which is of interest to teachers.

What doesn’t work?

The language and structure

  • The language is ‘too complicated’ and ‘ambiguous’ which makes capturing evidence more difficult.
  • Some statements are ‘too vague’, some are ‘irrelevant’ and there are some gaps.
  • Need to be aware of the audience and make the language more accessible not only for teachers, but also parents and pupils.
  • Structure is not easy to navigate, particularly the values and social justice.

Use of Standards

  • There were many comments that Professional Standards are used retrospectively by teachers with one teacher saying, ‘I think you find a Standard to fit what you are doing’.
  • Professional Standards are used extensively to self-evaluate before a Professional Review and Development meeting but one headteacher said that ‘there is less awareness [of Professional Standards] on a daily basis’.
  • Another headteacher commented that Professional Standards felt ‘separate from school improvement’ and would perhaps be better received if they were more like HGIOS4, with exemplars and Quality Improvement indicators with a strong focus on teaching and learning.

Professional learning

  • Resources, such as coaching wheels, are not widely known or used. One teacher commented that ‘resources need to be developed to help the profession engage with the standards’.


  • Values are ‘vague, possibly contestable’ and difficult to evidence and it almost feels like an assumption that they are lived by all when in fact they are a really important part of reflection.

What would you change and how?

The language and structure

  • Standards need to be ‘stripped back’ or ‘consolidated into fewer Standards’.
  • Simplified and streamlined to provide a continuum across the Standards, as it can be awkward to 'bridge' the Standards.

Use of Standards

  • Is there a need for a System Leadership Professional Standard?

Professional learning

  • There is a need to link more to practice perhaps with exemplification.
  • Would there be a possibility of generating a ‘print-out’ (digital-hard copy to exhibit as part of job application?).


  • Define what social justice means and how it is enacted.


  • The possibility of a single sign on to MyGTCS from Glow.
  • Could there be an app that links to my MyGTCS?

Alternative options

  • One Professional Standard would be better - a single spine of what all should know, then branches for other things, with hyperlink to latest research.
  • Statements need to be changed to impact statements which reflect enquiry questions.
  • Structure the Standards by themes - this may be more manageable for teachers.
  • Remove the bullet points and phrase these as questions to prompt professional dialogue.

Have your say

There’s still time to get involved. For more information and to access the online feedback form, see: 

A National Conversation