The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Doing the best for our learners

Doing the best for our learners Chief Executive Ken Muir reminds registrants of the support on offer from GTCS

 I never really tire of reminding registrants and others of the work that GTC Scotland does to support teachers and the wider education system in Scotland. It is clear, as it has been for many years, that many registrants are quite unaware of the wide range of work carried out by their professional body, thinking that all they get for their registration fee over the year is a place on our Register and five copies of this magazine. And, for a very small number of registrants, a letter informing them that they are subject to a fitness to teach investigation. Of course, there is much more to our work here at Clerwood House, all of which I readily point out impacts either directly or indirectly on what happens in education settings across the country, on the quality of teaching and the quality of outcomes for learners.

Our recently-published annual report (see contains a number of statistics that highlight the important role GTC Scotland plays in the Scottish education system. Maintaining a Register with almost 75,000 registrants is, in itself, a big piece of work, with almost 3,000 newly-qualified teachers being added to it every year. Between 500 and 700 of the additions to the Register are qualified outside Scotland and this presents additional challenges to ensure such applicants meet the high standards expected of teachers in Scotland. The Register is important as it is accessible to the public and potential employers and shows the status of every registrant. GTC Scotland oversees the Teacher Induction Scheme which provides probationers with a guarantee of high-quality induction into their teaching career. In 2017/18, this involved over 2,600 probationers, with a further 900 following the flexible route, the latter for whom we are doing much more than previously to support. Students would not ultimately become teachers if GTC Scotland did not manage the Student Placement System which involves finding almost 18,000 placements in any academic year and it is GTC Scotland that confirms the quality of the initial teacher education programmes they experience through our accreditation programmes. Finally, in our regulatory role, GTC Scotland receives and investigates up to 200 referrals every year when a registrant’s competence or conduct is called into question.

It is, however, the work we do to support and promote leadership and professional learning that has assumed much more significance in recent years and which can often have the greatest impact. GTC Scotland has, for many years, made Professional Recognition awards to registrants in acknowledgement of the enhanced, significant and sustained enquiry a registrant has undertaken and the development of their professional learning in a particular area. Professional Recognition provides the opportunity for a registrant to be recognised as an accomplished practitioner, whose practice is underpinned by ongoing reflective enquiry.

Being a reflective, accomplished and enquiring professional is something highlighted by Professor Graham Donaldson in his seminal report Teaching Scotland’s Future as being essential if practitioners are to have the capacity to engage fully with the complexities of education and to be key actors in shaping and leading educational change. In 2017/18, almost 800 teachers were awarded Professional Recognition, many of whom have told me of their pride in achieving such success. In the last two years, GTC Scotland has increased its role in incentivising leadership and professional learning by offering Professional Learning Awards to organisations, local authorities and schools providing high-quality professional learning opportunities for practitioners.

One of the most pleasing areas in which GTC Scotland promotes practitioners to develop as enquiring professionals is through our annual George D Gray Award for the best undergraduate thesis or enquiry in initial teacher education (ITE) in Scotland. George D Gray was the first Registrar of the General Teaching Council for Scotland and was largely responsible for winning government support for setting up the General Teaching Council for Scotland in 1965. When he died, a trust fund was set up by his widow, Dr Ethel Gray, as a memorial to her husband and as a means of encouraging high-quality research by undergraduates. The award is now in its eighteenth year and involves a selection panel scrutinising the wide range of student enquiries submitted to GTC Scotland by ITE universities and interviewing a shortlist of students. Elsewhere in the magazine, there is a photograph of the 2018 winner, Robbie Blair of Balbardie Primary School, West Lothian. Robbie’s enquiry, entitled How has the experience of a growth mindset initiative affected children’s attitudes to learning in numeracy in an upper primary setting?, and the interview we had with him, certainly made a convincing case for schools to consider seriously the adoption of a growth mindset approach to encourage improved learning outcomes for children and young people.

Reflecting on Robbie’s work, I was reminded that there is much to commend teachers and others, irrespective of the stage of their career, adopting an enquiring approach, pushing the boat out and trying new initiatives. It doesn’t matter if it is adopting a growth mindset approach, taking different approaches to teaching reading or engaging in more play-based activities in P1/P2; if it makes learning more enjoyable and effective for children and young people, it is worth doing.

At the same time, I was also reminded of GTC Scotland’s recent report in which children had their say on what makes a good teacher (see Teachers who children feel are kind, caring and fair are the ones who have the best chances of producing the best learning. When we published this report one teacher said to me: “You can have all the initiatives in the world, and some of them undoubtedly work, but fundamentally you just need teachers who like children and young people and want to do the best for them all.” In this era of reflective and enquiring practitioners, it’s certainly a point worth all of us reflecting on.