GTC Scotland

The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Introducing our new Director of Education, Registration and Professional Learning

Our new Director of Education, Registration and Professional Learning (ERPL), Dr Pauline Stephen, tells us about herself and her plans for GTC Scotland


Q. Tell us about yourself and how you got into education?

I left school to go to Aberdeen University where I studied psychology. After employment in social care I went to Moray House to complete my primary teaching qualification. I taught in Monymusk Primary School in Aberdeenshire before returning to University, this time in Dundee, to retrain as an educational psychologist. I spent many happy years in the psychology service in Aberdeenshire and had the opportunity to lead the service as Principal Psychologist. Prior to my move to Angus in 2013, I was a Head of Service for Aberdeenshire Council. My life away from work revolves around my family and their activities although I have recently completed my training to be a yoga teacher for fun!

Q. What areas of education are you most passionate about?

My previous role was Director of Schools and Learning for Angus Council. As Chief Education Officer I was responsible for the leadership of all aspects of early learning, primary education, secondary education and additional support needs. During my time in Angus I focused on enhancing teacher learning to impact on the quality of the classroom experience for our learners and was particularly interested in supporting teacher agency and systems leadership.

I completed my doctorate whilst working as a psychologist on the topic of teachers’ professional development and have a passion for supporting the development and love of the language of learning. This applies equally to adults as it does to children and young people.

Q. What will your main priorities be for GTC Scotland in your new role?

 My vision is for GTC Scotland ERPL to play a critical role in improving the quality of learning and teaching in Scotland’s classrooms. To do this we need to focus on teacher professionalism and develop strategies to manage the implementation gap that can grow between plans and practice.

My first priorities are to deliver on projects already in progress such as the refresh of the Professional Standards, and to further enhance the partnerships already in place with colleges, local authorities, universities and others.

Q. What challenges facing registrants can GTC Scotland help tackle?

As the regulatory body for teachers, GTC Scotland plays a fundamental role in Scottish education. It is important that we develop our partnership working with other national bodies such as Education Scotland and the Scottish Government in order that support and advice to Scotland’s teaching professionals is consistent and aligned across the system. With more than 28 per cent of children and young people in Scotland assessed to have an additional support need, it is also important that we play a key role in ensuring teachers, at all stages of their careers, have access to effective learning to meet the needs of all learners. 

Q. From your experience of GTC Scotland what do you think we do well and what do you think registrants would like to see improved?

There is a continual need to improve systems and processes for registrants to enhance their interactions with us. In an increasingly digital world, there are opportunities to be explored. As the only independent organisation with a direct connection to all of Scotland’s teaching professionals, there is scope to further influence and support the development of Scottish education and to ensure that the voice of the practitioner informs the future. 

Q. Can you tell us about your best and worst education experience either as a child or practitioner?

My best school experience happened in P5 in Arduthie Primary School in Stonehaven. My best friend Morag and I told our teacher, Mrs MacBeth, that we wanted to be primary teachers. Mrs MacBeth helped us write a letter to GTC Scotland to let them know we would be coming! I remember receiving a fat envelope from GTC Scotland in return containing leaflets and a letter. My worst experience happened in S4 when I was on the receiving end of a public telling off for a poor prelim performance. That feeling still stays with me.

Q. GTCS is in the middle of a consultation on a refresh of the Professionals Standards and revision of the Professional Code. What would you say to registrants to encourage them to complete the consultation?

The use of the Professional Standards and Professional Code is well-established in Scottish education. They continue to set the high standards that ensures public trust in teachers. They also provide the framework for the development of high-quality professional learning, teaching and leadership that improves outcomes for learners. Much work has already taken place to refresh and revise these documents, seven years after their creation. There is an opportunity until 20 December for everyone to have their say about the draft changes to our collective framework for ensuring our system supports the development of teacher professionalism into a new decade.