Talking up teaching

GTCS logoby Kenneth Muir, Chief Executive, General Teaching Council for Scotland. Continuing our guest blog series featuring Informed Scotland subscribers writing on the theme Making connections across the learning & skills landscape.

STV’s Scotland Tonight programme recently asked the question ‘What makes a good teacher?’ The programme reminded me of a visit I made a few years ago to several schools in Ontario, Canada, which is often held up as one of the best performing education systems in the world. Two things struck me at the time…

First, the extent to which all Ontario teachers were able to share the province’s relentless focus on three, easily understood priorities – improving levels of literacy, improving levels of numeracy and, perhaps surprisingly, building and enhancing the confidence of the public in the education system. It really didn’t matter with whom I spoke – school principals, senior managers, class and support teachers, even parents; all could articulate clearly what they and the education system were striving to deliver.

This focus on three priorities isn’t a million miles away from the focus in Scotland being given to literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing in addressing the Scottish Attainment Challenge, but perhaps what is missing is the clarity given in Ontario and suggested by the new Cabinet Secretary John Swinney as being key to supporting teachers in their work and simplifying the landscape.

The third priority has particular impact – to what extent is Scotland seriously addressing the issue of talking up the teaching profession in a way that gives users of our education system, and the wider public, confidence and which attracts students to become teachers and those wishing to change career to enter the profession?

There is much that is positive about Scottish education and the public should have real confidence in the sheer hard work and dedication that Scottish teachers put into their work, day in, day out. In my view, there can be no greater responsibility and no more invigorating a career than helping give future generations of young people the skills and confidence to add real value to Scottish society. Yet, how many teachers sell their profession to the captive audience of students in their classrooms?

There are hundreds of young people leaving school each year for whom a career in teaching would be an attractive, fulfilling option. Is it time for the main organisations in Scottish education – GTCS, Education Scotland, the trade unions, SQA – led by Scottish Government to launch a public campaign to raise awareness of the commitment, and range and quality of work carried out day to day by the vast majority of teachers across the country?

Teachers I talk to find it particularly infuriating when they work hard to deliver high quality learning and teaching and all they, and their students and families, hear about are negative views being presented over and over.

This is not just a media issue. It is incumbent upon everyone in Scottish education to talk up the high quality work that is done and, despite the problems that do exist and must be addressed, such as workload and bureaucracy, use that positivity as a lever to encourage greater understanding of what being a teacher involves and encourage more people to become teachers.

In short, it’s time to take a lesson from our cousins in Canada; it’s time to talk up teaching.

For further information contact Martin Osler, Director of Communications, Digital Development and HR [email protected]
Website:  YouTube: GTC Scotland  Twitter: @gtcs 

Read previous guest blogs in the series, including those from SCEL, Clyde Gateway, EDT Scotland, SCQF Partnership and UCAS.

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