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Curriculum for Excellence | General Teaching Council for Scotland
Registration, subject teaching and Curriculum for Excellence
We have recently received a number of enquiries about the teaching of subjects or aspects of subject content in secondary schools. This is an area that we will continue to look at in greater detail as Curriculum for Excellence develops. In the interim, however, we have set out below the background to our current thinking.
It is important to state at the outset that we remain committed to the notion of secondary teachers being qualified in specific subjects and primarily teaching those subjects. While it is the responsibility of the Local Authority to decide on the deployment of its staff, we would like to give some guidance on this issue.
The legislative framework
The thinking on the qualifications necessary for teaching in Scottish schools was changed in 2005 when the Government repealed the Schools (Scotland) Code (1956). Although this change caused GTC Scotland some initial concern, the Code’s replacement, the Requirements for Teachers (Scotland) Regulations 2005, maintain the requirement for education authorities to employ Registered Teachers and emphasises the view of the Government and of the Council that such teachers should have ‘the appropriate professional skills and knowledge required’ to teach appropriately.
The 2005 Regulations, therefore, broadly support the provisions of the 1956 Code but nonetheless allow some flexibility to local authorities as employers, provided that they are assured that a teacher has the appropriate professional skills and knowledge required for the post to which they are appointed. In practice, this normally means following existing GTC Scotland guidelines.
Broadly speaking, we interpret Circular No 4/2005 (10 October 2005) as stating the continuing need for subject qualifications in subject teaching. We therefore take the view that teachers should primarily teach subjects in which they are qualified and registered.
However, paragraphs 3.2 – 3.5 of the Circular are of particular interest, as these are the sections of the circular which confirm that there is a certain amount of flexibility as long as a teacher has the ‘appropriate professional skills and knowledge required’. Where teachers do not have the ‘appropriate professional skills and knowledge required’, our view is that it would be unreasonable, ill advised and potentially educationally damaging to deploy them where their expertise may not be well-suited to the task they are being asked to undertake.
Of course, opportunities might be provided to allow a teacher to acquire or develop the ‘appropriate professional skills and knowledge required’. This would require continuing professional development and space and time to work together with colleagues to develop suitable expertise and confidence.
The Circular also refers to the Framework for Professional Recognition / Registration and recognises that this significant opportunity for professional development (or, indeed, for gaining registration in an additional subject or for another educational sector) may be one means of addressing a gap in subject knowledge or expertise.
In summary, therefore, our position remains that teachers should be qualified and registered for the sectors and subjects they are teaching. However, we recognise that local authorities have the right to deploy suitably qualified staff who will normally have a teaching qualification and/or have attained professional recognition or additional registration which will give assurance that they have the ‘appropriate professional skills and knowledge required’ in the subject being taught.
Our views and curriculum change
Turning to developments which are currently arising in Scottish schools, it is important to take a balanced view of any proposals for change. While our position is set out above, some of the suggestions which have been reported to us are very radical (and perhaps even unacceptable), while others will be capable of implementation with careful planning and appropriate support for teachers.
As background to this, it is important to note that Curriculum for Excellence does not suggest doing away with subject teaching. Indeed, Building the Curriculum 3 emphasises the importance of subject teaching:
“Subjects are an essential feature of the curriculum, particularly in secondary school. They provide an important and familiar structure for knowledge, offering a context for specialists to inspire, stretch and motivate. Throughout a young person’s learning there will be increasing specialisation and greater depth, which will lead to subjects increasingly being the principal means of structuring learning and delivering outcomes.”
It is however also important to note that CfE does suggest that there can be benefits in interdisciplinary learning. We would wish to support such developments which can, with careful planning, respect the principles described above. However, we would like to remind all colleagues that neither the repeal of the 1956 Code nor the advent of Curriculum for Excellence has authorised the teaching of any subject or subjects by teachers who do not have sufficient skills to undertake this responsibility.
Our experience suggests that where cross-curricular or integrated developments have been successful (the areas of Science and Social Studies are most often cited), there has been a realisation that for teachers to work in conjunction with colleagues on common course elements or interdisciplinary areas there has to be time for joint professional learning, joint development of teaching materials, joint discussion of pedagogy, joint teaching, joint assessment and joint evaluation. Equally, in those cases where reluctant teachers have been coerced into teaching outside their subject area without appropriate support, these developments have been less successful and course delivery has lacked appropriate quality with negative effects on learning.
For example, in respect of Social Studies, we are aware of schools in which some teachers, with careful planning and appropriate support, have agreed to become involved in the teaching of integrated units within a broad general education.. The extent to which this approach might be acceptable would depend on the qualifications of teachers in that school, the training offered for new course components and the level at which they are asked to teach.
Consequently, we would anticipate that collegiate discussion would be appropriate to decide whether or not any particular school could successfully introduce an integrated course.
We are also aware of situations where rotas of teachers are being expected to deliver different subject elements within interdisciplinary learning; subject specialisms in which they do not have the necessary professional skills and knowledge, particularly for experiences and outcomes at the fourth level. Another concern we have is where one teacher is delivering a topic or theme ranging across a number of curricular areas in which they lack the necessary professional skills and knowledge.
GTC Scotland is committed to maintaining and enhancing the quality of teaching in Scotland and therefore urges caution in developing such approaches so that the necessary assurances can be given to parents and pupils about teachers having the necessary professional skills and knowledge to deliver successful educational outcomes.
While a commitment to a broad general education until the end of fourth level is accepted, there is nothing paradoxical in also having a commitment to progression, increasing challenge and depth in subjects as pupils approach the senior phase; such subject teaching will only come from appropriately qualified and registered subject teachers.
As Curriculum for Excellence progresses and schools develop their approaches to it, we will continue to offer further advice as and when appropriate.
We are happy to respond to enquiries. Questions or requests for further information should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Impact and Benefits of CfE
Information on the impact and benefits of Curriculum for Excellence can be found on the Education Scotland website, a link can be found in the Useful Links section below.