Reflections – Day 3

Becoming a Teacher and networking

There has been a Scottish system of induction into the teaching profession for many years. A legal precedent for a formal system of induction was set in The Teaching Council (Scotland) Act 1965. The Act created the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS). In Argyll and Bute we have had very positive relationships with the GTCS and the current, soon to be retiring Chief Executive Ken Muir has been a great supporter of our work in Argyll and Bute. Ken will be succeeded by Dr Pauline Stephen first female Chief Executive who will I am certain be keen to keep developing the strong connections.

Thinking back to the beginning of my career as a probation teacher in Park Primary in January 1982.  I was fortunate to be in a school where I had good support, very experienced teacher colleagues and a Head Teacher and Depute Head Teacher who had real vision, passion and creativity for learning and teaching. This was not always the case and many of my peers were left to their own devices. At that time being a probation teacher and being successful was more often or not down to your luck which school you were sent to and the support you were given. I was fortunate as the school provided a package of customised support and really encouraged as much training as possible.

My own positive start instilled in me the desire to support probationer teachers and to become a colleague who helped and inspired them through those difficult early days. I had the opportunity to take part in some early pilot work being set up in what   of being a supporter teacher in 1986. At that point in time newly trained teachers were provisionally registered for two years. A final report was submitted at the end of two years of service along with the recommendation for full registration to the Council. This period was referred to as the probationary period and new teachers were known as probationer teachers.

In 1987 when I was teaching at Inveraray Primary I became a probation support to Roslyn Redpath during her probationer teacher period. Roslyn was an exceptionally talented and creative teacher who had the wellbeing of her class at the forefront of the curriculum.  Roslyn and I became friends and she remains to this day an important colleague as Principal Educational Psychologist. Roslyn has provided support to me in many ways in my leadership roles. We have shared many laughs and have together launched many important policy developments which have the children and young people’s health and wellbeing at the centre.

In 1989 I became Senior Teacher at Ardrishaig Primary and part of the remit was supporting probationer teachers. Don MacAlister joined the staff as a probationer teacher and he remains a valued colleague and friend.  Don and I share a real love of learning and teaching with an emphasis on curriculum development. These early professional relationships and connections are so important as we develop in our roles in Education and are intertwined as we all grow and develop as educators.

The Teacher Induction Scheme, introduced in 2002, marked the first major change to new teacher induction in Scotland in 37 years. In the new Scheme, all teacher graduates from Scottish universities are entitled to a training placement – of one year duration – in one of 32 local authorities from August 2002.  The new scheme introduced support on a more formal basis than it was in previous years and eliminating much of the chance element of which school you were placed in for your probation period. The Teacher Induction Scheme provides a guaranteed one-year full-time probationer post for every eligible student graduating with a teaching qualification from one of Scotland’s universities. When introduced the training placement provided a limited weekly timetable of class contact – 0.7 of Full Time Equivalent (FTE) teaching contract – and guaranteed time for continuing development (0.3 FTE) this has now changed to (0.8 FTE) and (0,2). This time is used to meet individually with an induction supporter, to undertake planning and CPD activities. The new scheme was supported by standards expected to be developed during the induction year with a final sign off by the HT and supporter that the standards were met.

I am delighted to have been part of the setting up of this scheme in Argyll and Bute in the early 2000’s when I was HT at Inveraray Primary working with Rosemary Ward, (QIO)  and Anne Devine, (HT at Lochgilphead Joint Campus). As a working group we established a programme which would suit our context and provide quality support for our probationers to grow and learn as teachers. Over the years the programme has been shaped by many inspiring leaders including, Matthew Boyle (HT Vale of Leven Academy), Jay Helbert (HT Inveraray Primary), and Sandra Clarke, (Acting Education Manager). Our current programme, known as the Newly Qualified Teacher Induction, has as one of its strengths the involvement of current practitioners and is currently being headed up by the dynamic and inspiring duo of Sandra Clarke and David Mitchell (HT at Dunoon Grammar School). Sandra and David are supported by Janice McGregor (PT English Campbeltown Grammar, Mairi Wright (PT Easdale Primary), Caroline Armour (HT Dalintober Primary) on delivering the central support events where there is a focus to learn and to develop networks. Argyll and Bute’s Probationer Teacher Programme consists of 8 seminar and networking days with inputs from a variety of experienced and well respected partners and officers.  These inputs are tailored to meet the development needs of Newly Qualified Teachers aligned to national and local priorities.  In line with recommendations from Teaching Scotland’s Future (Donaldson 2010), Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) in Argyll undertake an area of practitioner enquiry in order to demonstrate and develop their effectiveness as teachers as well as to assist in school improvement.

The Argyll and Bute Newly Qualified Teacher Induction Scheme has been something I have held near and dear to me and have had involvement in throughout my career. A highlight of my year was taking time to get to know our newly qualified teachers and what would support their journey as a developing teacher in a rural context. As part of my Masters of Education I undertook some research with the 2016/17 cohort delving into what influences were important to their own development. The results clearly indicated the need for supportive colleagues who understood what they were going through, could support their needs and build networks. Our next generation of teachers need supportive colleagues. Our education service needs strong developing teachers. The OECD Education Working Paper No 196, (Echazarra and Radinger 2019) describes distinctive characteristics which shape the learning experience in rural contexts.   Learning in rural schools: Insights from PISA, TALIS and the literature

In 2004 we had concerns about the number of probationer teachers that we were being attracted to Argyll and Bute.  We began to explore a partnership with Strathclyde University and Argyll and Bute Council in 2005 to provide a distance learning PGCE in Primary.  As part of the Argyll and Bute team and in conjunction with Lynda Keith of Strathclyde University I co designed a bespoke programme to deliver ITE in Argyll through the medium of face to face tutoring and via VC. This work involved me taking part in selecting candidates, interviewing tutors, training and supporting tutors, training school providers and preparing high quality placements. I was heavily involved in in writing the course for Argyll and Bute and ensuring the quality of the training being provided would be held in high regard.  During the 6 years the programme ran in Argyll and Bute we had success in attracting Gaelic Medium students who successfully completed the course and have been employed in local schools. I am delighted to see that some of the early cohorts of this training are now in HT posts within our schools.  As part of the council ‘Growing our Own’ programme a partnership was established with University of the Highlands and Islands in 2015.  I worked with Professor Morag Redford to create a bespoke programme to allow students to stay in Argyll and Bute and access quality teacher training programmes. This is an exciting areas that continues to develop and an area that I look back on with pride as an area that I have supported in my career. It is part of my core as an educator that we grow the future new entrants and that they receive the best possible beginning to their careers enabling each to realise their potential as teachers. In recent years I have been a member of the Scottish Board for Teacher Education (SBTE) representing the rural schools within Scotland.

I am currently undertaking a Doctorate of Education with a focus on rural education and a core part of my research is exploring what are the conditions for developing rural teachers so my own interest and passion in this area will continue. I am now back at Strathclyde University – Education (Jordanhill) continuing my learning with amazing colleagues. I am being supported by Professor Kate Wall, Professor David Kirk and Dr Katajia Frimberger on my academic journey. I continue the theme of networking and have met wonderful colleagues who have become friends on this new journey. My Saturday morning “on line” writing friends  including Lorna Anderson, Nova Scott, Linda Bell, Paul Fleming, Lynne Jones, Charlaine Simpson, Nicky Shaw, Jenny Carey, and  Di Douglas who offer incredible support, friendship, motivation and laughs. They are incredible tweeters too so check out their pages on Twitter. We all need this networking as we become educators and we never stop learning.