LSG: Entry Requirements to Programmes of Initial Teacher Education in Scotland
The Learned Societies’ Group on Scottish STEM Education (LSG) brings together the learned societies and professional associations with a focus on the provision of STEM education at school. We welcome the opportunity to respond to the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) consultation on proposals for revising the Memorandum on entry requirements for Initial Teacher Education (ITE) Programmes in Scotland. Our response primarily focuses on the Primary Education component of the Memorandum. The LSG has appreciated the opportunity to engage with the GTCS from the outset of the review and we would be pleased to meet again with GTCS colleagues to discuss our comments. While relevant to the issues being considered, some of our comments extend beyond the specific questions posed by the consultation. We therefore intend to share our response with the Scottish Government and other key decision makers and policy influencers in Scottish education…
There is currently no requirement for those aspiring to become primary teachers to have any level of formal science qualification. This is despite a range of sources having reported on primary teachers as lacking confidence in teaching science. The Learned Societies’ Group believes that applicants to ITE Primary Education programmes should be expected to achieve at least one SCQF level 5 qualification in a science as a minimum requirement. This would provide consistency and certainty, while aligning with the stated desire of universities to increase expectations and enhance the quality of applicants.
It is crucially important that the work of the GTCS in setting teacher education standards is led by the evidence of what is required to maintain and enhance a high-quality teaching workforce. Proposed changes to ITE entry criteria should not be driven by current external pressures.
The current research evidence does not suggest that Scottish ITE students with SCQF level 6 mathematics qualifications before entry are necessarily better teachers than their peers with SCQF level 5 mathematics qualifications. On this basis, we believe that the current minimum entry requirement for mathematics should remain. However, we recommend further research with a view to identifying which qualifications, or combinations of qualifications, would give a more accurate indication of teacher quality.
‘Teaching Scotland’s Future’ was clear on the need for science and mathematics to feature prominently in initial teacher education programmes for primary teachers. We recommend that the Scottish Government and the GTCS should review the provision of science and mathematics within ITE Primary Education programmes. The review should cover both the disciplinary content and pedagogy of science and mathematics.
ITE is the starting point in teachers’ career development. This emphasises the importance of access to high-quality and continuous career-long professional learning (CLPL) covering both subject-specific knowledge and pedagogy, to the ongoing development of teachers. CLPL is the means for addressing competence and confidence levels in science and mathematics among currently serving primary school teachers. Sustained funding will be needed to support the step-change in CLPL envisaged by the Scottish Government and its partners.
Those applying to become secondary school teachers through a PGDE programme are required to have 80 SCQF credit points as part of their degree in a subject relevant to that which they plan to teach. To ensure flexibility while maintaining standards, the GTCS should consider revising the Memorandum to make clear to ITE providers that the 80 SCQF credits need not come from a single degree and can comprise credits ‘topped-up’ from another suitable programme.