Education Talks: Teachers transforming lives

Ellen Doherty, Director of Education and Professional Learning at the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS), describes how teachers can help children achieve their life ambitions, and therefore become agents of change.

How are teachers agents of change?

Teachers as agents of change is changing and developing and growing so that when children leave school, they have met their full potential. So it is not about making them into things, but it is about helping them achieve their life ambition.

If that means that they want to be a plumber and the best plumber in the world, there is an agent of change contribution there. A teacher as an agent of change helping a child become literate gives them access to the world.

A teacher as an agent of change helping with numeracy and whatever curriculum area, it means that they can have a job, fill in a form and have a full life. Teachers can be agents of change in terms of policy direction, helping inform political thinking that meets the needs of young people. Teachers know children and actually, need to meet the needs of children so hearing the professional voice of teachers to make sure that the policy direction is really strong.

Teachers as agents of change in their community by working with parents and families to make sure that children are healthy and strong and they are part of that. 

They transform lives in terms of educational experience, they transform lives in terms of including them in education and society, they transform and change lives in terms of what their life chances are going to be like. It really does take a village to bring up a child and actually, it is the village of Education.

What peer support practice should be introduced as part of teacher induction?

Some very good practice is when a new teacher comes into the school, and that relationship is built straight away both formally and informally. And there is a very good mentoring programme in the Teacher Induction Scheme, where a probationer is aligned to a mentor and there is a programme through the year of conversations, of check points, of observations and advice and support, in a very structured and organised way with regular feedback and building up the skills of the teacher.

What are Scotland's flexible routes into teaching?

The new flexible routes are those which look at what is teaching going to look like in the future and bringing diversity to the profession. And that means bringing those who are in engineering and have those life skills and bringing them into teaching by building up new programmes through the university.

So they have the life skills, they actually have the academic skills, and getting a teaching qualification, and then bringing life experience into the teaching education workforce which I think is one way of doing it.

What is Scotland's curriculum of excellence?

At the heart of a curriculum for excellence, you have the four capacities. It is those skills that will take children into the 21st century as citizens and as learners. So they have to be effective contributors, they have to be responsible citizens, and they have to be successful learners, and they have finally to be confident individuals.

At the basis of curriculum for excellence are three key things: skills for learningskills for work and skills for life. Starting at primary and going all the way through to secondary. Every secondary teacher, every primary teacher having a responsibility for literacy, numeracyhealth and well-being, digital literacy, and data literacy for the 21st century. So it is a very alive curriculum, it is a contemporary curriculum.

Teachers also had to understand that they too were having to refresh themselves as learners and learn on behalf of their children. So they too maintain the relevance, and they provide a contemporary cohesive curriculum. 

I meet those children every day with those four capacities. When you walk into a school and you see a young person effectively contributing to a debate, confidently answering, successfully learning and being responsible in their own community, curriculum for excellence is breathing in Scotland.