Inquiry into Initial Teacher Education and the early phase of teaching


About the Inquiry

The Committee has agreed to hold the evidence sessions it planned in March 2020 on its Initial Teacher Education inquiry at a later date.      


The Committee issued a call for views on recommendations to a previous report that related to teacher recruitment and initial teacher education. This included recommendations that consider how ITE and the early experience of teaching in the classroom complement each other and provide student teachers and newly qualified teachers with a base to develop their skills further. 

The submissions received were analysed and discussed by the Committee and, based upon them and responses received to the Committee’s survey of student teachers and recently qualified teachers, the Committee has agreed to focus mainly, but not exclusively, on five themes. These are:

Additional support needs – the content of ITE and the extent to which it prepares a student for the classroom is detailed in numerous submissions. This includes a suggestion that some courses provide a focus on diagnosis but could include more on strategies which could be used in the classroom when supporting certain children. A number of submissions also explore what the balance of experience should be between ITE and the early phase of teaching and beyond in relation to receiving adequate training on ASN. The adequacy of course content on support for those with additional support needs is also a focus of the survey responses. The submission from the SCDE highlights the National Framework for Inclusion that ITE course content should be based around and other responses look at the extent to which this is the case. Survey questions focussed on retention include looking at the basis for some considering leaving the profession and supporting a range of ASN in the classroom features as one of the themes of these responses.

Literacy and numeracy – the submissions from universities highlight the work of MQUITE (Measuring Quality in Initial Teacher Education) that includes collating data on literacy and numeracy. A number of submissions from universities, student teachers, teachers and councils make comment on the variation of course content and/or ability of students in relation to literacy and numeracy. A number of submissions also comment on the Committee’s 2017 recommendation that the same organisation should accredit course content and assess its delivery. It is currently GTCS and Education Scotland respectively. The Committee intends to explore the accreditation and assessment of the delivery of literacy and numeracy content as part of the inquiry. 

Flexibility for personal circumstances - a number of submissions mention the variable experiences of the student placement system, including the impact of placement arrangements on those with childcare responsibilities. The extent to which the system as a whole (including placements) takes into account the specific needs of cohorts of students, for example parents / carers or those with disabilities could be examined. Given the changing profile of student teachers, with more coming into teaching as a second career, the ability of older students to study and move into roles that reflect personal circumstances is a theme the Committee will consider further. 

Student placement system – a number of submissions discuss the time pressures on mentors under the student placement system and therefore the ability of mentors to undertake the role fully. Others suggest more training and support for mentors would be beneficial and question whether mentors are always being selected based on a sufficient length of experience, aptitude and interest in the role. The Committee could look at this issue and also the extent to which the opt out system, introduced since the Committee last undertook an inquiry in this area, is operating. 

Retention of new teachers – a number of submissions, including from the Learned Societies Group and NASUWT suggest a lack of data on retention of staff to feed into workforce planning processes. The Committee’s 2017 report made recommendations based on evidence that retention issues were not being sufficiently taken into account in workforce planning processes when estimating future ITE places required. The Committee’s survey asked about the basis of any respondents’ views that they would not teach in the longer term. Themes of responses to this question included workload, lack of resource, an inability to meet ASN and culture. The Committee may wish to explore the perceived limitations on data available on retention and whether this impacts on the ability to anticipate retention levels amongst new teachers. The Committee may also wish to explore the extent to which workload issues and other themes raised in the survey responses relating to the early phase of teaching is informing some new teachers’ deliberations on whether to stay in the profession. 

Given these themes, and based on the need to ensure the inquiry looks at the early phase of teaching as one entity, with ITE being a key element, the Committee has agreed to give the inquiry the title ‘Initial Teacher Education and the Early Phase of Teaching’.


The committee has agreed to hold the evidence sessions it planned in March on its Initial Teacher Education inquiry at a later date


The Committee wrote to the Cabinet Secretary in December 2019 seeking details of work undertaken in response to the Committee’s recommendations since 2017:

A link to the report from the Teacher workforce planning inquiry 2017 is here and the recommendations are listed below.

2017 recommendations on recruitment, training and retention of student teachers (please cross refer to this list when you read written submissions)

2017 inquiry findings – Has progress been made on these issues? What is your view now? 

Recommendation 1: The Committee recommends that the Government reviews the practice of raising the number of training places to improve recruitment levels. This approach does not address the factors influencing interest in becoming a teacher. These factors include: the perception of teaching in society (including the perspective of pupils and parents); the experiences of existing teachers; and pay. Teachers are crucial to the success of the education system and addressing challenges facing existing teachers is fundamental to increasing the number of people who want to become a teacher.  

Recommendation 2: The Committee commends the work of Moray House in constructing its MSc in Transformative Learning and Teaching course in a way that enables students to achieve the required Higher English qualification on completing the course. This is as opposed to having Higher English as an entry requirement. This approach ensures that eligible candidates are not overlooked by overly restrictive course entry thresholds. The Committee encourages other teacher training institutions to highlight to the GTCS how an increased number of suitable candidates could gain entry to their courses.  

Recommendation 3: The Committee also recommends that the GTCS reviews all of its entry requirements to ensure that innovative solutions such as these are being implemented wherever possible but without compromising on the ability of the individuals coming into teaching.  

Recommendation 4: The Committee recommends that, where a teacher training institution is not able to provide a place to a student because the student does not meet the institution's specific standards, the institution should direct the individual to the GTCS. The GTCS should then provide advice on which institutions the candidate would be eligible to apply to Literacy and numeracy. 

Recommendation 5: Having teachers that understand, and are able to teach, the core skills of literacy and numeracy to children in their formative years is an absolutely fundamental requirement in improving attainment in literacy and numeracy. The Committee notes the evidence from teacher training institutions explaining the complexities of ITE course content and that counting hours is too simplistic as a stand-alone approach to assessing ITE. The Committee is concerned that the baseline of quality in relation to course content, and student ability, may be lacking in some instances.

Recommendation 6: The Committee welcomes the Government's acknowledgement of the issues raised in evidence. The Committee recommends that the actions to be undertaken in response include an investigation into the extent of the problems raised in relation to literacy and numeracy. This should include assessing baseline standards on all courses for student primary teachers. It should also include an assessment of the entry requirements for these courses and the standards achieved on qualification. The Committee notes that certain issues, including in relation to primary school courses and student entry levels, have been raised previously by the 2011 Donaldson Report and the 2016 STEMEC Report.  

GTCS’ role
Recommendation 7:
The Committee recommends that the cycle of revisiting existing courses to renew accreditation should be shorter to ensure course content is responsive to the changing needs of Scottish education. The Committee recommends that the Government considers the benefits of making one organisation responsible for the accreditation of ITE courses and the assessment of the delivery of these courses.  

Additional Support Needs
Recommendation 8:
The Committee welcomes the evidence received from student teachers highlighting the variation across different teacher training institutions and placements regarding training on supporting pupils with additional support needs, including that education on additional support needs is not guaranteed in some courses, which has left some student teachers unprepared to support those pupils with additional needs. 

Recommendation 9: The Committee recommends that the Scottish Government works with the GTCS to address the inconsistency in additional support needs education during Initial Teacher Education, with the aim of ensuring that all teachers receive high quality baseline training which prepares them to assist pupils with a range of additional needs, regardless of which institution and course they receive their initial teacher education in. 

Online safety
Recommendation 10:
The Committee is also concerned at evidence from student teachers reflecting a lack of content in their courses on online safety for children. The Committee welcomes the Government’s acknowledgement of this issue and recommends that the Government works with the GTCS to ensure high quality baseline training is received by all student teachers.
Student placements

Recommendation 11: The Committee recommends that there should be service level agreements between teacher training institutions and education authorities as standard for student placements. These should set out the requirements on each body and also establish a means for students to feedback their experiences. Any deficiencies with the quality of work placements should then be reported to the GTCS for mediation and resolution.  

Recommendation 12: The Committee also recommends that, in moving to the opt-out system, there should be a system for schools to highlight to education authorities instances where a school is stopping short of opting-out but has real concerns in relation to its ability to support student placements due to limited resources including teacher time. This information should be used to assist education authorities in performing their duty of care role. It should also be used to inform the GTCS in its role overseeing how the Student Placement System is functioning. This information should also be collated and made publicly available as a means of assessing the number of schools that consider themselves to be under significant pressure.

Recommendation 13: Given the increased number of teachers that are likely to become mentors under the opt-out system, and that all teachers should be prepared to take on such a role for student teachers or probationers where possible and beneficial, the Committee recommends that emphasis on the importance of mentoring should feature in local working time agreements. This could include a specific allocation of non-contact time.

Recommendation 14: In relation to the logic of which student is placed where, the system does not seem very sophisticated to the Committee, with students reporting a lack of recognition of childcare and other practical considerations. The Committee welcomes the efforts to improve the placement system, including longer lead in times for students and schools planning placements. The Committee requests a progress report from the GTCS at the end of the next academic year on how the system is being tailored to individual circumstances (including feedback from student teachers). This is to ensure the "lottery" reported by some students is not a common experience in the future.  

The full Committee inquiry report these recommendations came from is available here


The Committee received the following submissions:

Initial Teacher Education providers

Local Authorities


Other organisations

Student teachers

Teachers and teaching unions


Other Individuals


The Committee surveyed student teachers and recently qualified teachers.

Read the SPICe analysis of responses here.

Read the written responses on remaining in the profession in the long term here.


The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills wrote to the Convener in respect of the Initial Teacher Education intake targets for 2020/2021,

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