At their meeting on 30th January, the GTCS’s Education Committee received an excellent input on the Senior Phase Benchmarking Tool (SPBT) from Project Manager, Eileen Gill, and Professional Advisor, Colin Sutherland.
OK, so the SPBT isn’t the catchiest of titles or acronyms, but it masks one of the most important developments taking place just now in Scottish education – one element of several (CfE; GIRFEC; Professional Update; new NQs; GTCS’s revised Standards to name but a few) that align closely with each other and which, taken together, are inter-related elements designed to improve and “future proof” the Scottish education system for all current and future learners.
The SPBT also helpfully focuses on wider aspects of learner achievement and not solely narrow attainment, as used currently by the Standard Tables and Charts (STACS) which it replaces, and much-beloved of press and media in constructing the much-dreaded school “league tables”.
Looking at the progress being made with the SPBT reminds us of the close link it has to GTCS’s recently revised Professional Standards. At the core of all three sets of GTCS Professional Standards (Standards for Registration; Standards for Career-Long Professional Learning; and Standards for Leadership and Management) lie a set of Professional Values (Social Justice; Integrity; Trust and Respect; and Professional Commitment) that can be seen to be threaded through the purposes of the SPBT.
One of the oft-quoted criticisms of STACS (Standard Tables and Charts) was that its comparator school analysis did not adequately take account of the unique features of individual schools, even although they were grouped as being “similar” or having “similar characteristics”. This issue is well addressed with the set of filters in the SPBT that allows the user to ‘drill down’ into the data and view analysis based on features such as gender, age, positive destinations, additional support needs, English as an additional language and looked after children.
These are important factors that influence the performance of a young person and to have this facility to “isolate” and analyse those factors that are having positive or negative influence on their learners’ achievements will be a real boon for teachers and schools. The use of the filters clearly gives teachers and schools the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to the values of Social Justice by ensuring that fair and inclusive policies and practices exist in relation to features such as disability and gender, and to Integrity through helping them to critically examine their practices to effect improvement.
The format and layout of the SPBT, and its facility to allow comparison with a “virtual school”, provide ideal opportunities for individuals and groups of teachers to demonstrate their Professional Commitment to work collegiately and engage in constructive enquiry. The easy-to-read dashboard which gives an overall picture of achievement data, and the facility to focus on more detailed aspects of learner achievement, supports and encourages professional dialogue at departmental, faculty and whole-school levels. Such professional dialogue and critical enquiry are hallmarks of teachers as professionals, acting in ways that develop a culture of Trust and Respect within the profession and confidence in the eyes of the public.
Will the SBPT bring an end to the publication of misleading and undermining league tables? – Maybe not. However, it will bring an easier and much more sophisticated, professional means of analysing how well all learners perform and how they might improve – and that can only but help improve the future Scottish education system overall.
General Teaching Council for Scotland
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