The General Teaching Council for Scotland

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by The General Teaching Council for Scotland's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from The General Teaching Council for Scotland is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Chief Executive Kenneth Muir
GTCS maintains the professional standards for
teaching in Scotland and holds regular events to
recognise and celebrate the achievements of teachers
Based in Edinburgh, the General Teaching Council for Scotland
is the oldest regulatory body for teaching in the world. It was
established in 1965 and is a self-regulating organisation which
is independent of the Scottish government. Professional learning
is key to the early intervention and prevention of regulatory issues
involving teachers and other education professionals.
As a result, we have been working to shift our focus from the idea of a disciplinary
model of regulation to a more supportive and proactive approach underpinned by a
strong emphasis on the ongoing professional learning of teachers.
More than 74,000 teachers are registered with GTCS. It is a legal requirement in
Scotland that all teachers, regardless of working in the independent or state sector,
must be registered. Of this number, around 56,000 teachers are actively working
in schools. There are also a number of college lecturers registered with GTCS on a
voluntary basis, and discussions are ongoing about the possibility of this becoming
mandatory. Finally, we are currently working on achieving pathways to registration for
some other groups of education professionals, such as independent music instructors.
Why register teachers?
Registration is a professional quality mark for educationalists. It lets the public,
parents and pupils in particular know that a teacher has the required qualifications
and provides continued assurance that the individual is fit to teach. Teachers in
Scotland must have a university-level qualification, or equivalent, and a teaching
qualification to be registered with GTCS. They must also undergo Protecting
Vulnerable Groups Scheme vetting checks and we apply other checks at the
»Chief Executive: Kenneth Muir
»Founded in 1965
»Based in Edinburgh
»Services: Registration,
regulation and professional
learning for teachers and
other education professionals
»No. of employees: 68
»GTCS is the oldest self-
regulating professional body
for teachers in the world
The General Teaching
Council for Scotland
Highlighting best practice
point of registration to ensure that
applicants are fit to teach and suitable
for registration.
In the last couple of years, we have
reviewed our registration processes
to reflect the changing ways in
which people gain qualifications. For
example, a qualification from some
professional bodies can be of the same
level or higher than a degree; and
people are learning online through
organisations other than traditional
universities. All of this has challenged
our thinking in terms of the flexibility
of registration with GTCS.
Reshaping regulation
We now call the regulation part of our
work “fitness to teach” rather than
discipline. Language is an important
factor in how any organisation
presents its work and we are no
different; the disciplinary terminology
that was associated with this work in
the past did not reflect the ethos of
our regulatory process, which is about
public protection and addressing risk
going forward, not about punishing
and looking back.
As part of ensuring that our regulation
is targeted and proportionate, we
only investigate where an allegation
is of a level of seriousness that the
teacher presents a risk of harm. Action
is taken if a teacher’s fitness to teach
is found to be impaired because
of shortfalls in their conduct or
professional competence. “Fitness to
teach hearings” are held and consent
orders issued in this context. With its
focus on ensuring maintenance of our
professional standards for teachers,
our fitness to teach process is distinct
from any employer or criminal process
that may also be followed.
Being “fit to teach”
Being fit to teach means meeting the
standards of professional competence
and conduct that GTCS expects. Our
standards for registration – which are
currently being refreshed – and the
Code of Professionalism and Conduct
(CoPAC) (which is also being updated)
set out these expectations; however,
they can be summed up by saying
that being fit to teach means having
the right knowledge and skills, and
applying them, and doing the right
thing as a professional teacher. It is
important to point out that in no way
does it mean being fit to teach in
terms of health or medical fitness.
Professional learning
We offer a range of professional
learning services to support our
registrants. It is a requirement of
continued registration with GTCS
that all teachers participate in our
professional update programme by
Registration with
GTCS lets the public
in particular parents
and pupils know that a
teacher has the required
qualifications and is fit
to teach
Teachers in schools
across Scotland are
required to participate in
our professional update
programme by engaging
in continual professional
We have
reviewed our
processes to
reflect the
ways in which
people gain
engaging in continual professional
learning, reflecting on the outcomes
of that learning, and logging it
with us. We also offer access to
learning materials through our
MyProfessionalLearning portal and
carry out numerous webinars, events,
conferences and school visits to
engage with teachers on the subject of
professional learning throughout the
year. We accredit professional learning
providers, and we host an annual
Professional Learning Awards event as
well as award professional recognition
to teachers who have excelled in their
professional learning.
We strongly believe that by
understanding our professional
standards – which cover registration,
career-long professional learning, and
leadership management – and using
them as a guide to good practice
in teaching, by understanding the
CoPAC, and by carrying out regular
professional learning, teachers are
better informed and prepared to deal
with the challenges that their work
presents on a daily basis, and are
better placed to navigate the ever-
changing future as leaders of learning.
Our proactive work in promoting this
proportionate approach to regulation is
internationally respected. We welcome
regular visitors from education
departments and organisations across
the world who want to find out more
about our work.
The future
There is much more work to be
done. We recently appointed two
development officers whose remit will
be to engage with teachers across
Scotland and raise awareness of the
refreshed professional standards and
the CoPAC, amongst other areas. We
plan to further develop our public
engagement to ensure that even more
people are aware of the important
role we carry out in the public interest
in regulating and supporting the
Being fit to
teach means
meeting the
standards of
and conduct
that GTCS
GTCS manages Scotland’s
teacher induction
scheme and welcomes
to the profession a
representative selection
of new teachers from
across Scotland each
year at its national
probationer event

This article was sponsored by The General Teaching Council for Scotland. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister