Conference Papers

Going beyond Compliance: Sustaining career-long professional learning and professional standards.

Symposium proposal

Regulation of the teaching profession through professional standards is seen in many education systems as a key driver for maintaining and improving teacher quality. The focus on teacher quality continues to preoccupy policy makers at national and international levels and ‘quality’ has featured prominently as part of the overarching themes at three out of the four International Summits on the Teaching Profession that have taken place since 2011 (Asia Society, 2013). One of the issues is supporting teachers’ ongoing development and progression once they have achieved formal registration and recognition as a teacher, for example in England through the award of Qualified Teacher Status or in Scotland by confirmation of having met the GTCS Standard for Full Registration. Papers within this symposium will discuss this challenge of moving beyond compliance with mandatory professional standards to develop sustained professional learning for all teachers and leaders.

In Scotland in recent years there has been considerable focus and effort to conceptualise the nature, form and challenge of adopting career-long approaches to teachers’ professional learning and progression. This has resulted in the development of a new professional Standard for Career-Long Professional Learning. This has not occurred in isolation but has formed part of a major systems wide programme of reform of teacher education that has included the development of a new ‘Professional Update’ scheme, revised procedures for annual professional reviews and development of a Masters’ framework for ongoing professional learning.

These initiatives reflect ongoing policy development and debate on the purposes of standards for the teaching profession in Scotland and the relationship between professional standards and teachers’ professional learning.

Professional standards are now very much part of the landscape of many educational systems. Nevertheless, questions have been raised about the design, purpose and use of professional standards in education. In particular, with regard to the question of the use of standards, there are significant debates about whether standards are simply regulatory or whether they can also have a developmental function.

The papers within this symposium begin by surveying some of the debates about professional standards in teaching followed by an overview of the way in which the use of standards has evolved in Scottish teacher education. The focus then turns to the current set of reforms related to teachers’ career-long professional learning (Donaldson, 2010) and the place of standards in this reform programme. The papers will consider some of the issues that emerged during the development of the recent set of standards (GTC Scotland, 2012) and their related use and conclude by exploring the implications of professional standards for professional learning across a career.

Acting as discussant, Dr Maria Flores will facilitate small group discussions enabling participants to discuss the papers presented and approaches outlined before responding to the issues raised in a final plenary.


Paper 1

‘Evolving concepts and practice in regulation and development through professional standards.’

Dr Margery McMahon,
School of Education, University of Glasgow

Paper 2
‘Going beyond compliance – policy development and engagement in redesigning ‘career long’ professional standards.’
Gillian Hamilton, Head of Education Services, General Teaching Council Scotland

Paper 3
‘The Standard for Career-Long Professional Learning – supporting teachers’ continuing development.’
Rosa Murray, Education Advisor, General Teaching Council Scotland

Paper 4
‘Leadership development through professional standards’
John Daffurn, Scottish College for Educational Leadership

McMahaon, M. (2014) 'Going beyond Compliance: Sustaining career-long professional learning and professional standards.', paper presented to The 10th Annual Conference of the British Education Studies Association (BESA), 26–27 June, viewed 14 August 2020, <>