An Empowered System: Making Collaboration Work

At the EIS Professional Learning Conference 2020, Education Scotland Strategic Directors Gillian Hamilton and Maria Walker delivered a keynote presentation to members, outlining their strategy for delivering an empowered system through national and regional activity.

Gillian described how "partnership" has always been the answer to 'who decides what gets taught in classrooms?', but that changes to Scottish education in recent years have seen a move from this being partnership between a few national bodies towards a more complex picture involving practitioners and local authorities too.

Increasingly, this means teachers should expect to play an active role in shaping curriculums and pedagogical standards, and this is the basis for empowering educators.

Members also heard about Education Scotland's ambition to ensure that collaboration is driven by clear purpose and impact, rather than being 'all tal'’. Referencing Deputy First Minister John Swinney's maxim, 'if it adds no value to the teaching and learning of your pupils then don't do it', Gillian articulated "empowerment" as making sure teachers have the opportunity and skills to 'take control over conversations about what really makes a difference'.

Maria described how Education Scotland is pursuing this agenda via the Regional Directorate, working both locally and nationally to ensure the right evidence about "what makes a difference" is collected. Schools and Local Authorities can then be supported with tailored pedagogical support and best practice sharing which meets their needs.

The presentation closed with Maria reflecting on what Education Scotland has learned so far about 'what works to create an empowered system?' Members heard that empowerment and professional confidence 'are symbiotic', and must be founded in collaborative activity without expecting that this will replace focused professional skills development.

There was also acknowledgement that all professionals need to be aware of existing power relationships and hierarchies in order to foster an environment where collaborative activity can succeed.

For more content on Education Scotland's approach to empowerement please see the Education Scotland website.