Instrumental Music Teachers

Over the last year, as we have seen different models of education delivery emerging, teachers, Instrumental Music Teachers (‘IMTs’) and lecturers across Scotland have found strength collectively in sharing ideas, developing practice through professional learning and trialling innovative ways to reach learners and touch their lives during the pandemic. Adapting to the challenges of COVID-19 has undoubtedly brought professionalism to the fore for all our members and yet, recognition of that professionalism is not uniform across education. Although progress has been made in advancing college lecturer registration with GTCS, there is still some way to go to ensuring that IMTs are recognised professionally for the contribution they make and the impact they have on the lives of young people across Scotland.

Championing professionalism

It is worth reflecting that back in the 1960s, in recognising the importance of teacher professionalism, the EIS took strike action to force the creation of a Professional Standards body. Since then, the GTCS has defined and set high expectations of teacher professionalism. It has encouraged teacher engagement with, and demonstration of, Professional Standards, through professional learning and meaningful participation in professional review and development opportunities. Its value is clear in supporting the recruitment, retention and professional development of the teaching workforce. As a teacher-led and teacher-funded regulatory body, the GTCS has achieved international recognition for its role as gatekeeper of the teaching profession in Scotland and for the assurance which this brings of high-quality educational experiences for our children and young people.

Teachers across Scotland play a vital role in the Council and Committees of the GTCS, ensuring that practitioner voice is heard and in so doing, highlighting equality issues and the challenges which the profession is facing. This level of practitioner engagement is fundamental to the operation of the GTCS and is the hallmark of self-regulation, a basic tenet of professionalism.

The registration of college lecturers with the GTCS brings an opportunity, for the first time, to formally recognise that same level of professionalism demonstrated by lecturers in Scotland’s colleges. With the GTCS holding the College Lecturers’ Professional Standards, registration affords the opportunity for lecturers to engage in high-quality professional learning and to reflect on the value of that learning through meaningful professional dialogue and PRD processes. Registration will also provide an opportunity for the voices of college lecturers to be heard in relation to their own professional standards.

College lecturers play a pivotal role in our education system, helping to bridge the attainment gap by enabling many people to access further and higher education or to embark upon a range of employment opportunities. In recent months, the vital role they play in reaching some of our most vulnerable and disadvantaged learners has become even more apparent. And it is clear that this will continue, as we move forward and implement alternative arrangements for awarding post-16 qualifications in Further Education, arrangements which are rooted in the centrality of lecturer professional judgement.

With the college lecturer registration pilot projects in three colleges now completed and plans in progress to roll out GTCS registration, as a contractual requirement, by April 2022, Anne-Marie Harley, a lecturer in Forth Valley College and member of the FELA Executive welcomed ‘this first step in formally recognising lecturer professionalism’. She said, “This has been a long-standing policy objective of EIS-FELA and it acknowledges the importance of professional teaching qualifications in preserving high quality educational experiences for college students, especially at this time.”

‘The long and winding road…’

However, for colleagues, delivering instrumental music tuition, the story has not been so positive, with the road to registration being blocked by the imperative for legislative change.

For almost twenty years, the Institute has campaigned to have the professionalism of IMTs recognised and with the support of the GTCS, a significant amount of work has already been undertaken to progress this objective. Draft professional standards have been produced and consideration given to inclusive routes to registration but work has now stalled as a result of statutory reform, needed to the Public Services Reform (General Teaching Council for Scotland) Order 2011.

Despite this, the professionalism of IMTs and the benefits of the high-quality music education which they deliver, have never been more evident. The impact of their work goes far beyond curricular outcomes and formal Music qualifications, playing a central role in developing creative talents; promoting self-confidence; developing in young people the ability to work both independently and collaboratively; and in supporting emotional wellbeing and positively impacting on broader academic achievement. Over the last year, IMTs have worked hard to find alternative methods of delivery, to ensure the continued engagement of some of their most vulnerable learners and in so doing, have highlighted the importance of equity and inclusion, values which underpin professionalism.

But, still, their contribution to education remains unrecognised.

Kirk Richardson, convener of the Institute’s IMT Network, said, “The work of our members has been consistently undervalued for many years. This must change. Legislation is now urgently needed to give effect to GTCS registration and ensure that professionalism, supported by professional learning and collegiality, will frame the context in which we can use music as a medium to support children and young people and to bridge the gaps of social and emotional isolation caused by the pandemic.”

At the start of this new Parliamentary session, the time has come for all political parties to recognise the contribution of IMTs and in line with manifesto pledges, to bring forward legislation which will allow IMTs to register with the GTCS and so, take their place, alongside teachers and college lecturers, as valued professionals in our education system.