Teachers in Scotland should be offered improved opportunities for career progression in an attempt to keep skilled staff in the profession, a new report has found.
An industry review by an independent panel recommended that a new specialised “lead teacher” role should be created to focus on areas such as the curriculum and pupils with additional support needs.
It also suggested that teachers should be given better access to coaching, mentoring and sabbaticals to create more “flexible career pathways”.
Education secretary John Swinney said the Scottish Government was committed to implement changes by 2021 as it would represent “a huge increase in the breadth of opportunities a teaching career offers.”
But a teachng union warned ministers must now commit the necessary funds “to make the plan a reality”.
The report also called for information on school vacancies to be shared in a more consistent manner to help councils fill vacant positions more easily.
Hundreds of schools in Scotland were still advertising teaching vacancies and classroom support roles as pupils returned to the classroom for the start of the current school year in August 2018.
In total, 231 schools had adverts for staff, with some requiring multiple vacancies, according to research by the Scottish Conservatives.
The new recommendations will now be considered by the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers, made up of the Scottish Government, COSLA and teaching unions.
Mr Swinney said: “Teaching is an attractive and rewarding profession, with more teachers in Scottish schools since 2010 and the student teacher intake increasing for three years in a row.
“We want to provide ways to nurture the tremendous amount of talent that exists in our schools and to do so we must continue to empower current teachers by increasing their options for progression, enabling them to carve their own career pathway.
“This report provides additional pathways for teachers to take at all stages of their careers. Opportunities for development alongside teaching responsibilities will allow valued current teachers to flourish and increase their skills in new directions, for greater job satisfaction and to enhance the learning experience for pupils.
“The creation of Lead Teacher roles in the profession, alongside current pathways offering progression and ongoing training towards headship, opens up a greater variety of options for teachers who are considering their next steps, to empower those with the passion, drive and expertise to contribute to future education policy.”
Lead teachers would work alongside existing leadership roles and work on curriculum, pedagogy or policy development, with clearly defined responsibilities to be determined.
Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), welcomed the report and said the union would look forward to discussing how it could be made a reality.
He added: “Attracting and retaining highly qualified and highly motivated individuals into the teaching profession is key to the success of Scottish education, and providing more flexible career pathways will make an important contribution to this aim.
“However, the EIS is clear that both the Scottish Government and Local Authorities will need to commit the necessary resources to make these plans a reality.”
Councillor Stephen McCabe, COSLA’s education spokesman, said it wanted to encourage more people into the profession at a time of teacher shortages.
He added: “We look forward to working in collaboration with the Scottish Government and unions, via the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers, to consider these recommendations.”