Visiting the University of Aberdeen, Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning in the Scottish Government, heard more about the Scottish Teachers for a New Era (STNE) initiative - the only programme of its kind in Scotland aimed at changing the way student teachers and new teachers are educated and supported.
Launched in 2004, the collaborative project between the University of Aberdeen, the Scottish Government and the Hunter Foundation (THF), aims to test a new model for teacher education in Scotland, in line with changes to the primary education curriculum and developing trends in the learning environment.
This has included the creation of a new Bachelor in Education (BEd) degree programme, and research into new methods for teaching to enhance and improve the learning experience.
The initiative is also developing a new framework of professional learning to support teaching graduates in their first six years as fully registered teachers.
The STNE project has been undertaken in partnership with 6 local authorities from the North of Scotland: Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Highland, Moray, Orkney and Shetland.
A cohort of 90 students will become the first to graduate from the new BEd degree in July.
The Cabinet Secretary met with and addressed those students at a conference held at the University today entitled Learning Together Embracing Change.
Leading Scottish businessman, philanthropist and founder of the Hunter Foundation, Sir Tom Hunter also addressed the conference, which brought together representatives from the partner local authorities, academics from the University's School of Education and school pupils from throughout Scotland who have been taught under the STNE initiative.
The conference – which was organised and run by the final year BEd students - was an opportunity for the cohort to reflect on the initiative as they enter their career in primary teaching.
Ms Hyslop said: "Scottish education is now entering an exciting and challenging period as we prepare our young people for the challenges of life in the 21st Century. Key to this is the inspirational approach of teachers committed to the new curriculum guidance which will offer learners challenging, exciting and motivating experiences that will build the knowledge and skills they will need in modern society.
"In order to provide an education suited to the needs of individual pupils in a modern world, our teachers must be provided with the freedom to develop quality teaching and learning approaches within their own schools. For this to happen, our teachers must also be trained so that they have the confidence to take this approach.
"These teachers today who are completing their four-year Bachelor in Education degree are proof that everyone who comes into contact with learning or teaching has a valuable part to play in how our teachers are trained."
Myra Pearson, Head of the School of Education at the University of Aberdeen said: 'Recognising the challenges of new trends and developments in education and society, the Scottish Teachers for a New Era (STNE) project brought together students, teachers, pupils, parents and other professionals from local and national organisations involved in the education and support of teachers.
"Through the project these groups have worked collaboratively to share ideas and experiences, engage in research activity and explore new approaches in learning and teaching - in other words investigating how we can best develop teachers and increase pupil achievement in its broadest sense.
'The new Bachelor of Education degree is a major component of the STNE project and it is exciting to see this first cohort of students prepare to graduate and begin the next phase of their STNE programme as probationary teachers in schools across Scotland.
"The close partnerships forged during the development of the BEd degree programme between the University of Aberdeen and our closest Local Authority partners have provided a strong foundation to the collaborative development of a professional development model which will support new teachers through the early stages of their career.
'Seeing the quality of our students work reflected in the presentation sessions at the conference makes us very proud. To see our first STNE graduates on the brink of joining the profession and about to apply their skills in practice in classrooms across Scotland is a special landmark for the project."