As many as 1,400 teachers are being given the chance to boost their skills by studying at masters level.

A total of 18 programmes have been developed by local authorities, universities and others across the country, backed by £1.7 million of Scottish Government cash.

Education Secretary Mike Russell said these would "open doors for hundreds of teachers to undertake high-quality, masters-level professional learning".

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The Scottish Government invested £1.3 million in similar schemes over the last year, but ministers believe the new programmes will be more flexible.

The places were announced as Mr Russell and Larry Flanagan, the general secretary of the EIS teaching union, prepared to make a joint presentation to education ministers and teaching leaders at an international summit in New Zealand.

Mr Russell said: "The Scottish Government is committed to strengthening the teaching workforce in our schools and these new programmes will go a long way in helping teachers further their professional learning."

The Education Secretary, who is attending the International Summit on the Teaching Profession in Wellington, said Scotland had made "excellent progress in closing the attainment gap", adding this "would not be possible without the hard work and commitment of our teachers".

He said: "Scotland has first-class universities, providing initial teacher education, and there are now more post-probationary teachers in full-time employment than last year.

"We want to provide our teachers with opportunities to further their education so they can continue to provide our young people with a world-class education. The programmes announced for the next year will open doors for hundreds of teachers to undertake high-quality, masters-level professional learning.

"Supporting a high-quality teaching profession is critical to achieving successful learning outcomes for our children and young people as we face the increasingly ambitious demands of the 21st century. Scotland will take the opportunity to put forward and promote our positive and proactive policies on teacher learning and leadership at the summit, while learning from the best practice of other delegations represented at the summit."