GTC Scotland

The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Comhairle Choitcheann Teagaisg na h-Alba

GTC Scotland open nominations for equality, diversity and anti-discrimination award in honour of pioneering teacher Saroj Lal

20 April 2021

The General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTC Scotland) has opened nominations for a new award, the Saroj Lal Award for a Pioneering Spirit in Equality and Diversity.

Nominations are invited from headteachers and senior leaders within local authorities and the independent school sector on behalf of any school teacher who has gone above and beyond in their efforts to fight for equality and diversity.

The award has been created to identify and celebrate the efforts of teachers in Scotland who exceed expectations and demonstrate a pioneering spirit, show determination and challenge adversity in a bid to promote and facilitate a culture and ethos of equality and diversity and actively challenge discrimination.

A pioneering teacher

Saroj Lal

Saroj Lal was a trailblazing teacher and campaigner in Scottish race relations. She was among the earliest Asian primary school teachers in Scotland when she moved from India in the 1960s. Her background as a teacher was central to her later work in multi-culturalism and anti-racist education, which included work with Lothian and Borders Police to define the nature of racial attacks and encourage the monitoring of racist bullying in schools. She became the first Asian woman in Scotland to be appointed as a Justice of the Peace.

Dr Pauline Stephen, GTC Scotland Chief Executive and Registrar, said:

“The Saroj Lal Award for a Pioneering Spirit in Equality and Diversity allows GTC Scotland to honour Saroj’s legacy by celebrating the work of other pioneering teachers.

“The promotion of equality and diversity and Professional Values of social justice, trust and respect and integrity are at the core of the Professional Standards for Teachers.

“While there is much still to do in addressing equality and diversity in education – the continued lack of diversity in the teaching workforce is an example that needs to be directly tackled – this award recognises that much has been done.”

Vineet Lal, son of Saroj Lal and award panellist, said: “My mother was a truly remarkable woman and a trailblazer in every respect, working at the forefront of multicultural and anti-racist education in its early years and laying the foundations for many others to build on.

“It’s wonderful, and immensely moving, to see that her legacy will live on through this award which recognises that same pioneering spirit across the entire spectrum of equality and diversity, embracing all of the protected characteristics.

“Saroj was well ahead of her time, and far-sighted in her thinking, and I know she would have been incredibly moved by this initiative that honours her unique contribution to education in Scotland.”

Professor Rowena Arshad CBE, FEIS, Chair in Multicultural and Anti-Racist Education, University of Edinburgh and award panellist, said:

“I am particularly pleased that contributions of black and minority ethnic people in Scottish education is being recognised through the Saroj Lal award. Being a pioneer in any initiative takes courage and perseverance and Saroj Lal sustained her commitment to challenge discrimination and promote equity through teaching and learning in a time when there was far less support for tackling racism and promoting racial equality. It is right we continue, through this award, to affirm, recognise and commend those that continue to explicitly take equalities and anti-discrimination work forward in education.”

Nominations are now open with a deadline of 1 June 2021, Saroj Lal Award for a Pioneering Spirit in Equality and Diversity.

The GTC Scotland award is part of a joint commemoration of the legacy of Saroj Lal with Moray House School of Education and Sport, University of Edinburgh which has launched a scholarship to inspire BAME applicants to enrol on the PGDE and enter the teaching profession; and the City of Edinburgh Council which is creating an award that shines a light on the impact of prejudice and the potential to use art for positive change.

About Saroj Lal

Saroj Lal’s background and experience as a schoolteacher at South Morningside Primary were central to her later work in multi-culturalism and anti-racist education. She would challenge perceptions throughout her career at the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) and Lothian Race Equality Council, fighting for equal representation of minority ethnic communities in the classroom, children’s literature and the media. She championed the black and minority ethnic cause, setting up Edinburgh’s first dedicated ethnic library, developing minority arts and expanding mother tongue teaching citywide.

Education and women’s rights remained a priority: she encouraged young women and girls to pursue higher education by creating the Asian Cultural Girls’ Club at Drummond High School and the Continuation Course at Telford College. She also broke new ground with Lothian and Borders Police, defining the nature of racial attacks and encouraging the monitoring of racist bullying in schools. She became the first Asian woman in Scotland to be appointed as a Justice of the Peace.

Further Information

  • Nomination forms and more information on the award can be found here
  • Professor Arshad has a distinguished career of tirelessly promoting racial equality. Her 2018 report, Teaching in a diverse Scotland: increasing and retaining minority ethnic teachers, is one of the most significant reports produced in Scottish education. You can watch an interview following on from questions raised at GTC Scotland’s Annual Lecture, in which Professor Arshad discusses diversity, Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities and racial equality in the Scottish education system: read about and watch the interview.
  • -Further professional learning and support on Equality and Diversity can be accessed in GTC Scotland’s Equality and Diversity: a Guide for Teachers and in the Equality and Diversity Hub on the GTC Scotland website, which includes two Professional Learning modules.
  • GTC Scotland has recently refreshed and restructured the suite of Professional Standards for Teachers. The Professional Standards 2021 launched in January 2021, and a period of enactment support has begun before formal enactment in August 2021. They contain a strengthened focus on equality and diversity within the Professional Values. The section ‘Being a Teacher’ highlights the professional values of social justice, trust and respect and integrity as being at the heart of what it means to be a teacher in Scotland, rooting the Professional Standards as a framework that supports what it means to become, to be and to grow as a teacher in Scotland. View the Professional Standards 2021.