Teachers recognised as Pioneering Spirits in Equality and Diversity, share GTC Scotland’s Saroj Lal Award
This year’s General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTC Scotland) Saroj Lal Award for a Pioneering Spirit in Equality and Diversity is shared between two inspirational teachers, Catherine (Katie) D’Souza and Carrie McWilliam.
Katie, a primary teacher in Port Glasgow, and Carrie, an English teacher in Aberlour, are truly pioneers for their schools and local communities.
The award celebrates the work of teachers who actively challenge discrimination, demonstrating a pioneering spirit and determination, in a bid to promote and facilitate a culture and ethos of equality and diversity.
The award is in honour of Saroj Lal, a trailblazer working at the forefront of multicultural and anti-racist education in its early years and laying the foundations for many others to build on.
Her son and award panellist, Vineet Lal, said: “The GTC Scotland Saroj Lal Award recognises outstanding endeavour by educators in the field of equality and diversity – those who have gone above and beyond in their efforts to champion these core values through their work.
“The joint winners of the 2022 award exemplify those principles magnificently: in Katie and Carrie we have two remarkable women who, in their own different yet complementary ways, have chosen to challenge established norms, to forge new paths and break new ground. Just like Saroj, who began her pioneering journey half a century ago, this year’s winners are true trailblazers and are an inspiration to their pupils, peers and communities.”
Dr Pauline Stephen, Chief Executive and Registrar, GTC Scotland said: “The teaching profession in Scotland sets high standards for itself. This is reflected in their values of social justice, trust and respect, and integrity. These values speak to the aspiration of the profession for an inclusive world.
“Our schools and learning communities are enriched with a diverse mix of people with different experiences and from different cultures and backgrounds, from the children and young people, to the teachers who work with them.
“Winners of the Saroj Lal Award are inspirational in their work to promote equality and diversity. Through their leadership, they are moving the profession, and society, closer to realising this aspiration.”
Professor Rowena Arshad CBE, FEIS, Chair in Multicultural and Anti-Racist Education, University of Edinburgh and award panellist, said:
“The Saroj Lal award recognises those who are prepared to step out of their comfort zone to make a difference in the area of equality and anti-discrimination. It is really exciting that in 2022, this award goes to two teachers. Both these teachers work in very different contexts: one in primary (urban) and the other in secondary (rural). However, both recognised the need to use the formal curriculum to provide opportunities for young people to confront stereotypes, to challenge prejudice and to be comfortable with diversity. I hope receiving this award spurs them to continue to be teachers that dare to make a difference.”
Katie D’Souza said: “I am acutely aware that I am just one small part of a large and growing collective of like-minded individuals who are working hard every day in their classrooms and communities to change hearts and minds one child, one class, one staffroom, one community at a time, working towards true equality and diversity in education. My achievements are no more special than theirs, so I proudly accept this award on behalf of all of us.
Carrie McWilliam – Early career teacher makes big impact
Carrie is an English Teacher at Speyside High School, Aberlour.
She has been central to improving the opportunities and experiences for young people at Speyside High School who may otherwise feel side-lined and experience discrimination. She joined the school in 2020 to complete her probation year, and since then has worked on a number of initiatives to support learners.
She led the collegiate Equality and Diversity working group toward establishing an inclusive school environment. Whole school staff learning on Inclusive Education has resulted in inclusive and diverse curriculum plans and a bank of ready-to-use materials for different subjects.
Carrie also runs an LGBTQ+ Pupil action group – a safe space for learners to be themselves, meet other pupils and have a say in school policies. While her ‘Understanding Prejudice’ workshops for S2 and S3 pupils seek to challenge pre-conceived opinions, consider how opinions are formed and the impact of discrimination.
Supporting learners with English as an additional language, Carrie has worked to translate and differentiate class resources, instructions and pupil notes to help them engage in class work successfully.
Carrie was nominated by her headteacher, Patricia Goodbrand. Patricia said: “In Carrie’s short time as a successful teacher, a considerable amount of that time during lockdown, she has made great efforts to provide inclusive work and differentiated resources to allow all young people to successfully engage in learning during the pandemic.
“Carrie has further been pioneering in taking Speyside High School forward on our inclusion journey and has shown courage
and leadership to do so, so early in her career.”
Carrie said: “As soon as I began my career two years ago as an NQT at Speyside High, I quickly came to realise how passionate I was about inclusion, equality and diversity in all facets of my job. I noticed quickly that a large range of pupils were at risk of discriminationsimply because of who they were. “I took it on as a personal goalto ensure that the young people entering my class would feel valued and safe as themselves. I wanted to act quickly – first in my own teaching – but this quickly developed into a whole-school project as I volunteered for roles that would both support and lead this change.”
“Seeing the positive impact these changes have made in the lives and participation of the young people I spend my days and weeks with is the most important thing to me. The progress I have already made personally and with the school’s pupils and faculty is something I am incredibly proud of and something I am excited for in the future.
“I feel increasingly proud that pupils who enter my classroom and Speyside High School, can show up as they are, as who they are, knowing they will be accepted in their entirety.”
Katie D’Souza – Port Glasgow Teacher says real anti-racist change is on its way
Katie D’Souza is a teacher at Newark Primary School, Port Glasgow
Her pupil voice Anti-Racism group campaigned for equality and diversity creating anti-racism posters to be displayed around their school and community. They visited local businesses to share their learning and promote their anti-racist message.
In 2021, Katie joined Education Scotland’s Building Racial Literacy cohort: “I was initially concerned that I would not be academic enough to add value, however committed to fully immersing myself in the learning.
“It is fair to say that I have lived, breathed and acted upon my learning since embarking on the programme. My enthusiasm seems to be contagious and my colleagues are making small but impactful changes to their practice, increasing visibility and representation of minority groups and looking for more inclusive resources.”
Katie is also involved with Inverclyde Council’s Inclusive Education Team and is supporting work to deliver learning on Inverclyde’s link to the Slave Trade to all S2 learners this year.
Katie was nominated by her headteacher, Lauren O’Hagan, who said “Katie has been a pioneer for our school community on our journey to building racial literacy. Our school context is an area of high deprivation where many children and families are in a cycle of adversity.
“The majority of our school population and indeed town, is of white Scottish ethnicity. We have a small number of New Scots families who have come to our school over the past few years, and although they have been welcomed by almost all, there has been incidences of racism in school and the community which were the catalyst for change.”
Katie said: “As a mixed-race child growing up in a village in Scotland in the 1980s, I have always been very aware of the impact of racism in our communities and schools.
“When I embarked upon my career in teaching, I found that the issues I had encountered as a learner were sadly still embedded in practice in our schools and I felt strongly that I had a duty to try to address this in my own classroom and beyond.
“As a new teacher I took on board wise words from a former headteacher Mairi McFarlane, who told me that whatever the situation in the wider community, I could always make a difference in my classroom.
“With this firmly in mind, I have striven to make sure that all of my pupils are treated fairly and without prejudice and that they gain exposure to cultures and ideas different to their own.”
Saroj Lal was a trailblazing teacher and campaigner in Scottish race relations. Born and educated in India, she migrated to the UK in the late 1960s. Saroj taught at Edinburgh’s South Morningside Primary School for three years and was among the earliest Asian primary school teachers in Scotland.