A probationer teacher working at Letham Mains Primary School in Haddington has received an award and £1000 bursary from the General Teaching Council for Scotland.

P2/3 class teacher Lauren Thomson was awarded the George D Gray CBE Award by the General Teaching Council for Scotland for her work How can teachers challenge homophobic attitudes in the classroom? which the body described as “a powerful contribution to what it means to become a teacher in Scotland”.The Award is presented by GTC Scotland under the terms of a bequest by Dr Ethel Gray as a memorial to her husband, George D Gray, who was the body’s first Registrar. It is an opportunity to recognise academic achievement in Initial Teacher Education that is directly relevant to professional standards and to teaching in Scotland.

Unique reflection

The Award Panel reflected that Lauren’s thesis “presented a unique reflection on personal and professional identity as a developing teacher and could provide a useful tool.” She completed her thesis as part of her fourth year at Queen Margaret University where she studied for her Honours degree in Primary Education.

As someone who identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community, Lauren admits that her motivation for her research was a mix of professional and personal interest, saying: “Queen Margaret University's Initial Teacher Education Program has great inclusion and social justice links so I was always encouraged and advised to pick something I could have a relationship with and something that I cared about.

“I feel that today’s classroom experiences, surrounding homophobia and diversity, are measurably better than they used to be, however more can still be done, especially within primary schools. I went to school in East Lothian so all my experiences are very much local and I'm in the very fortunate position within my P2/3 class to discuss diversity and respect and put my research into practice.

“I'm thrilled to receive the award for two reasons: firstly, because I believe that I put passion and depth into my research but also on spreading the message and underpinning statement that primary schools should be discussing and representing diversity more.” 

All newly qualified teachers in Scotland must complete a period of probationary service to show that they meet the standard for full registration with GTC Scotland, which is a condition of employment as a teacher.

Incredible achievement

East Lothian Council’s Head of Education Nicola McDowell said: “This is an incredible achievement for Lauren. Her work will help to influence and shape professional understanding around how we can challenge homophobia and create inclusive and supportive environments for our children and young people. The GTC Scotland is known for its rigorous application of the highest professional standards so Lauren can feel rightly proud of this assessment of her thesis.”

Letham Mains Head Teacher Bruce Murray added: “I am delighted for Lauren – it’s great to be recognised for the effort and insight shown in her thesis. To be selected for this award, from all graduating students across Scotland, demonstrates the quality and consideration she has invested in creating a thought provoking piece to challenge all of our thinking and practice. Our inclusive ethos is paramount at Letham Mains and we look forward to working alongside her to continue this.”

Published: Friday, 29th September 2023