Media release: GTCS George D Gray winner announced


UNIVERSITY of the West of Scotland graduate Rachel Frew is the 2017 winner of the George D Gray CBE MA Award, presented annually by the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS).

This year, GTCS also issued a Commendation Award to Abigail Stirling, a graduate from the University of Edinburgh.

Rachel and Abigail were issued their awards at a meeting of the full Council of GTCS in Edinburgh on Wednesday, 13 December 2017.

Now in its seventeenth year, the George D Gray CBE MA Award seeks to find the most distinguished BEd assignments in Scotland. The assignments are judged by an experienced panel of educationalists comprising: Professor Rowena Arshad, convener of the award panel; Professor Teresa Moran of Dundee University; Professor Judith George of the Open University; and Kenneth Muir, chief executive of GTCS.

Winner Rachel Frew graduated with a BEd (Hons) from the University of the West of Scotland and is now teaching at Braehead Primary School in South Ayrshire. Her dissertation is entitled, ‘Primary School Language Education in Multilingual Scotland: Opportunities and Challenges for Community Languages’.

Rachel said: “Winning the George D Gray Award has come as a wonderful yet unexpected surprise, and I feel privileged and delighted to be the recipient.

“I am hopeful that the exposure winning the award brings will raise awareness of possible opportunities to better support all of our learners in their additional language acquisition, thus helping Scotland achieve its vision of authentic plurilingualism, as well as helping to challenge some of the negative and stereotypical views surrounding patterns of migration to Scotland.

“My research found that teacher training and professional development in additional language teaching and learning at primary school level should extend beyond basic knowledge of the target language(s), to EAL provision and associated languages pedagogy.

“In the absence of national and local language policies which necessitate a more streamlined approach to languages education, the establishment of digital networks of professionals from mainstream and complementary languages sectors, and EAL services, could serve to address this.

“Furthermore, the research has highlighted a clear imbalance in the worth and status attributed to different languages. If Scottish schools are truly to become welcoming places for all, more must be done to incorporate the community languages of pupils in schools into the curriculum, as a tool for teaching and learning.

“This would demonstrate to pupils and their communities that all languages are valued and all have an equal place. It is my hope that this would be reflected in the wider communities in terms of race, culture, ethnicity and heritage.”

Abigail Stirling, who graduated earlier this year with a BEd (Hons) Primary Education from the University of Edinburgh, is now teaching at Linlithgow Primary School.

Abigail explored the topical matter of transgender children in the classroom in her dissertation entitled, ‘Supporting teachers to support trans students: how prepared do teachers feel to support trans children in a Scottish primary school?’.

In her dissertation, Abigail discusses her findings from interviewing seven members of staff from a local primary school, concluding that teachers are willing to provide support for trans children but are unsure of what this should involve.

Abigail said: “I am delighted to receive this commendation and am very pleased that the relevance of my research has been recognised, as it highlights the real struggles that trans children can face each day in school and the importance of ensuring that teachers are fully equipped to support them.

“Although the discussion around the issue of trans children in schools may seem daunting and sometimes difficult to broach, it is becoming increasingly clear that trans pupils generally do not feel supported and nurtured by existing systems. In order to facilitate change it is vital that teachers themselves are given access to information, training and support that is informed by the wider transgender movement.

“Although there are indications that some real progress is now being made in this area, much more needs to be done to break down the stigma that surrounds it and ensure that all children are fully-engaged with their education regardless of their gender.”

Presenting the award, GTCS chief executive, Kenneth Muir, said: “The calibre of submissions for the George D Gray Award this year has been very high and we were extremely impressed by how well both candidates presented their research at interview panel.

“Rachel’s research is of real value and significance, for all teaching practitioners. Abigail’s chosen topic of research is very current, and although Abigail was not selected as the winner of the award, she has been issued a commendation award by GTCS because of her excellent thesis.”

Notes for editors:

The George D Gray CBE MA Award is presented by GTCS under the terms of a trust fund which was set up by Dr Ethel Gray, the widow of George D Gray, as a memorial to her husband. Widely regarded as being responsible for securing government support for setting up GTCS, George Gray was also its first Registrar.

Previous winners include:

o 2001 – Emma Holding and Alistair Macdonald – both from the University of Strathclyde

o 2002 – Lorraine Smith – University of Edinburgh

o 2003 – Andrew Foster – University of Dundee

o 2004 – Rhona McWalter – University of Dundee

o 2005 – Jane Harrison – University of Dundee

o 2006 – Jane Chiverton – University of Dundee

o 2007 – Karen Crichton – University of Dundee

o 2008 – Elizabeth Fuller – University of Dundee

o 2009 – Kirsten Braden – University of Strathclyde

o 2010 – Marianne McCron – University of Edinburgh

o 2011 – No award was made

o 2012 – Sharon Friel-Myles – University of Dundee

o 2013 – Ainslie McCabe – University of Strathclyde

o 2014 – Stacey McKillop – University of the West of Scotland and Steven McHarg – University of Edinburgh

o 2015 – Kirsty McLaren – University of Dundee

o 2016 – Amy Buchan – University of Strathclyde

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