Sheila Laing’s talk on Social Justice: annual conference 2014

cover photo

Sheila has kindly made her presentation available to everyone and added an audio commentary  just click on the loudspeaker symbol on each slide to hear it. Many, many thanks, Sheila. Hope others get as much from it as we did on the day.

Click either  here or on the image above  to download Sheila’s presentation.

Social justice in schools: our three priorities exercise

A Capture of our three social justice priorities for schools

A Capture of our three social justice priorities for schools

And here is a summary of your priorities:

SELMAS Social justice conference October 2014

You three priorities for better social justice in schools:

Values and learning priorities

Establish Common values.
Discuss values and empowerment.
Ensure core values adopted across school community & challenge those who don’t.
Shared vision and values.
Develop “political literacy.”
Understanding of difference, respect, acceptance.
Staff development CLPL.
CPD for all school community.
Lead by example.
Remind staff of the power to change.
Discuss assumptions/intolerance.
Challenge assumptions.
Encourage diversity of staff to reflect society. 

Achievement for all priorities

Encouraging high expectations.

Growth mindsets

Greater opportunities for all.
Inclusion – achievement for all through in inclusive curriculum.
No exclusion.
Use GIRFEC in theory and practice.


Encouraging connections priorities

Partnerships across agencies.
Parental needs – involving parents.
Value Parental contribution.
Parental engagement.
Involving parents .

Democracy and power priorities

Challenge status quo.
Sharing decision making.
Involving young people in making decisions.
Devolve budgets.
Promote democracy.

Encourage disadvantaged voices in decision making.
Breaking down remaining social structural hierarchies –setting.
Challenge accepted hierarchies.

And a summary of your 3 priorities for better social justice in Scotland

Worlde SJ2

Professional responsibility priorities 

Take our professional responsibility to challenge structures which maintain and reproduce inequality seriously

Challenge the status quo & question political agendas

Working with partners

Develop positive aspirations and mindsets

Democracy and equality priorities 


More devolution of power

More power to communities

Reform Welfare system – funding to tackle deprivation

UNIRC (rights of the child) embedded in legislation

Ensure political commitment and agreed common plan for achieving greater equality

Establish “citizens’ income” or living wage

Introduce child poverty tax


Schooling  priorities 

More focus on EY

Improve quality of EY experience for all

Extend school starting age

GIRFEC is vital


Remove competitive statistical comparisons between schools

Eradicate discrimination of “less good” school

Reduce school segregation faith/private schools



Wider  priorities 

Use of social media to educate

Adverts on TV to promote social justice

Devlop neighbourhood vocational classes/ certificates/apprenticeships

Reinforce family values

Enforce a better work ethic

Encourage less fear around failure and small accidents

Challenge H&S dictats

SELMAS annual conference 2014: social justice – an impossible ideal?

A participant’s perspective…….Danny Murphy shares his thoughts.

The SELMAS Conference this year lived up to its usual high standard, addressing the issue of how schools and school leaders should respond to the issue which is at the centre of Scotlands future: social justice.

There were three excellent speakers. Lesley Riddoch led us off with a mixture of statistics, information and passion – she drew on her work with colleagues in Scandinavia to develop a vision of where we should be going but she also showed a nuanced understanding of the complex interplay of culture, expectations and school systems – change of this kind is a long term project, not a quick fix, but we need to make a start. Alan Williamson, Headteacher at Lasswade High, reminded us that Scottish schools are already doing quite a lot. The new policy environment of Curriculum for Excellence, GIRFEC and the management information tool ‘Insight’ creates a space in which secondary schools are more empowered than before to to bring all children into a meaningful educational experience leading to a positive destination. Sheila Laing, drawing on her work in West Pilton and Prestonpans, revisited Maslow – until children’s basic needs are met, we cannot expect to develop the four capacities of the new curriculum. Key values are ‘respect, nurture, learn.’ It is important for school leaders to be aware who has power and who is powerless in a school community and to share power across the school community. Although as school leaders we cannot do much at a the ‘macro’ level of Scottish policy, we can make a difference by what we do at the ‘meso’ level of the school and what we do makes a difference at the ‘micro’ level of the individual – that’s where we’ve got to start. In among Sheila’s many stories, we’ll all remember Billy – this year he is getting a poppy.

In between the presentations, we discussed the issues raised in smaller groups, sharing perspectives and experiences. One of the great advantages of the SELMAS event is that it brings people from all sectors and all parts of Scotland and there is always some useful discussion and sharing in those informal moments, over coffee and lunch. Each group had to prepare not two stars and a wish, but three wishes for a socially just Scotland and three wishes for socially just schools. These are being collated by the Selmas committee. We won’t have come up with all the answers, but those present will all go back to their various school communities with plenty of good ideas and a renewed sense that we are all part of a common project to make Scotland a better fairer place.

Danny Murphy was keen to share his thoughts about our annual conference on social justice. Danny’s new book ‘Schooling Scotland’, reviewed as a ‘must read for every adult in Scotland’, has just been published by Argyll Press at £7.99. Find out more on Danny’s own blog