Guest post from Karen Docherty, headteacher at St Agatha’s RC Primary School and Nursery in Fife

Isn’t it great when your role delivers a wee unexpected bonus?

Well, I had one such delightful experience at the SELMAS Spring Forum 2014. I’d booked a place there but, to be truthful, my motivation to attend had dwindled somewhat. Work had been especially demanding recently. An early night was very appealing…

Tired, hungry and a little frayed by the challenges of the term I made my way to the reception area to be greeted by smiling, friendly members of the SELMAS committee. It soon became apparent that the event was not going to be as intense and formal as I’d expected. Indeed, it felt relaxed but purposeful which proved to be the case throughout the evening. The speakers were very good. The topic: social justice and leadership.

At times the narratives were poignant, often funny, sometimes controversial; each unique but sharing a battle cry for connection and communication.

Rosa Murray, the first speaker, urged us consider whether we are truly enabling our young people to have their voices heard. She spoke of a perceived power imbalance in some school contexts and the evident risk of tokenism in pupil councils. She questioned the messages sent when pupils were prohibited from expressing a peaceful response to social injustice.

I was lucky to find myself sitting beside the next keynote speaker, Anne-Marie McGovern, whose compassionate recount of her school’s context chimed with many in the audience. For others, it was revelatory and refreshing – especially when she spoke in terms of her admiration for those children attending school daily, despite enormous difficulties. She modestly recounted the successes achieved in her school despite these barriers and quietly challenged us to find better ways to support our young people. She was very eloquent in her plea for parenting lessons to become part of the standardised curriculum.

Finally, we heard from Anna Fowlie who charmed us with her entertaining and thought provoking personal perspective on the subtle differences between being a socially just leader and socially just leadership. Much of what she said focused upon values and actions, with the importance of congruence. She insisted that the way we treat people, young or old, should reflect respect and dignity. Anna’s description of leadership was embedded in respect and she urged all socially just leaders to be good listeners.

I can’t adequately reflect the quality content of the Spring Forum in this tiny post but would encourage you to check out the clips and then, better still, come along to the next SELMAS event. No matter how tired you may feel, no matter how many tiny work-related piranhas might be feasting on your brain, try to come along. You won’t regret it.

I found the opportunity to engage in high quality professional dialogue, with passionate people (in a lovely environment) to be energising and surprisingly, fun. As I said at the start – an unexpected bonus. It recharged my professional batteries just when I needed it and SELMAS may well offer something of value to you too.

Karen Doherty

St Agatha’s RC Primary School and Nursery

Spring Forum Update – more about our speakers

Spring Forum Update - more about our speakers

The SELMAS Forum is totally sold out. That’s a result of the attractive line-up of speakers as well as of the popularity of SELMAS events. The evening starts at 5.30 pm with registration, drinks and chat, with the formal event starting at 6.15. We very much look forward to welcoming you to St George’s.

The speakers are Rosa Murray, General Teaching Council of Scotland; Anne-Marie McGovern, Headteacher, St Benedict’s RC Primary School, Glasgow; and Anna Fowlie, Chief Executive, Scottish Council for Social Services.

Anne Marie McGovern has worked for over thirty years in primary education in some of the most deprived areas identified in the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation in Glasgow City. For the last eighteen years she has been a headteacher in Easterhouse in two different schools. She has led each of these through very successful HMIe inspections. Her current school, St Benedict’s was evaluated as excellent across five quality indicators including leadership. In 2007-8 she was given the opportunity of a secondment to work at Directorate level within Education Services as an Area Education Manager for the South East of the city. In this role the Education Managers worked very closely with their Social Work colleagues to improve the outcomes of the young people of Glasgow. Since choosing to return to her school Anne Marie continues to embrace the changes in Scottish Education and the new curriculum, working with colleagues in other services and community groups to improve the life chances of the young citizens of Easterhouse.

Rosa Murray took up appointment with the General Teaching Council for Scotland in August 2004 where she is responsible for promoting and developing Professional Learning and Development Programmes for teachers in Scotland. Recently Rosa has been involved in the development of Learning for sustainability within the Professional Standards and in schools, Previous to this current post she was the Principal Teacher of Religious and Moral Education at St Augustine’s High School. During her time there she was seconded for two years as Development Officer for Religious and Moral Education at the Education Department of Edinburgh City Council. She has also undertaken secondments with SQA and the Scottish Government. She is also a regular contributor to Radio Scotland’s Religious Affairs Broadcasting Programme ‘Thought for Today’ where she provides reflections, from a spiritual perspective, on current events and issues around the world.

Anna Fowlie started with the SSSC on 2 November 2009. Before that Anna headed up the Scottish Government team improving outcomes for Looked After Children. In that role, she worked closely with local authorities and other services to raise awareness and aspiration for children and young people in public care. Anna came to that post from COSLA, where she was Team Leader for Children and Young People, lobbying on behalf of local government on all policy issues relating to education and children’s services with a lead role on the social services workforce. She worked within the Employers’ Organisation role in COSLA, across all local government negotiating bodies. Brought up in Inverness, Anna has an honours degree from Edinburgh University in the History of Art. She is a Chartered Member of the Charted Institute of Personnel and Development and before coming to COSLA worked for 18 years in HR in local authorities.

We very much look forward to welcoming them and all our guests to the forum.

SELMAS is grateful for the support and sponsorship of the Scottish Government.

Social justice links

Spring forum – social justice

Social Justice is our theme for 2014 – the focus of both the Spring Forum and annual conference. I also happen to have been foraging around a bit on this theme for a 1st year seminar I’m teaching next week. I thought it might be helpful to share some of the links I’ve come across, in anticipation of the forum, in case anyone wants to do a bit of advance reading.

Danny Dorling’s book “Injustice” seems to deal with this issue in a very coherent and accessible way – link above. dan

More links to clips of Danny’s talks

Injustice extras

For many educators, Freire is an obvious source in this debate (thanks to Mark Healy @cjane02 on twitter for this link)

Professor Diane Reay is another academic who has a strong interest in social justice and inequality. This thought piece is a good starting point in the social justice in schooling agenda.

Professor Stephen Ball has written extensively on education policy and social class and this thought piece – Education, justice and democracy: The struggle over ignorance and opportunity is well worth reading, in its own right AND as an introduction to the rest of his writing.

Both the above pieces were sourced from the CLASS website a think tank providing this very fertile foraging-ground for shared knowledge of all aspects of social justice.

A free issue of Research Papers in Education with a paper on Academies, Free Schools and Social Justice.

bell hooks talks about ‘the practice of freedom’ as a way of engaging with social justice in education

The annual conference 2014 also worked on the theme of social justice and Lesley Riddoch highlighted the work going on in Nordic Horizons as a useful source of information and discussion.

As part of Nordic Horizons, Pasi Sahlberg shared a presentation on equity he made to the Scottish Parliament scotland-parliament-2012

Lesley Riddoch’s book, Blossom on what it will take to make Scotland flourish addresses issues of power and poverty

If you can think of any further links that might be interesting or useful for the forum please leave a comment and we will add them to our list.
SELMAS is grateful for the support and sponsorship of the Scottish Government.