A FORMER Ross High School pupil embarking on her own teaching career has picked up a prestigious prize.

The General Teaching Council (GTC) for Scotland awarded the George D Gray CBE MA Award to Lauren Thomson, who is completing her probation at Letham Mains Primary School, Haddington.

In her dissertation, How Can Teachers Challenge Homophobic Attitudes in the Classroom?, the Queen Margaret University graduate undertook a review of international literature about homophobic attitudes in primary and secondary schools.

The 22-year-old was delighted to receive the honour.

Lauren said: “I think the word that comes to mind is ‘thrilled’. I got notified on my first day as a teacher at Letham Mains. It was the best possible first day I could have had!”

The 8,000-word dissertation focused on four main areas: representation in the curriculum; teachers’ own confidence in challenging homophobic attitudes; teachers’ own identities; and school input through policy and ethos.

Lauren, who also attended Sanderson’s Wynd Primary School, said: “My inspiration to focus on this subject stemmed from a mixture of a passion towards a relationship-based ethos, as well as personal and professional observations of homophobic attitudes in classrooms.

“I think this research process and my time spent with this topic will positively influence my teaching throughout my career.

“It has provided me with transferable positive associations underpinning respect and a greater confidence when delivering topics such as diversity, inclusion and conflict.”

The George D Gray CBE MA Award recognises the most distinguished assignment by a student teacher completing an undergraduate primary teacher education programme in Scotland.

Assignments are judged on: academic distinction; how the research and thinking aligns with the Standard for Provisional Registration; and how the candidates for the award have demonstrated their preparedness for entering the induction phase of their teaching career.

The Standard for Provisional Registration is the benchmark of competence required of all student teachers seeking provisional registration with GTC Scotland and outlines what is required to become a teacher in Scotland.

Dr Pauline Stephen, GTC Scotland chief executive and registrar, congratulated Lauren, who has taught P2/3 at Letham Mains Primary School for about six weeks.

Dr Stephen said: “Lauren’s dissertation reflected the professional values of social justice, integrity, trust and respect. These values are at the core of the Professional Standards for Scotland’s Teachers.

“The panel felt that Lauren’s dissertation offered a powerful contribution to what it means to become a teacher in Scotland. In particular, the panel reflected that her thesis presented a unique reflection on personal and professional identity as a developing teacher and could provide a useful tool for reflection.”

Bruce Murray, headteacher at Letham Mains Primary School, said: “I am delighted for Lauren.

“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.”