Hardeep Kaur has been recognized by her colleagues for heightening racial awareness and inclusion at her school.

The General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTC Scotland) awarded the Portobello High School biology teacher with the 2023 Saroj Lal Award for a Pioneering Spirit in Equality and Diversity.

Among the many contributions to school culture, she wrote and delivered staff training with a focus on microaggressions and the importance of pronouncing the names of black and minority ethnic (BAME) learners correctly.

She also supported her students in a campaign to create a safe, anonymous way to report racist incidents.

Their "Standing Together" campaign involved placing posters around the school with QR codes. These codes allow students to discreetly report racist incidents as they happen.

She then helped her school to establish guidance on how to handle racist incidents.

Rather than creating a culture of punishment, her guidance focused on educating the community and repairing relationships. 

Hardeep said that she had long resisted being seen as a token person of colour in her workplace. But a racist incident in 2019 motivated her to take a more active role for the benefit of her students and colleagues.

The Saroj Lal Award represents the culmination of years of work, she said. 

“I am deeply humbled to have been selected for the Saroj Lal award, from a field I know is rich with talented colleagues all working to ensure Scotland is an inclusive and diverse country to live and work in. 

“To have been given an award named for such an amazing woman is a huge honour and I will keep striving to make sure I'm worthy of it. 

“I'm grateful for all the support I have received from family, friends, colleagues and most importantly the young people I get to work with and be inspired by every day."

She is now working with the University of Edinburgh’s School of Education to develop their anti-racist practice and policy and support students in Initial Teacher Education. 

The Award for a Pioneering Spirit in Equality and Diversity was established in honour of Saroj Lal, a pioneering Edinburgh teacher who was known as a pioneer in Scottish race relations.

Her son, Vineet Lal, called Hardeep a well-deserved recipient.

“Hardeep’s steadfast commitment to challenging prejudice within education, and her determination to embed the values of anti-racism within the school environment, exemplify the pioneering spirit that is the hallmark of this award.
“Hardeep’s story is one that will undoubtedly inspire and encourage other practitioners within the sector to go above and beyond in the name of equality, and to make a real difference – all qualities that Saroj herself would have recognised and applauded.”