Robert Owen Award honour for former general secretary

Last month, former EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan was honoured with the presentation of the Robert Owen Award for services to Scottish Education. At a ceremony in Glasgow, as part of the Scottish Learning Festival, Larry was presented with the award by Shirley-Anne Somerville, the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Education.

The purpose of the Robert Owen Award is to recognise an educator who best exemplifies the vision, principles and values of Robert Owen and who has made a significant contribution to Scottish education.

As a Teacher, Principal Teacher and Deputy Headteacher; a staff tutor; a committed EIS lay activist and key contributor to several national stakeholder groups; as General Secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), this year’s Robert Owen Award recipient Larry Flanagan has been a force for good in the pursuit of quality education that has equity, equality and social justice at its heart.

In his 33 years’ experience as a Teacher of English and Drama, he was highly respected for his knowledge of curriculum, pedagogy and assessment. His expertise has provided quality learning experiences for the many young people in the schools where he taught.

His commitment to young people’s wellbeing and wider achievement is evidenced by his longstanding involvement in the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme. Larry continues to support its delivery within Hillhead High. A significant contributor to the early design of CfE and member of the CfE Management Board, Larry, was the architect of Hillhead High’s visionary curricular model, featuring reduced formal assessment, more time and space for breadth and depth, and crucially, enjoyment, of learning, with wellbeing and wider achievement firmly in mind. Larry’s former colleagues from Hillhead High are unequivocal in their praise of his leadership skills, highlighting how as a teacher and a PT in particular, he sought to encourage students and teachers alike, helping each to recognise and utilise their strengths and achievements to the full.

As General Secretary of the EIS, Larry’s leadership was characterised by a strongly collegiate approach, both in working with and in support of, more than 60,000 members across all sectors of Education, and at all career levels; and in working constructively with national partners across a vast array of areas as pertinent to Scottish education.

He sought to encourage students and teachers alike, helping each to recognise and utilise their strengths and achievements to the full

Larry’s contribution to equality within Scottish education spans his career – from his work as a staff tutor on Multicultural and Anti Racist Education during the 1980s, supporting teachers to address race equality issues in ethos, policy, and practice in their schools, to birthing the idea in 2017 of EIS-Scottish Government collaboration in order to deliver anti-poverty professional learning for all of Scotland’s teachers, and countless initiatives in between.

Highly respected by colleagues within Education International, Larry is a strong ambassador for Scottish Education internationally and has co-led with the Cabinet Secretary for Education the Scotland delegation to various global conferences, including the International Summit on the Teaching Profession. As President of ETUCE, which advises the European Commission on Education, Larry is leading urgent discussions on the impact of the war in Ukraine on learners and teachers, and how to respond.

Larry has unerring belief, as Owen did, in education as a social good. This understanding of the power of inclusive education to benefit individuals, families, communities and society as a whole, has been the rudder that has steered Larry through the course of his career to date. And the belief that he holds has been and continues to be, a source of inspiration to many.