MacKay Hannah

Affording parity of esteem: Redressing the balance in moral, philosophical and religious education


Patrick Harvie MSP

Co-convener, Scottish Green Party

Patrick Harvie was elected as a regional MSP for Glasgow in May 2003. He was a member of the Communities Committee dealing with housing, planning, charity law, and social issues, and more recently Convenor of Parliament’s Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee.

Patrick has also been involved with issues from asylum and civil liberties to sexual health and food policy. He is also the joint Convenor of the Scottish Green Party.

Before Parliament Patrick worked in the sexual health field, for an organisation called PHACE Scotland which is now part of the Terrence Higgins Trust.

Professor Brian Boyd

Director, The Tapestry Partnership

Brian worked in the Faculty of Education at the University of Strathclyde for fifteen years after a career in secondary education which began in a Junior Secondary in 1970 and saw him hold two posts of headteacher as well as education officer and chief adviser. He was a member of the Ministerial Review Group on the curriculum 3-18 which produced the report ‘A Curriculum for Excellence’ in 2004. Brian is a co-founder with Katrina Bowes of Tapestry.

Brian is in demand as a speaker at conferences, as a staff developer, as a tutor in management courses and as a consultant to local authorities and schools. He writes frequently, and challengingly, for the educational press in Scotland and has published widely in educational journals and books. He is the author of three books published by Hodder Gibson, Primary-Secondary Transition (2005), Improving Professional Practice (2005) and The Learning Classroom (2008) as part of a Continuing Professional Development series (of which he is also series editor).

Bente Sandvig

Manager, Lifestance/Political Issues, Norwegian Humanist Association

Bente Sandvig is trained as a teacher and has also studied sociology, school development, religion and ethics. Since 1993 she has been working as a manager of lifestance and political matters at the head office of the Norwegian Humanist Association and in this capacity she was in charge of the association`s work against the new religious education that was introduced in the school system autumn 1997. This process ended with Norway being sentenced in The European Court of Human Rights for violating parent`s right to decide the nature of their children`s religious education. She has also been the elected chairperson of The Council for Religious and Lifestance Communities from 2008 – 2011. Furthermore she has been a member of the state commission to look into the relation between state and church. Currently she is the wise chair of the commission appointed by the government to revise the policy on religious and lifestance matters.

Ewan Aitken

Church of Scotland

A former Convener of Education and Leader of Edinburgh City Council and CoSLA spokesperson on Education, Ewan also has 30 years experience working in the third sector. In 1995, whilst working as a parish minister in Edinburgh he founded the Ripple Project, a diverse community action organisation that is still going strong. 

Ewan is very committed to issues of social justice, especially challenging the stigmatisation of the disadvantaged. He believes that poverty is not simply a matter of financial instability but one of inner well-being; poverty grinds the soul and well as the body. Cyrenians' philosophy of walking with those who are struggling, and sticking with them when they stumble, is what first attracted him to the organisation. He believes that by the living out of our obligation to our neighbour and to the stranger, each of us will also find what we truly need to live well ourselves.

Ewan is a director of the Edinburgh International Science Festival, the Ripple Project and Eco-Congregation Scotland, and Chair of the National Prison Visitor Centre Steering Group, the Scottish Labour Party's Social Justice Sounding Board and the grants committee of BBC Children in Need Scotland. He's also an advisor to Circle and is a member of the CoSLA Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy. 

He joined Cyrenians in May 2014 after 6 years as head of the Church of Scotland's Church and Society department, which helps the Church engage in social, political and ethical issues. He's a member of the Iona Community and a season ticket holder for the Royal Lyceum Theatre. His extra curricular activity includes watching sport (especially rugby), and vegetarian cooking; but most of his leisure time is spent with his family.

@EwanAitken Cyrenians1968

Dr Claire Cassidy

Lecturer, University of Strathclyde

Dr. Claire Cassidy is a senior lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Strathclyde.  She is the course leader for the Postgraduate Certificate in Philosophy with Children.  Her research focuses on Philosophy with Children, the concept of child, citizenship and children's rights, and human rights and education.  She is also currently involved in an AHRC-funded project with colleagues in Education and Law considering the place of religious observance/collective worship in schools in the four UK jurisdictions.  For more information on this project:

Alex Wood

Education Consultant

Alex Wood is an educational consultant, now working freelance for the Scottish Centre for Studies in School Administration and for the Scottish Educational Leadership, Management and Administration Society, and writing regular columns on educational issues in the Times Educational Supplement Scotland, SecEd and Holyrood Magazine as well as occasional pieces, on education and on broader social and cultural issues, for The Herald, Scottish Review and other publications.

His professional experience includes 15 years in Craigroyston Community High School (initially as an English teacher, latterly as Principal Teacher, Learning Support), coordinating a community education supported project in Pilton and leading an inter-agency youth strategy support unit in West Lothian.  In 1996 he became headteacher of Kaimes School, a school then in transition to becoming a specialist resource for children with communications difficulties, followed by two years as Special Schools and Social Inclusion Manager for the City of Edinburgh.  He became headteacher of Wester Hailes Education Centre in 2000.  He was seconded to act as headteacher at Tynecastle High School for 13 months in 2008-09, returned to WHEC and retired from there in 2011.

He also has experience of local government as an elected member, having served on Edinburgh District Council from 1980 to 1987.

He is a skilled presenter and communicator, committed to the continuing development of professional skills among all those supporting young people.

Picture of Ian Scott

Ian Scott


Picture of Rory MacKenzie

Rory MacKenzie

former Head Teacher, Balerno High School

Clare Marsh

Education Officer, Humanist Society Scotland

Clare Marsh taught biology in a large Comprehensive school in Glasgow before being seconded to Understanding British Industry where she arranged industrial placements for teachers. After retiring and travelling for a few years she joined the HSS in 2006 where she helped in the field of education. In 2010 she became education officer, following in the footsteps of the late, great, freethinker, Bob Mackay who produced such a wonderful vision of the future for the work of the society in education. Together with the rest of the education team she commissions the preparation of teaching materials  and reviews of books and DVD’s suitable for use in primary and secondary schools. She very much enjoys visiting schools, taking assemblies and working with classes. She always encourages young people to think for themselves and come to their own conclusions about what to believe.

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All topics were related and all relevant. This was a really informative event for us to attend and as a student I am thankful that this event was free.

Kirsty McKay - University of Dundee,
Delegate Closing Scotland's Education Poverty and Attainment Gap