Bert Johnston

9th December 2011 at 00:00
The teacher and former chief inspector of schools has died at the age of 87

He may have been a boy steeped in the mining tradition of his small Scots village but Bert Johnston, who has died aged 87, never considered anything other than becoming a teacher.

He was educated at Twechar Primary and Lenzie Academy, before going to Glasgow University during the Second World War. He was awarded an ordinary MA when his studies were interrupted and he was drafted into the Royal Artillery.

After being demobbed, he returned to Glasgow University and graduated with a first in English language and literature which he followed with a fast- track course at Jordanhill College. He achieved exceptional merit in his diploma, a qualification which allowed him to teach in both primary and secondary education.

Between 1949 and 1951, he taught English and history at Falkirk High, before spending the next two years as head of English and history at Aberlour High in Speyside.

A move to England followed in 1953, where he met his wife-to-be, Edna.

He returned to Scotland in 1960 as lecturer in English at Jordanhill. His move into the schools inspectorate came in 1963 when he joined the eastern division covering Fife and Lothian and Borders. He described these as exciting years in education which saw a variety of initiatives launched, including the publication of the Primary Memorandum in 1965; the raising of the school-leaving age; the introduction of guidance into Scottish secondary schools; and the era of comprehensive education.

At the end of the 1960s he was seconded for two years to the Scottish Office, where he served as a principal in the further education section. In 1970 he was promoted to district inspector for Glasgow City - a post regarded as the most challenging district appointment. Two years later he was promoted to HM Chief Inspector of Schools for the northern division, which covered a huge swathe of the country from Tayside to Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles.

He was also the main author of a series of national reports, including Teaching and Learning at the Senior Stages of Scottish Secondary Education - the first thorough coverage of that stage of education. He also wrote on health education in Scottish schools and was an expert on the development of education in rural and remote areas.

He should have retired in 1983, but stayed on for a further two years to review the operation of the research and intelligence unit of the then Scottish Office education department.

In retirement, he was chair of the selection committee of the Miners' Welfare National Education Fund, which makes grants to help mineworkers, former mineworkers and their dependents take further education courses.

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