Ian Rowley

23rd March 2007 at 00:00
Ian Rowley made crucial contributions to the science curriculum and performed several important roles as an education inspector. He died on November 26, following a long struggle with cancer.

Ian gained a BSc honours in natural philosophy at Glasgow University before taking his teaching qualification in physics at Jordanhill College. He maintained his connection with Glasgow University, gaining an MEd honours degree in 1976.

His first teaching post was at Camphill High in Paisley, where he became assistant principal teacher of science. In 1978, he was appointed principal teacher of physics at Williamwood High. Following that success, he gained national recognition and performed roles central to the development of physics and science education.

In 1986, Ian was appointed national development officer for physics, working with the Scottish Consultative Council on the curriculum. He championed the applications-led approach, and helped ensure that Standard grade physics was considered the best of the science courses. Along with Bobby Hogg and Douglas Buchanan, he toured Scotland to work with development groups, generating support materials and winning converts to the concept that physics was, indeed, fun.

Ian joined HM Inspectorate of Schools in 1988, taking over national responsibility for Standard grade science. As a member of the HMI science panel, he made a significant contribution at meetings. He was skilled at presenting both sides of an argument, but made clear where he wanted his vote to count. He was often quiet and perceptive for periods of time, which made his interventions even more powerful.

He was a champion of young people who struggled with science. He reminded panel members of the need to support Standard grade science and include it in inspection programmes. He gave an excellent lead to the Higher Still development programme in physics, and worked hard to help ensure that provision matched needs.

Throughout his career with HMI, Ian was given many challenging tasks. He was district inspector for Glasgow and Edinburgh, lead inspector for inspection and reporting, and he led the investigation into the 2000 SQA examination crisis.

He undertook such tasks with consummate skill, building on a deep understanding of education and making use of his many qualities: an ability to listen and empathise, a droll and disarming humour used to defuse awkward situations, and an ability to make complex issues straightforward.

Most of all, Ian was a gentleman and a gentle man. He was universally popular, thanks to his thoughtfulness, calm demeanour and measured responses. His best kept secret was that he continued to be a physics teacher in his head while outwardly giving the impression of an inspector.

He never forgot what it was like to be a very good teacher, and this gave him great credibility. His evaluations were invariably fair and coupled with sound advice.

Ian's premature departure has left a gaping hole in physics education, within the inspectorate and nationally; he is greatly missed by his colleagues across the community.

His gentle humour survived to the end. When teased by his wife, Rhona, about the number of female colleagues sending him cards describing him as a perfect gentleman, he chuckled and said: "You wouldn't recognise that description, would you, Rhona!"

Ian is also survived by his children, David and Jennifer.

The TESS invites obituaries and appreciations from contributors, or suggestions for obituaries. Please email scoted@tes.co.uk, or write to TESS, 10 South St Andrew Street, Edinburgh EH2 ZAZ.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today