Ian Smith

11th March 2011 at 00:00
A prolific teacher, curriculum developer, writer and trainer who was inspirational to all

The passing of Ian Smith, who died last month after a short illness, has deprived Scottish education of one of its most intelligent and inspirational leaders of the past decade. Over nearly 40 years as teacher, curriculum developer, writer and teacher trainer, he shaped his unique vision of the transformative power of learning for both students and teachers.

In 1998, Ian turned his back on a secure career with SCCC (Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum) and took a huge leap in the dark, setting up his own company. Learning Unlimited was born of his deep commitment to the potential for teaching and learning to change lives. He believed quite simply that if individuals could unlock their intellectual and creative powers, the benefits for themselves and for society in general would be "unlimited".

He was a prolific writer, the author of some 50 publications and a regular contributor to TESS. Issues included assessment, creativity and motivating young learners, the latter a topic Ian would return to again and again as the key to unlocking human potential. His universally-acclaimed training sessions were energising, motivational and rooted in the experiences and the needs of the classroom teacher.

But Ian did not see learning and teaching as merely a set of skills and attitudes to guide us through education and career. He saw it as a starting point, the growth of self-awareness that begins in schools but would flow out into a fulfilled life.

Yet he was no starry-eyed utopian. The first 10 years of his career, teaching in schools in deprived areas of Glasgow, Fife and Edinburgh, grounded him in the harsh realities of day-to-day teaching. His philosophy of education was built on his ability to reflect upon his daily struggles with reluctant learners. He also believed passionately that these children deserved better, not only from our education system but from life, that they had an entitlement to a full and fulfilled life.

He lived a full and fulfilled life. A keen St Johnstone supporter, he was a talented footballer and played for British Universities and Spartans. Drawn to the mountains and the sea, he was a keen kayaker and a convivial companion round the fires of the bothy and the campsite.

Given his belief that creativity has the power to unlock the potential of every individual at every level, it will come as no surprise that Ian Smith was a talented gardener and a highly gifted photographer.

Ian is survived by Allison, his wife of nearly 38 years, and children Heather and Graham.

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