Irene Wardrope

14th September 2012 at 01:00
The specialist in additional support for learning and committed trade unionist has died at the age of 59

Irene Wardrope, a specialist in learning support who fought to give her pupils the best possible chance in life and to protect the rights of her fellow EIS members, has died at the age of 59 from cancer.

Born in Cranhill in the east end of Glasgow in 1953, she trained originally as a primary teacher and worked in Glasgow and Fife before studying for the diploma in special education and moving into the secondary sector.

She was, until her recent illness, principal teacher in the department of additional support at Buckhaven High in Fife.

Colleagues have paid tribute to Irene's tireless work to support children in mainstream education, always encouraging them and their families to opt into appropriate support.

Isla Lumsden, headteacher of Kilmaron School and a former colleague of Irene's at Buckhaven High, said of her friend: "She was so pupil-centred about meeting the additional needs of her pupils and their families. What she did just came out of her very core."

Irene was, she says, driven by a desire to "get the most fair and just resolution for everyone".

She was instrumental in introducing restorative practices to her department, anxious to ensure that her pupils would be dealt with in an understanding and compassionate way and that they would be helped to see the effects of some of their actions - but "not in a punitive way", said Mrs Lumsden.

Her restorative approach and constant search for the good in everyone meant that some youngsters, who might have been suspended or excluded in another establishment, were persuaded to engage with education, she added.

Irene joined the EIS in 1984 and was throughout her membership active in Fife local association. From 1999 she was local association treasurer and brought the same dedication and commitment to that role. She worked diligently to help form local policy, implement national policy and throughout maintained a commitment to equality. She was also a highly respected EIS representative at Buckhaven High for many years. In recognition of her work, she was awarded the Fellowship of the EIS in 2005.

Anthony Finn, chief executive of the General Teaching Council for Scotland, knew Irene when they were fellow members of the EIS and then worked with her when he represented Fife Council's management side in negotiations.

"Irene was always measured in her arguments and she brought to the negotiation table the same commitment and drive she offered her pupils for the same reasons. Just as she wanted the best for her pupils, she also wanted her colleagues to enjoy good working conditions," he said.

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