Norman Macleod: an appreciation

30th August 1996 at 01:00
The death last weekend of Norman Macleod, recently retired rector of Bearsden Academy, has deprived Scottish education of one of its most colourful and best loved characters.

His teaching career began in 1958 at the newly opened Glenwood Secondary in Castlemilk. Over the next 38 years, until his final illness, he missed only one day and his enthusiasm was undiminished. He spent 15 years at Glenwood, frequently taking pupils to the school's outdoor centre in Wester Ross and farther afield to Moscow, the first visit by any Scottish school to the then Soviet Union. He was a pioneer of modern studies, becoming the first principal teacher anywhere in Scotland and doing much to establish the credibility of the new subject.

As a headteacher, first in Craigbank Secondary and then for 15 years at Bearsden Academy, he inspired colleagues to meet the high standards he set. His qualities of leadership were acknowledged by HMIs when they reported on Bearsden three years ago. They were right to comment on the quality of his personal contacts because, to Norman, people mattered more than anything else.

Over the years Norman was a leading figure in many national bodies, such as the General Teaching Council and the Scottish Examination Board. It was, however, the Educational Institute of Scotland which gave him a national voice. His trenchant speeches were often a highlight of annual conferences or meetings of the national executive. For him the EIS was as much a professional association as a trade union; developing its educational policies was as important as negotiating salaries or conditions.

As EIS education convener and teacher representative on Strathclyde's education committee and indeed anywhere where he made himself heard, Norman argued the case for quality before social engineering in education. His test was whether an idea worked, not whether it was politically correct.

His views were often at odds with the prevailing educational fashion. He never hesitated to make his dissent known, vigorously but courteously and with great humour. He loved a good argument but never bore any ill will. Defeat never discouraged him. He was always optimistic and confident that time would be on his side. In many ways he is being proven right.

How many teachers could still tell you the names of every child in their first-form class 38 years later? How many heads, nearing the end of their careers, could still find time and energy to take pupils abroad on a summer trip? Norman Macleod's transparent honesty and decency will ensure he will be widely missed.

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