15th June 2007 at 01:00
PETER WHEELDON passed away unexpectedly at the end of April. He was an inspired educator, consumed by a passion for fun, people and languages.

For those who worked with him, no two days were the same. Where language teaching in Scotland is infused with relevant, effective and fun-filled methodology, it owes much to him.

Peter's earliest schooling was in Sale, Manchester. After the war, his family moved to Scotland. At Saughton Secondary in Edinburgh, he deepened the Manchester accent he never lost, as a badge of defiance against local bullies. Soon transferred to the refined porticoes of the Royal High School, he found ample scope for his growing interest in languages.

The primacy of the classical curriculum meant a delay in starting German, so he proceeded to teach himself. Many a night he chuntered away at verbs, prepositions, nominatives and datives. Granted extraordinary permission to take the Higher German exam, he succeeded brilliantly at his new-found love, as well as at French.

Peter gained his MA at Edinburgh University in 1957 and his teaching qualification at Moray House College in 1958, to which he added a diploma in education from Edinburgh. He then went to Luebeck in north Germany as an English assistant, staying on to work on the railways and as an interpreter for a shipbuilding company.

Returning to Scotland in the early 1960s, he taught in Moray House Demonstration School and subsequently in Forrester and Trinity schools, before becoming head of German at Portobello High. Along the way, he took a BA in French and German from the University of London, and a diploma in applied linguistics from Edinburgh.

At Portobello, Peter forged an ethos of genuine pupil-centred learning. He sacrificed the old German course books on a ceremonial bonfire in the playground, telling a startled department that they were going to tailor-make a course for "Portie" kids. This activity led on to a trail-blazing series in French, German and Spanish. As one educationist said, these books "put Lothian on the map".

Peter led from the front, but encouraged everyone to feel their contribution was special. His heady mix of intellectual curiosity and infectious enthusiasm often forged teams from a motley crew of diverse talents.

In the late 1980s, he became adviser in languages to Lothian Region. At the helm there for a decade, he was pivotal in its unique approach to the introduction of languages for primary schools, and in diversifying into languages other than French.

Peter's office was a powerhouse. Scotvec exam modules in everything from Japanese to Italian were written at breakneck speed, with him directing it all.

Retiring in 1996, he plunged into Urdu studies. He became an expert consultant to the Scottish Qualifications Authority, developing Urdu up to Higher grade.

Peter's philosophy was an example to us all. A committed internationalist, he advised the Barcelona authorities on the introduction of Catalan.

Everything he undertook, he did to the best of his abilities.

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