28th January 2011 at 00:00

Alastair Milne, who has died aged 81, had a distinguished career as one of Her Majesty's inspectors of schools in special education from 1969 until his retirement in 1989.

For most of that time, he was the national specialist for that aspect of education, with a specific interest in the education of children and young people with visual impairments and those with severe, complex and profound learning difficulties and physical disabilities.

From 1974 to 1978, he served on the UK Warnock committee for special educational needs, whose many recommendations led to the greater integration of children with special educational needs in mainstream schools.

He forged long-standing and excellent relations with colleagues abroad and in the UK, in education authorities, universities, colleges and with parents. These links gave him a deep understanding of the international and national scenes that served the inspectorate and the Scottish Office, by identifying areas requiring further attention or research and by helping to circumvent the more politicised debates of the period.

His work and influence were significant. He ensured a better education for young people with learning difficulties and for those in long-stay hospitals; the training of staff; the professional development of educational psychologists; the development of the CALL Centre at Edinburgh University and the Scottish Sensory Centre at Moray House; the long association with the Royal Blind School and the initiatives taken on records of needs.

Alastair was the younger son of a family steeped in the farming traditions of Aberdeenshire. Following his secondary education at Banff Academy, where he was dux, he forsook that lifestyle for a more academic career, graduating with an MA and BEd from Aberdeen University. Perhaps the experience of falling into a sheep dip when a youngster persuaded him that farming was not for him.

On graduation, and following national service in the RAF, he taught at Fyvie School and then joined the child guidance service in Aberdeen as an educational psychologist. In 1962, he became a lecturer in educational psychology and later head of department of Dundee College of Education. In 1969, he became one of Her Majesty's inspectors of schools, based in Glasgow, where he remained for the next 20 years.

Alastair married Margaret McHardy in 1958 and his son, Alan, of whom he was very proud, was born in 1959.

In 1990, he was made an OBE for his services to education. After a few years of additional, part-time work for the Scottish Office, he travelled frequently, often with friends, until he died.

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