Obituary

1st August 2008 at 01:00

Dr Sheila Hughes, who only recently retired from the Jordanhill campus of Strathclyde University, where she held posts as head of English and course director of the PGCE (Secondary), died of cancer on July 12, at the age of 61.

A pupil of Govan High in Glasgow, Sheila studied English at Glasgow University and undertook her teacher training at Jordanhill College. She was an inspirational English teacher, beginning her career at Lanark Grammar and Strathaven Academy. She took a break for the births of her daughters, Kirsty and Karen, returning in the late 1970s as an English teacher at the old Camphill High in Paisley. She then moved to Gryffe High, in Houston, Renfrewshire, and ultimately became principal teacher of English at Stewarton Academy, East Ayrshire.

Having earned a reputation for her work on differentiation and being in demand as an in-service trainer, it was no surprise that she was appointed adviser in English in the Ayr division of the old Strathclyde regional council and then head of the English department at Strathclyde University's Jordanhill campus.

She was co-author of Turnstones, an English textbook which won the prestigious Saltire award for educational publishing in 2002.

During her spell as course director for the PGCE (Secondary), Sheila showed commitment to initial teacher education and a desire to make a difference to students of all subjects.

She was a tour de force, a woman of immense determination and resilience, an espouser of causes. Our paths had first crossed when her daughters were pupils at Barrhead High where I was headteacher. Later, when I was chief adviser in Strathclyde, she was adviser in English, and when I moved to the University of Strathclyde in 1993 she was in the English department. When, towards the end of her career, she embarked on her PhD, I became one of her supervisors.

Her PhD looked at progression in P6 to S2 children's writing. Her thesis clarified the concept of "progression" and offered teachers a framework for supporting children's writing. Midway through her studies, she developed breast cancer, but she completed her PhD and graduated shortly before her retiral.

Sheila became a campaigner for Maggie's, the cancer charity. Her husband, Drew, who was district governor of Rotary in the west of Scotland, offered its support, and The Herald newspaper featured them in its own campaign in support of the Friends of Maggie's.

Sheila's cancer returned in 2007. The "good doctor", as she had become known by friends at the Glasgow Maggie's Centre, knew her condition was terminal but she continued to promote the charity until her death.

The crematorium was full to overflowing for Sheila's funeral and the Humanist ceremony was a celebration of her life. Her contribution to Scottish education was immense.

Brian Boyd, University of Strathclyde.

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