Obituary

25th July 2008 at 01:00

AN Morris, who has died at the age of 86, presided over the golden years of Scottish educational research. As HM chief inspector in charge of research and intelligence in the then Scottish Education Department from 1972-83, he built up a network involving academic researchers and civil servants, unparalleled before or since. He was a linchpin in the development of the Scottish Council for Educational Technology, forerunner of Learning and Teaching Scotland, and the Scottish Educational Research Association.

Coming from a strong trade union background - his maternal grandfather and father were staunch activists - he did not suffer fools gladly, particularly if he regarded them as fools from the establishment. "Some of my best friends are administrators," he would say, with only a faint nod to esprit de corps.

His background may perhaps have explained his passionate advocacy for pupils with special needs and his notably early awareness of how the power of technology could be harnessed in their support.

His prodigious talent did not take long to emerge: he left Shawlands Academy for Glasgow University at the age of 16, still in short trousers. He did teacher training at Jordanhill and eventually took up a post there as lecturer in psychology.

Once again, his trade union background came to the fore: in the mid-1950s, as secretary of the inter-college committee on salaries, he succeeded in getting equal pay for women lecturers.

Ian Morris was very much the antithesis of the model civil servant. "Witty, brilliant, cheeky, destructive, cynical, incisive" - these were some of the epithets from friend and foe. He was "brilliant at destroying pet loves," as Sinclair Aitken, a contemporary who was former head of educational broadcasting in Scotland, described him. But none doubted the range of his interests or the power of his intellect.

Dr Morris, ever the gregarious iconoclast, never seemed a natural fit in the formal and cloistered world of the civil service. He did, however, have a passionate belief in the benefits of research and its potential to change his world.

"The concept of intelligence has changed radically in my time," he said on his retirement in 1983. "Now intelligence is not used to eliminate people but to establish that people are simply different, rather than better or worse - and, if worse, unacceptable."

Ian Morris was very much ahead of his time in much of his thinking, and he never lost his taste for polemic. "There is little point in stripping teachers naked with constant criticism, and then telling them to pull their socks up," he once declared.

He leaves a wife Catherine, whom he married in 1950.

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