Obituary

7th May 2010 at 01:00

Lan Mill, who has died aged 79, was a leading head in Glasgow in the 1970s and 1980s. He was chairman of the governors of Jordanhill College for 12 years.

Alan served in the Army Education Corps in Cyprus, then taught at Camphill in Paisley, Langside College, and Craigbank Secondary before being appointed at the then very early age of 39 to be head of one of Glasgow's new comprehensive schools, Crookston Castle in Pollok.

There was an element of idealism about comprehensives then, with union support for the policy, more disciplinary sanctions available and some enthusiasm in those communities where educational opportunities had previously been poor.

With strong staff support, he widened the curriculum, and purchased a cottage in the Borders, near Peebles, where each boy and girl spent at least one week during their schooldays, engaged in activities that were very different from those of Pollok.

Unbelievable as it seems now, at the opening ceremony for the cottage, Alan arranged for a fly-past by the famous Red Arrows. That was the kind of thing he did - trying to make a community that had been neglected feel it was something special.

While continuing at Crookston, Alan stepped on to a wider stage when, in 1972, he was elected chairman of the governors of Jordanhill College of Education, then the biggest centre for teacher education in the UK. There was a teacher shortage, especially in the west of Scotland, and the governors were being given additional resources and new buildings. But that period of expansion came to an abrupt end in 1976, when the shortage was over and the young students discovered they had been encouraged to train for a profession with no jobs. If that sounds familiar today, the students then reacted more radically, occupying some of the colleges in protest for a time, and Alan found himself involved in difficult decisions, both in Jordanhill and across Scotland, where the situation of over-supply had to be faced by the Joint Committee of Colleges; Alan was its convener for a crucial period beginning in 1978.

It took years for the whole pattern of teacher education in Scotland to sort itself out, with the number of institutions being reduced and the former colleges becoming part of universities. He was the Jordanhill chairman during the most difficult years, as for example when Jordanhill was asked by the Scottish Education Department to take over and absorb the college of education in Hamilton.

He married his school and university sweetheart, Anna Russell, who herself had a distinguished career in teaching, becoming head of English at Stanely Green in Paisley at a time when it was rare for a woman to hold such a post.

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