Obituary - Bob McKay

28th May 2010 at 01:00

Bob McKay, retired director of education in Perth and Kinross, who was a member of the directorates in Strathclyde and Tayside, died suddenly on May 1, aged 66.

Bob, a former modern studies teacher, made a significant contribution to Scottish education, locally and nationally, and made a difference to the lives of individuals, pupils and teachers.

He began teaching in Drumchapel in the late 1960s, but it was his work with Neil Toppin in establishing St Augustine's as the first community school in Glasgow which brought him to prominence. He joined the education directorate in Strathclyde in the mid-1980s.

After its major reorganisation in 1990, Bob became a member of the further education team that was also responsible for community education and careers. He was one of the most influential figures during this period when Strathclyde pioneered many of the ideas that have been prominent in the past 20 years of Scottish education.

Before the abolition of the regions in 1996, he had left Strathclyde for the post of senior depute director in Tayside and became director in Perth and Kinross. At that time, he was very active in the Millennium Review to modernise teachers' pay and conditions, which ultimately led to the setting up of the McCrone inquiry.

Throughout his directorate career, Bob made innumerable friends and built up a reputation as one of the kindest and most approachable of educational leaders.

Even after his early retirement, he remained active in Scottish education. Bob developed a successful career as a consultant, advising on topics as varied as public-private partnership developments and an interdisciplinary topic on low carbon futures.

Bob was a man of many talents and passions. An unreconstructed socialist (his words), and teaching union activist in his early days, he was a lover of Spain and a fluent Spanish speaker. He retired to Benalmadena Pueblo in Malaga.

He first studied Spanish as a pupil at St Mungo's Academy. It was the one positive he took from his experience at a selective senior secondary school. His dedication to comprehensive education, his opposition to streaming and setting and his commitment to humanism stemmed from his own experience of schooling.

He was the immediate past convener of the Humanist Society of Scotland and worked tirelessly to promote its educational aims while offering advice to young people and parents in conflict with schools and local authorities over religious education or observance.

He is survived by his wife, Norma, son and daughter, Marc and Sian, and three grandchildren.

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