SANDY FRENCH who died on October 2, aged 84, was a central figure in the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) for much of the 1970s and 1980s. He was employed originally as a full-time journalist on the Scottish Educational Journal, then as its editor.
In the early 1970s, the EIS saw itself still very much as a professional body with a plethora of committees which discussed, often at length and in considerable detail, all aspects of educational policy and schooling. These issues were well aired in the SEJ.
By the late 1970s and into the 1980s, during Sandy's editorship, the EIS became more of a political and campaigning body. Teachers looked increasingly to the SEJ, which at that time was published monthly, for information on the progress of campaigns and a clear leadership message and direction. This period of transition led inevitably to tensions and the institute activist base reflected the political divisions of the time, between and within political parties. It was Sandy's responsibility to give due weight to the decisions of the EIS executive, to the lead of the general secretary (for much of that period, John Pollock) and to the process of debate among the many voices making themselves heard within the EIS. This was a difficult balance and it took someone of Sandy's journalistic skill, coupled with political nous, to achieve it.
If any activist or EIS official felt misrepresented in the columns of the SEJ, they were not slow to take their complaint to Sandy. It is a measure of his integrity that most accepted his representation of what had been said as a fair and reasonable record.
Sandy was frequently lobbied by education figures who aspired to see their name in print. If they had been rejected by the Scotsman, Herald, Daily Record and The TESS, then perhaps the SEJ might publish what they had to say. Sandy had little time for the "prima donnas" of the Scottish political and educational scene, looking to see their by-line attached to the live educational topic of the day.
At heart, Sandy was a gifted journalist of considerable integrity who recorded what had happened and what was said. He left policy-making and direction to others - but was doggedly determined that no faction within the institute would dictate the content of the SEJ.
In the early days, the paper was, to a large extent, the journal of record for most of what happened in education. By the 1970s that terrain was mostly occupied by The TESS, complemented by considerable educational coverage in daily broadsheets.
There was still an element of rivalry in recording the major decision-making events of the EIS calendar but it was a friendly rivalry and Sandy worked well with, and gained the respect of, other education journalists of the period.
Sandy was born in Aberdeen but moved at the age of seven to Glasgow. Much of his secondary education was in Coatbridge Secondary. After Army service in the Royal Artillery he returned to Glasgow University to complete an MA degree in French. He followed his father's footsteps into journalism, starting as a sub-editor on the Glasgow Herald, his father's old paper, before moving on to the Bulletin.
Colleagues remember a warm personality with a sharp wit who was generous and supportive to young officials and staff starting out in a career in the Educational Intitute of Scotland.