Wallace Wood

10th June 2011 at 01:00
Leading light in the switch to comprehensive system during the 1970s dies aged 80

Wallace Wood was, for 22 years, assistant headteacher at Craigroyston High in Edinburgh. Born in Hawick 80 years ago, Wallace was a rugby player who pulled on Kelso, South of Scotland and London Scottish jerseys.

After graduating in maths and French from Edinburgh University, he served as a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, initially teaching electronics to ratings before serving on the aircraft carrier, HMS Indefatigable. The rest of his professional life was in teaching. He taught maths at Ross High and Liberton High, before becoming principal teacher of maths at Craigroyston, then a junior secondary serving the Muirhouse, Drylaw and West Pilton areas of Edinburgh.

In 1972, Hugh MacKenzie was appointed head at Craigroyston. Edinburgh was then moving, reluctantly, to a comprehensive system. The charismatic MacKenzie immediately promoted Wallace to assistant head, providing himself with an invaluable support. MacKenzie realised that Wallace's meticulous attention to detail and grasp of the minutiae essential to the administration of the curriculum were key to many of the innovations he wanted. When Craigroyston won funding from the Bernard Van Leer Foundation to convert it to a community school, Wallace was the co-ordinator of the Craigroyston Curriculum Project, the engine for that change.

Wallace's other great labour of love at Craigroyston was the maintenance of an unrivalled historical archive. Every press cutting, letter, photograph and publication which related to staff, students or former students was maintained by Wallace and without that material, it is unlikely that Hugh MacKenzie would have produced his educational saga Craigie Days.

Wallace was, however, more than the meticulous administrator which every blue-sky thinker requires. There are few in school management without enemies: Wallace was one of that tiny band. He was also one of a dedicated group of teachers who were unfazed by the move to a comprehensive system. He shared his sporting interests with the young people and introduced many Craigie students to squash.

He brought to Craigroyston a wonderful mix of unflappability, patience, courtesy, calm and kindness. He made new staff welcome and was hugely tolerant of the wide range of young and radical teachers attracted to Craigroyston. He was a teacher who never lost his temper, whose public persona (whatever he might have been thinking privately) was always positive and reasonable and whose humour was always gentle. He had a quiet dignity and the respect of the students, which he earned through his acknowledgment of their worth. He was an oasis of calm amid the general frenzy (a healthy frenzy, but a frenzy) which characterised Craigroyston in the 1970s and 1980s.

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