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'Quite simply the most outstanding leader I have ever come across.'

By 1 May 2012No Comments

This summer sees the retiral of one Scotland’s best known headteachers, Judith McClure of St George’s School in Edinburgh.  One of the most energetic of Scottish educationalists, Judith has led one of Scotland’s most prestigious schools since 1994.
Helen Mackie, her Depute, who is to succeed Judith as Head at St George’s, describes her courage in promoting links across the city and across the world.
“She has a tremendous capacity to bring people together and cut through theory and bureacracy as she constantly reminds us all of the purpose of our involvement with education, and that is to make things work better for young people. “
Judith McClure, the daughter of a policeman, was educated at Newlands Grammar School, Middlesbrough, at the College of Law in London and Sommerville College, Oxford, where she went on to research and teach.
She entered the teaching profession in 1981 and was successively a teacher, Head of Department and Assistant Head, before taking over as Headteacher of The Royal School, Bath in 1987.
She is a Member of the Court of Heriot-Watt University and of Scottish Executive Educational Department advisory groups on Continuing Professional Development and on Leadership and she is Chairman of the Management Committee of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools.
She is Convener of SELMAS, the Scottish Educational Leadership, Management and Administration Society, and a member of the Judicial Studies Committee, the body responsible for judicial training in Scotland.
Almost uniquely among headteachers in the private sector in Scotland, Judith McClure has constantly turned outwards towards the comprehensive sector.  She has played a leading role in SCEN, the Scotland-China Education Network, which has championed the teaching of Mandarin across Scottish schools.
Rory MacKenzie, headteacher at Balerno High School, is clear about Judith’s role.
“She has been a superb, energetic and extremely effective driving force in getting staff and pupils in Scottish schools to realise the huge potential and value in forging links with Chinese schools and learning Mandarin.  Her boundless and infectious enthusiasm, along with her hugely encouraging modus operandi has helped to bring on board key players in schools, universities, local authorities, Scottish Government and business who have helped to consolidate the inclusion of Mandarin and Chinese culture in the curriculum in our schools.
“Judith is a gem,” he adds.
She has created a range of curricular connections with comprehensives across Edinburgh, including the joint development of a Skills for Work course with Wester Hailes Education Centre (which won a unique SQA award for partnership) and the joint delivery of a Media Studies course with Craigroyston Community High School.
These links are partly to offer her pupils a wider view of the world but also a reflection of her passion in supporting young people and creating and improving opportunities for all of them, not just in St George’s.
Always high on Judith’s agenda has always been the development of leadership capacity in schools and in her role as chairperson of SELMAS, the Scottish Educational Leadership Management and Administration Society, she has created a body which is respected for its non-partisan and disinterested commitment to educational leadership.
Lady Ann Smith, chairperson of the Council of St George’s sees Judith as having been, “quite simply , the most outstanding leader I have ever come across.”
“She combines the ability to ‘ rise to the pedestal’ when appropriate yet retain enormous human warmth and sensitivity. I have also found her to be utterly reliable and whilst an impressive strategic thinker, to have an astonishing eye for detail .
“She has had the talent for spotting talent in others and empowering and encouraging others in the school who are in leadership roles. If you wanted one word for Judith you could use ‘selfless’.”
Lady Smith also notes as high on Judith’s list of attributes, her enormous sense of humour.
Judith’s commitment and energy will be hugely missed in St George’s.  In the wider Scottish educational field  the hope remains that her talents will continue to be on offer to the many who have benefited from her work over the last fifteen years.

The above article was first published in SecEd on 11 June 2009:;type_uid=1

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