THE director of education at Scotland's best-performing local authority for schools is to retire.

East Renfrewshire Council has announced that the head of its education department, John Wilson, is to leave his post after more than a decade in charge.

Mr Wilson has secured the council's reputation for consistently delivering results across the area's schools, but has also steered a difficult course through a series of controversies — most notably over school catchment areas and the national curriculum — which brought him into conflict with parents, other local authorities and the Scottish Government.

Mr Wilson, who was appointed an OBE for his services to education, has been director since 2002, and oversaw a rise from 20% to 32% of the percentage of pupils gaining five or more Higher examination passes.

Councillor Elaine Green, East Renfrewshire Council's convener for education and equalities, said: "I am sure I speak on behalf of colleagues, parents and pupils when I say that John will be a tremendous loss to our education service. John has worked in education across Scotland, including Edinburgh, Strathclyde Region and East Renfrewshire, for almost 40 years and he and his team have delivered some outstanding results for our young people.

"I would like to take the opportunity to thank him wholeheartedly for all the passion and commitment he has shown. John can quite rightly be proud of his successes and I wish him well in his retirement. John's team will continue to deliver a first-class education service and we will now turn our attention to the task of recruiting a successor for him."

In 2010 Mr Wilson faced calls to resign after a judge ruled his plan to remove hundreds of homes from the catchment area of a flagship school were unlawful.

Following a judicial review Lord Uist also ruled the catchment area policy for the school, St Ninian's High School in Giffnock, pursued since 1996, was "wrong".

Although part of the school's catchment was in Glasgow, it was covered by a longstanding agreement that allowed pupils from some primary schools to attend St Ninian's. However, the council insisted the condition covered only specified older streets, rather than the area as a whole, leaving those in new developments with no automatic right of entry.

Robert Bowie, a father-of-two from Parklands Meadow, an estate in the disputed area, challenged that interpretation in the hope his daughter could attend St Ninian's after leaving primary. After a two-day hearing at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, Lord Uist ruled in Mr Bowie's favour.

Under Mr Wilson's stewardship, it was also revealed that East Renfrewshire Council was to pull out of the first year of the Scottish Government's new National 5s curriculum, preferring pupils to sit existing qualifications.

In February last year Mr Wilson told a hearing of MSPs that the council had done more than any other in Scotland to help develop the so-called Curriculum for Excellence.

But he said he had listened to the concerns of teachers and head teachers that it would be in the best interests of pupils to delay for a year.