Born: November 30, 1924;

Died: March 19, 2021.

AT one key moment in her career, Jean Leeming, who has died at the age of 96, was encouraged by colleagues to apply for senior positions in the directorate at the education department of the former Strathclyde Region.

It would have been a richly deserved progression for someone who had spent most of her teaching career in schools in deprived areas and had a passionate belief in the transformative power of education.

She weighed up the prospect of applying for a post but in the end decided that she did not want to move into a job which would take her away from teachers and deprive her of the opportunity to visit classrooms on a regular basis.

As head of the primary section of West School (1966-1969) and, later, as head teacher of what was then known as Maxwellton Primary (1969-1973), both in Paisley, Jean had worked with some of the poorest children and families in the town.

Her positivity, energy and commitment had an indelible influence on many young lives. She was an inspiring head teacher on whom many of her staff modelled themselves when they, in turn, became head teachers.

As a primary adviser in Strathclyde Region between 1973 and 1988, her remit covered many aspects of education. Divisional, regional and national committees all benefited from her input.

She was committed to developing skills and innovative approaches in the teachers with whom she worked. Her in-service courses were seen as relevant, informative and fun. Many young teachers were mentored by her and she helped to shape their careers.

Jean was an early advocate of group teaching methods and worked not only in Renfrewshire, but also with teachers in the Highlands and Western Isles, helping them to familiarise themselves with new methodologies. She was also seen as an expert in creative arts education, working on EU creative arts projects in The Hague and Brussels.

In 1988, she was awarded the Fellowship of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country’s main teaching union. She retired as adviser that same year.

Jean was born in Old Drumchapel to Margaret Kerr (née Loudon) and her husband William, who worked for the Clyde Port Authority. She had a younger brother, Douglas, who died last November, aged 93.

She attended Glasgow High School for Girls, and her social life while young revolved around the local church and tennis club.

Her family home suffered a direct hit during the Clydebank Blitz of March 1941, and she was twice evacuated, first to Perthshire and then to Lesmahagow.

She trained at Jordanhill College and qualified in 1945 aged 20, fulfilling her longstanding ambition to be a teacher.

In 1948, she married Bill Leeming, a Lancashire man who was working as a textile technologist in Coats’ cotton mill in Paisley. They met on a walking holiday in the Highlands. He was more than 20 years her elder and, until he met Jean, a confirmed bachelor. They moved to Paisley and Jean returned to teaching after honeymooning in Switzerland. In 1954, they adopted their only child, Marlyn. She was, says Marlyn, a “wonderful mum”.

Jean gave up teaching to raise Marlyn but, in a move unusual at the time, returned to the classroom when it became clear that Bill had a terminal lung condition. Sadly, he died in 1965.

In both her professional and personal life, Jean was famed for her stylish clothes, collection of designer shoes, perfectly coiffed hair, and warm, beaming smile.

Her interests were wide and varied. She was a member of The Embroiderers’ Guild and a friend of Scottish Opera, with a particular love of Wagner. With friends she travelled extensively, not only in Scotland but also in Europe, Africa and North America. She was a keen cook who loved fine food and enjoyed a good malt whisky. Most of all, she loved company and had a genuine and enthusiastic interest in the lives and families of her wide circle of friends of all ages.

After her retirement from teaching, she was involved as a volunteer and fundraiser for Accord Hospice in Paisley. A party was thrown by her friends there for her 90th birthday.

She was also an elder at Sherwood Greenlaw Church. Her love of reading was rediscovered and she devoured works of literary fiction, keeping meticulous written records of her incisive opinions on each book.

Jean, however, suffered leg and back pain for many years, resulting from the surgical removal of both her kneecaps when she was a young woman. Typically, she never complained, but her mobility deteriorated and at the age of 70 she could no longer climb the stairs to her flat.

Marlyn and her husband Terry converted an attic in their house into a flat for her, and her cheerful, optimistic personality helped to ensure that all three co-habited harmoniously for the next 23 years.

In recent years, Jean suffered increasingly from dementia. After a long spell in hospital in 2018, during which she became unable to walk, she entered, aged 93, Mosswood Care Home in Linwood. Although her memory faded, her personality did not change. She remained recognisably Jean.

She is survived by Marlyn and Terry who both, unsurprisingly, became teachers.