AN AWARD-WINNING headteacher who turned around the fortunes of a city school has been appointed to the long-vacant top post at one of the city’s best secondaries.
Donald Macdonald is moving from his current post as head of Liberton High to take up the position at James Gillespie’s.
Education bosses had to advertise the “very prestigious position” at the Marchmont school three times before finally appointing Mr Macdonald, who will start in January.
Parents at Gillespie’s had written to education director Gillian Tee over their concerns in the delay in recruiting a new headteacher to replace Alex Wallace, who retired at the start of the summer holidays. They said it was causing “disruption and “demoralising” staff.
Mr Macdonald is credited with turning around the fortunes of Liberton after taking up the post six years ago.
When he first started, just seven students went on to university and school inspectors rated pupils’ overall attainment as “unsatisfactory”.
Last year the number going on to university rose to 52 and the school was praised by inspectors for its outstanding educational improvement.
Mr Macdonald took a tough line on bullying and discipline, excluding badly-behaved pupils who refused to change their ways. He also brought back uniform in an effort to give pupils more pride and help improve behaviour.
Inspectors said the changes resulted in the biggest improvement they had witnessed in a Scottish school.
Last March, Mr Macdonald was among 40 “outstanding” headteachers invited to Downing Street to meet Gordon Brown as a way of recognising their good work.
City education leader Councillor Marilyne MacLaren said: “James Gillespie’s have a great new recruit in Donald Macdonald.”
The Evening News revealed in September that Gillespie’s was blocked from appointing a new headteacher because there were only two suitable candidates on the shortlist.
Despite there being no council policy dictating that there must be a shortlist of more than two, parents said they were told the criteria was different for a “school of its type”.
Despite going so far as to invite the candidates to visit the school, education chiefs pulled the plug on them at the last minute.
Councillor Paul Godzik, Labour’s education spokesman, whose Meadows and Morningside ward takes in Gillespie’s, said: “I’m very pleased that a permanent appointment has been made.”