Obituary: Gail McCail, 80

Gail McCail transformed pre-school education
Gail McCail transformed pre-school education
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A FORMER English teacher and journalist who helped shape nursery and pre-school development in Edinburgh and the Lothians has died at the age of 80.

When Gail McCail’s daughter struggled to settle at nursery, it was the catalyst that sparked a lifetime’s interest in early years education and fuelled a passion that ultimately improved the experiences of countless children and their parents.

Mrs McCail went on to make a study of Edinburgh private nurseries, work with the Scottish Council for Research in Education and play a leading role in educational development initiatives in the Capital.

As a director of Play-Base Edinburgh and Home-Start, her fine intellect, sharp mind and deep understanding of the pertinent issues were invaluable to her colleagues, who admired her tireless drive and enthusiasm, coupled with her innate elegance.

Andrea Gail McCail, known as Gail, was born in Leeds and educated at Littleburn Prep School at Menston-in-Wharfdale and Moira House School in Eastbourne, spending part of her education at Bowness on Lake Windermere.

She qualified for university a year earlier than most, arriving at St Andrews as a slender, blonde 17-year-old. By that time, her writing talent had become evident, writing short stories and poems for magazines during her time at college and university.

After working with the Glasgow-based agency Scotsnews, she opted for a more secure career by completing an Oxford University diploma in education from which she graduated in 1956.

Gail and her husband lived in Cheshire where her two elder children, Theodora and Chad, were born. Theo was a shy child and on starting nursery would only stay if her mother also remained – a situation that prompted the start of her mother’s interest in childhood education.

The family then moved to Edinburgh, and Mrs McCail chose educational provision in Edinburgh private nursery groups as the subject of her research dissertation for an MSc degree, which she was awarded in 1969.

In 1973, she became the Scottish Pre-School Playgroups Association’s part-time training officer for the Borders, Forth, Fife and Tayside regions. When Lothian Region initiated its Home Visiting scheme, she was the obvious choice to take a leading role.

She wrote a book, Mother Start, describing the procedures adopted during home visits, which was published in 1981 by the Scottish Council.

More recently she had been enthusiastically involved as a director of both Play-Base Edinburgh and Home-Start, both of which helps parents with young children. After retirement Gail continued to help out with education by running book stalls and more.