Trailblazing teacher retires after 40 years in Falkirk education

Margaret Macdonald surrounded by her beloved pupils on her retirement day. Picture: Michael Gillen
Margaret Macdonald surrounded by her beloved pupils on her retirement day. Picture: Michael Gillen

A head teacher who has spent 40 years in the education industry waved a teary goodbye to her beloved pupils as she retired yesterday.

Ever punctual Margaret MacDonald of Wallacestone Primary School did not have a day off in the role she had been in for 22 years until last year when she was forced to take off, but only to give one of her kidneys to her brother.

Under her reign Wallacestone has grown considerably from 374 pupils in 1993 to the school with the largest roll in the district today and leaves an enviable legacy for other heads teachers to follow.

Over the years she developed a system where pupils take responsibility for their learning and activities and parent and pupil voices are very important and listened to when decisions need made.

Most of the pupils have role in school. All primary seven pupils are prefects, ambassadors, playground buddies for younger children or house captains, while parents muck in organising and volunteering for extra curricular events that raise money. Two pupils are also members of the parents’ groups with voting rights.

Margaret said: “There are loads of groups in the school who meet to decide things and they have helped make big changes. We have introduced inclusion right down to pre-school and it has been quite innovative.

“If you give the children responsibility they will really take it on, but that can mean challenges as well.

“Quite often I’d have two or three children knocking on my door asking to have “a word” with me when they wanted to make changes.”

The school’s parent teacher association, PAWS, is one of the most successful around and raises vasts amounts of money from the local community to pay for new equipment at the school when budgets are tight.

The group and pupils also helped raise over £10,000 to send pupil Ashlee Easton (8) and her family to Disney World in Florida this year after she recovered from stage 4 neuroblastoma cancer.

Margaret was educated at Kinneil Primary School in Bo’ness and then Bo’ness Academy before going on to Callander Park College of Education and Stirling University and then began her teaching career in 1975.

She taught for five years at Abbots Road in Grangemouth and a further two years at Grange primary before gaining her Special Qualification in Infant Teaching.

She moved to Dundas Primary Nursing Class and undertook a Special Qualification in Nursery Education. Such is her positive influence, three of her pupils went on to become early years officers and two currently teach at Wallacestone.

Margaret then moved to Fallin primary for nine years, always developing her skills and finding new ways of engaging children in learning.

Margaret is now looking forward to spending more time with husband David, doing some work around the house and at the family allotment at Rouken Glen and some quality time with friends and family.

She said: “I believe in people and they respond to that if you can help them believe in themselves and make sure they know they can improve through hard work and determination.

“I have loved every minute of my career and I will miss everyone, especially the children, immensely. Wallacestone is an amazing school with an amazing community supporting it.

“I plan to just stop for a while now and take stock to decide what challenges I want to tackle and part of that is a holiday during school time in our new motorhome.”