Tributes have been paid to a former East Renfrewshire headteacher whose leadership helped create one of the best performing state secondaries in Scotland.

James McVittie held the top role at St Ninian’s High, in Giffnock, from its establishment in the 1980s until his retirement in 2005.

He passed away on February 6, aged 80, after taking ill while on holiday with his wife Anne in Tenerife.

As a result of his formative years, including the kindness of a local GP who saw his potential and gave him a quiet place to study, Mr McVittie was a great believer in ensuring all young people have an equal chance to fulfil their potential.

His daughter, Claire Harrow, said: “He was a man who came from humble origins. He was lucky to have opportunities and to have mentorship from an early age and aimed to make sure that every child did too, irrespective of background.

“It wasn’t all about the academia, it was about trying to encourage kids in sport and to participate in other extra-curricular things.

“St Ninian’s was not all about him. He was proud of the team he appointed and encouraged their development too. He did set the tone though and made constant reference to the values he considered important.

“The school motto is Floreat Iuventus – Let Youth Flourish – and that was fundamentally what my dad believed.”

Born in Bellshill in 1942, Mr McVittie was the eldest of six siblings and attended St Aloysius Primary, in Chapelhall, and St Patrick’s High, in Coatbridge, before going to Glasgow University, from where he graduated with an honours degree in Classics.

After teacher training at Jordanhill College, he worked at St Patrick’s High before moving to St Bride’s High, in East Kilbride.

In 1970, he married Anne, a maths teacher. They had children Claire in 1972, Stephen in 1974 and Paul in 1976.

Mr McVittie was appointed headteacher at St Stephen’s High, in Port Glasgow, in the mid-1970s and took up his post at St Ninian’s High in April 1984, ahead of the school opening later that year.

Gerry O’Neil, current headteacher at St Ninian’s High, who worked under Mr McVittie for six years at the start of his career, said: “It was with great sadness that the community of St Ninian’s learned of the passing of the school’s first headteacher.

“His passion for education was a real inspiration for the young people and staff of the school. He is fondly remembered by current staff, along with former staff and pupils, many of whom have been in touch to express their condolences.

“As a school we are keeping his wife Anne, his children Claire, Stephen and Paul and the wider family in our thoughts and prayers at this sad time.”

Mr McVittie was involved in a number of groups which informed the structure of higher education, including the Howie Committee, for which he was awarded an OBE.

He was an avid Celtic fan and a voracious reader who enjoyed walking, working in his garden and spending time with his grandchildren Cara, Rebecca, Emma, Fraser and Jessica.

His funeral will be held at St Bride’s Church, in East Kilbride, at 11am on Friday, March 3.