LAST week we received the worst possible news within our council.

Wilma Bain our Director of Education and Communities died at the age of 56 after a brave battle with cancer.

Wilma was simply a first class public servant who dedicated her life to public service. I said to someone last week, “ We’re probably not allowed to have a favourite council employee, but Wilma was mine”.

Nearly four years ago, in the early hours of September 19, I was at the Waterfront ice rink and the results of the Scottish Independence referendum had just been announced.

Coincidentally the Greenock Telegraph of later that day ran a picture of me slumped in a corner with the caption “Heartbroken”. My memory of that moment was different.

Heartbroken certainly, but from behind me someone patted my shoulder and simply asked me “ are you ok?”.

That was Wilma and my memories of her will always be someone who at all times put the needs of others first, someone who was a driving force in making education in Inverclyde what it is today, and someone who was always there to ask you if you were ok.

If you are a parent in Inverclyde, a grandparent or simply someone who has driven past our school estate over the past few years, I’m sure you’ll agree that our schools are better than they’ve ever been.

Politicians may make the decisions but it is our hardworking council staff that Make the policies we envisage come to fruition.

As the Head of Education and laterally Director of Education and Communities, Wilma’s legacy, supported by our superb education staff, will be the school estate and the education environment that we all so often state “ punches above its weight”.

Inverclyde Council’s £270million school estate investment is on track to be completed five years early.

The final major project in the programme delivering brand new or fully refurbished schools is underway.

St Mary’s Primary school in Greenock is to undergo a £6million refurbishment. Like my colleague Jim Clocherty, the Convener of education, said:To sustain this level of investment through such a sustained period of economic uncertainty and budgetary pressure is something we can be proud of in Inverclyde.

From the outset councillors across the political divide agreed that every child in Inverclyde would be taught in a new or fully refurbished classroom by 2025, so to be able to deliver that pledge five years early is nothing short of extraordinary and is testimony to the leadership we benefitted from Wilma.

Our school estate programme is without a doubt one of the most ambitious in the world. I think it is important that we truly realise that statement when I say that I genuinely do not think there is a regional authority across the world that has made such an impact in improving their school estate within the last decade.

Gourock Primary is also due to undergo a £1.7million extension.

The new £9.2million St Ninian’s Primary in Gourock and £3.4million Glenpark Early Learning Centre are due to be completed in the coming months along with the refurbishments of Moorfoot Primary in Gourock - £5million – and Lady Alice Primary in Greenock - £3.8 million.

My hope is that one day we will be able to look back and say that it was our vision of improving the education of every child in Inverclyde that improved our community for the better. For her leading role in helping this happen I can only say this about Wilma, thank you.