Lives Remembered: Liz Laycock
Saturday 14 November 2009
Liz Laycock, an inspirational educationalist who died in September, spent the early years of her career teaching in London primary schools before working as an adviser with the prestigious Centre for Language in Primary Education (CLPE). After her appointment to Roehampton University London she ran the English Education team for many years as well the Primary PGCE course. She retired from Roehampton in 2003.
Liz's contribution to the field of English Education was a significant one, as testified by her numerous publications. Her research on comparing reading tests led to a questioning of testing reading and the notion of a "reading age". Working with CLPE she played a key role in pioneering approaches to assessment that respected the contribution that teachers, pupils and parents make to the process; she was a key contributor to the influential Primary Language Record with its ground-breaking assessment framework that envisaged the principles of "assessment for learning" which are embedded in the national assessment process today.
Liz held strong and principled views about children as language learners, always placing the child at the heart of learning and with the enjoyment of literature and meaningful learning experiences to the fore. She was adamant in her refusal to attribute children's learning difficulties simply to social disadvantage, or to accept the 1970s practice of conflating the requirements of pupils learning English as an additional language with those of children with special educational needs.
She held to these views in robust and often forthright ways in the face of the many government interventions in English teaching that have dominated since the 1980s. She was a stalwart, positive and warm colleague who never lost sight of her principles, which were tempered by her strong sense of humour and loyalty to Roehampton, her team and the students. She championed the advancement of teaching and learning for all.
Liz was a truly great teacher who relished her work and supported generations of student teachers. Her work was characterised by her determined vision of education, one she expressed eloquently to the end. Colleagues and friends in contact with her during her final months were struck by her continued (and often indignant!) interest in educational issues.
A recent chance encounter with a former student of hers reminded us of her enduring qualities. The student recalled Liz as a wonderful tutor. She told us that at the end of the academic year Liz gave each student in her group a young plant with the words: "As the plant will flourish so will you in your first year of teaching". Liz Laycock's ideals continue to flourish.
Liz died in September following a four-year struggle with cancer. Her husband Malcolm, the Radio 2 broadcaster, who nursed her through her illness, died earlier this month.
Friends and colleagues at Roehampton University
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