Professor John Eggleston

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The Independent Online

Samuel John Eggleston, educationist and publisher: born Dorchester 11 November 1926; Lecturer, Loughborough College of Education 1960-63; Lecturer, later Senior Lecturer, Leicester University 1963-67; Professor of Education, Keele University 1967-84, Head, Department of Education 1967-84; Professor of Education, Warwick University 1985-96 (Emeritus), Chairman, Department of Education 1985-91; married 1957 Greta Patrick (two sons, two daughter); died Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire 12 December 2001.

John Eggleston possessed an eye for the business of learning. Indeed he was ahead of his time in anticipating the enterprise culture that now prevails in British education. His distinctive contribution to education in both schools and universities was immense for over four decades.

Born in Dorchester in 1926 and originally trained as a craft teacher, he taught in schools in the 1950s before winning a Leverhulme Scholarship to the London School of Economics, from where he graduated in 1957. Returning briefly to teaching, he then lectured at Loughborough College of Education, before in 1963 taking up a lectureship and, subsequently, a senior lectureship at Leicester University. Inspired by his spell at Leicester and graduate study at the Institute of Education, London University, in the mid-1960s, Eggleston developed and communicated to others his own understanding of how teaching was itself a craft.

In 1967 he was appointed Professor of Education at Keele University, arriving during a period of unprecedented national growth in teacher education. Never one to miss an opportunity, he expanded the Keele Education Department, which grew in stature under his leadership.

Eggleston brought style, vigour and enterprise to the department and to the wider politics of Keele University. Like a number of his contemporaries, he saw that the sociology of education was where the action was and that it was more than a mere topic; for him this was a subject with wide intellectual horizons. Eggleston had a vision of teacher education which went far beyond the parochialism of training and through research, pedagogy and practice. He recruited and developed talented young staff with successful teaching and research experience. He built partnerships with schools, local authorities, policy-makers and practitioners. And he set himself ambitious, tough, research and publishing standards.

Long before the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) was invented, Eggleston built a strong research culture at Keele, attracting grants and postgraduate research students from schools, government, research council and international organisations. Unselfishly, he put academics, teachers and students in touch with publishers and grant-awarding bodies in order to further their careers.

In 1985 he was snapped up by Warwick University, where, as Professor of Education until 1996, he continued his successful formula of scholarship, entrepreneurialism and publishing. As a mover, shaker and career maker, Eggleston had great influence in building partnerships across academic, business and policy communities before it became academically respectable to do so.

From the late Sixties through to the mid-Nineties he advised schools and a range of bodies – including the Department of Education and Science (now the Department for Education and Skills), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Arts Council, the Council of Europe, the Economics and Social Research Council (ESRC), the BBC, the CBI and overseas governments – on areas as diverse as multicultural education, work-related learning, youth, craft and design education, and education policy. What united his research interests in these areas can only be described as a deep interest and understanding of education practice.

As a craftsman by background Eggleston wanted to know what "works". This curiosity, coupled with his astute sociological imagination, combined to make a formidable new breed of educationist. His publications are reflective of this applied sociological imagination. His great skill was in communicating complex multidisciplinary ideas to a wide practitioner audience, without being patronising. Detractors often confused such scholarly synthesis with simplicity.

He was a prolific writer and publisher, and his books sold well. The Social Context of the School (1967), Contemporary Research in the Sociology of Education (1974), Decision Making in the School (1979), Adolescence and the Community (1976) and The Sociology of the School (1977) all received wide international acclaim. There followed three other important texts based on his research in the fields of multicultural education, vocational education and training and school improvement, Work Experience in Secondary Schools (1982), Education for Some (1986) and The Challenge for Teachers (1992).

In the course of his career he edited several leading journals, including the authoritative and lively Sociological Review, and was an adviser to the publishers Routledge in the 1980s. It was wholly characteristic of Eggleston and his hands-on approach that he became a publisher in his own right. After an unsuccessful start in the late 1970s in 1983 he formed Trentham Books, growing its increasingly prestigious titles around those educational values close to his heart.

Rightly recognised for his academic contribution with a DLitt from Keele, Eggleston was equally proud of the visiting professorships he held at the universities of Central England and Middlesex.

Denis Gleeson

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