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The art of inspiration

John Hunter looks at the achievements of influential art educator and author Bill Read

BILL Read, one of the most influential figures in art education and examining, has died, aged 67, after major surgery following a serious illness.

He was central to the development of art courses for the new GCSE and an excellent communicator, with the capacity to inspire both teachers and students. His two Longman guides to GCSE art are still widely used.

Bill Read worked tirelessly to show the importance of discovering how much students had understood from their experience of art.

He rejoiced when he discovered evidence of outstanding artistic ability but considered it equally important to value the efforts of a student whose work appeared less competent

but nevertheless showed


He would carefully and lovingly turn the pages in a student's sketchbook until he hit upon a significant drawing or revealing written statement that should be rewarded.

A student at Hornsey School of Art in the late 1940s and early 1950s, where he studied painting and ceramics, he entered teaching in 1958 and quickly became a head of department.

While teaching at a school in the Midlands he worked for the Est Midlands Regional Exam Board, becoming involved with mode 3 examinations as chief examiner, and later joined the staff of the PGCE course at Birmingham Polytechnic. He retired early from teaching but continued to be active in art education as a consultant for several education authorities, running courses for serving teachers and for children in schools.

In 1984, he was made joint chief examiner by the London Examinations Group and given the responsibility of designing the new art GCSE. He built upon the three tenets of the new exam - discover what the student knows, understands and can do - and encouraged art teachers to regard the London syllabus as a framework upon which to build a course that best suited their particular strengths and the needs and circumstances of their students.

His other life was as a keen sportsman, playing football as a young man and competitive club cricket as captain well into his middle years.

He and his wife Shirley had recently moved to their new home in Suffolk, where he had hoped to take up his brushes again.

It was typical of the man that he had given so much to others over the years that he had only rarely been able to indulge himself in his love of painting.

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