Obituary

20th June 2008 at 01:00
Judith Hamilton, a languages teacher and educationist, died earlier this year aged 64
Judith Hamilton, a languages teacher and educationist, died earlier this year aged 64. She was a revolutionary whose theories about teaching modern languages were ahead of their time, with many of them reflected in the Scottish Government's curriculum changes.

By 1976 she had become principal teacher of modern languages in Holy Rood High in Edinburgh. Her commitment to making language study a rewarding part of the curriculum for all pupils led to her being seconded in 1979 to Lothian Region's GLAFLL project (Graded Levels of Achievement in Foreign Language Learning) as its research and development officer.

Judith hated being desk-bound, so worked in many schools with all kinds of teachers, an experience which had a profound influence on her thinking and prepared her for the next stage in her career as principal teacher at Balerno Community High from 1983 to 1990. Her staff have described the work there as challenging, demanding and inspirational.

In due course, Balerno was selected as an official pilot school for introducing modern languages into its feeder primary schools and set about tackling its task in a radical manner by introducing the target language to all curricular areas, most successfully in science.

The need to provide more languages teachers to cope with the introduction of compulsory language study up to S4 led to Moray House College of Education re-establishing training in foreign languages. Judith was seconded in 1989 to work out a framework for the course. As principal lecturer, she established a team of seconded practitioners whose aim was to ensure that teachers in school had a proactive role in developing training.

In 1992, David Cochrane reappeared in her life. He had first met Judith when she was 18 and had invited her to join him in the Solomon Islands, to which he had been appointed administrative officer in the Overseas Civil Service. Second time round, he invited her to the Cook Islands and she accepted.

Through David's expertise as an anthropologist and latterly as senior social adviser to the international mining company Rio Tinto, Judith was able to visit and explore new communities and cultures. Much of this is incorporated in her master work Inspiring Innovations in Language Teaching. She obtained an MBA qualification in the record time of eight months, largely with a view to obtaining insights into the relationship between education and commerce.

She was appointed secretary general for FIPLV (International Federation of Teachers of Modern Languages) and contributed to the Nuffield Commission on Languages, which has been heavily influential in moving language learning up the political and educational agenda south of the border.

She was diagnosed with leukaemia in 1997. Albeit in remission, it returned in 2003. She is survived by her husband, David Cochrane.

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