Obituary - Cynthia Jones 1950-2012

7th December 2012 at 00:00

Most staffrooms in Surrey benefited from Cynthia Jones' expertise at some point during her 38 years at Kingston University. The teacher trainer was renowned throughout the area for her ability to help teachers cope with pupils with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties.

Cynthia was born in October 1950 and grew up in Pembrokeshire in Wales. She went on to study psychology at University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire. This was followed by a master's degree in social psychology at Bedford College.

Then, in 1974, she joined the School of Education at what was then Kingston Polytechnic. She was a rigorous thinker, with a natural authority: people took notice when she was speaking. But she coupled this with warmth and approachability. Students felt that she was genuinely interested in their professional success and her celebration of this success was always heartfelt. Indeed, she remained in contact with many of her former students.

A natural innovator, Ms Jones felt strongly that she should offer courses to serving teachers as well as would-be ones; as a result she developed career-development classes for teachers and social workers. In particular, she drew on her psychology background, training teachers to work with pupils with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties, and conditions such as autism and dyslexia. This quickly became her forte, and most of the schools in the area began to request her help.

She was a "spellbinding" lecturer and could hold an entire room's attention, inspiring teachers to think critically and analytically about classroom practice. And she kept abreast of new developments, drawing on current studies and research.

But Ms Jones was keen to deliver these courses beyond Surrey. She therefore began working with the European education network Comenius. And, as part of the Leonardo da Vinci project to pool knowledge of special educational needs education, she undertook work with several European universities. She also worked with teacher trainers in Chile.

But she remained proud of her Welsh roots: colleagues marvelled at her ability to seek out and home in on any other Welsh person in a room.

During her time at Kingston, Ms Jones introduced one of its first distance-learning programmes, designed for teachers working with dyslexic pupils. And, as well as helping teachers, she gave up her Saturdays in order to train social workers in the psychology of teaching and learning.

When she retired in July this year, she was principal lecturer at the university's School of Education. It was an idiosyncratic interpretation of retirement: Ms Jones planned to continue teaching new social work modules she had designed for the university, and to manage the Leonardo da Vinci project.

But it was not to be. After a short illness, Cynthia Jones died on 14 September. She is survived by her husband, Rob Donnelly, and by her children, Tom and Alys.

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