Obituary - David Tawney 1931-2011

9th December 2011 at 00:00

David Archer Tawney was born in March 1931. The son of a lieutenant colonel, he spent his early childhood in India and Malaya. In 1941, when the Japanese invaded Singapore, Lieutenant Colonel Tawney was interned in a prisoner-of-war camp; his wife and sons escaped by ship to South Africa.

In 1944, the family returned to England and David went on to win a scholarship to study natural sciences at Pembroke College, Cambridge. After graduation, he enrolled on a teacher-training course. Here he met Gillian Andrews; they married in 1955. Committed Christians, the couple decided to take jobs at an Anglican school in Mauritius. Mr Tawney, however, was horrified by the old-fashioned methods employed there.

They returned to Britain in 1959 and Mr Tawney was appointed to St Edward's School in Oxford. As a physics teacher, he believed it was as vital for pupils to develop logical thinking skills as it was for them to acquire a collection of facts.

In 1967 he moved into teacher-training, taking up a post at Keele University. And nine years later he became director of the Consortium of Local Education Authorities for the Provision of Science Services (CLEAPSS), which advises teachers on how to equip their labs. Mr Tawney's arrival coincided with new health and safety regulations; schools responded by cutting out practical work altogether. Mr Tawney embarked on a campaign to persuade them there was no reason not to conduct lab work: they just needed to re-examine their methods.

After retiring in 1996, he continued as a consultant for CLEAPSS. But he also developed other interests, taking a photography class and regularly travelling to London to attend the opera. He had developed a heart condition in middle age, requiring several operations. He died of heart failure on 25 October, after a hip operation.

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