Penny Munn

1st July 2011 at 01:00
One of the sharpest and most highly-respected people in the early childhood research field

Early childhood researchers and educationalists have lost a distinguished colleague in Dr Penny Munn, who died of cancer on 1 June, 2011, just a few weeks before her 58th birthday.

Penny Munn began her academic career as a research assistant working on the development of pro-social behaviour in siblings with Professor Judy Dunn at Cambridge University's Medical Research Council Unit on the Development and Integration of Behaviour. She left in 1989 to move to the psychology department at Strathclyde University, working with the renowned developmental psychologist, Professor Rudolph Schaffer.

She moved again briefly to the University of Central Lancashire before returning in 1999 to Strathclyde, this time to the department of primary education, where she led research and focused her own work on early-years literacy and numeracy.

Her time as editor of the International Journal of Early Years Education saw the journal expand and widen its scope; her editorials spoke to teachers, researchers and policy-makers with gravitas and wisdom.

Penny was instrumental in the development of the Maths Recovery programme in the UK, working alongside Professor Robert Wright from Southern Cross University in New South Wales, Australia, and Jim Martland from Liverpool University. She introduced the programme to Scotland and established the Postgraduate Certificate in Mathematics Recovery. She was also chair of the Maths Recovery Council (UK and Ireland) for several years.

Penny was always proud to be working in Scotland and was a staunch supporter of Scottish education and research. She played an active role in her Cumbernauld Village community, and was particularly committed to supporting social, conservation and environmental issues. Friends were as likely to find her going off to sort books in her local charity shop as writing letters to the local authority about a pressing community issue.

She dealt with her own illness with typical stoicism, courage and good humour. She continued to support her students and to play an active role in the community right through her illness. She did this so well that many people did not realise quite how ill she was.

With her death, Scottish education has lost one of the sharpest minds in the field. Penny's ability to articulate, describe and discuss academic matters put young children at the centre and her work will continue to influence educationalists and academics for many years to come.

Her friends and colleagues across the world will miss her warm, kindly and thoughtful presence very much. Her passing is a sore loss.

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