Scholar, researcher, satirist and, quite simply, the best friend that education ever had. There was only one Ted Wragg
Disbelief and tears greeted the news that Ted had died aged 67, felled by a cardiac arrest while he was out running - living, as ever, the life that he loved.
School staffrooms and university departments were hushed and message boards filled up with tributes from colleagues, former students and past pupils - all friends of this unique educationist. He was: "the teacher's teacher"; "a giant among us"; "my hero"; "the voice of sanity"; "the education secretary in my fantasy cabinet"; "the defender of children"; "a brilliant bloke who made us laugh"; "our source of inspiration - especially on the touchline".
Even those who'd never met him felt he had enriched their lives, and they mourned his loss. "I have seldom felt so sad about the death of someone I have never met," wrote one contributor to the website at Exeter University where Ted spent 34 years of his life, as a lecturer, professor, director of the school of education and latterly as emeritus professor. "As a teacher I feel a bit like a British sailor might have felt at the death of Nelson."
At the offices of The Times Educational Supplement, where Ted had been a columnist, contact, and contributor for 25 years, there was shock that such a life force was spent, that such a campaigner with seemingly limitless energy and intellectual curiosity had been taken from us. That his time, always given generously, had suddenly run out.
Supported by his publisher, Routledge, The TES offers this memorial booklet as a tribute to the man we loved and respected. In the following pages two TES editors remember Ted's power and influence, and his daughter Josie describes the family history and personal talents that made him the man he was: bold, curious, outspoken and humane. We include an obituary, quotes from those who knew him and six pages of his writing for The TES: fluent, satirical and always delivered on time and to length.
Last autumn, fortuitously, Routledge published The Art and Science of Teaching and Learning: the Selected Works of Ted Wragg, edited by the man himself. His last book is a fitting epitaph, describing his "addiction" to research and his fascination with what goes on inside the nation's classrooms. Sixteen of the 18 chapters are extracts from his academic papers and from some of his 40-plus books. "I always knew that I would join this timeless tradition and do research, once I had abandoned childhood ambitions to be a train driver or a professional musician," he wrote.
In the final two chapters Ted chose extracts from his popular writing for newspapers, including The TES and The Guardian. He admitted it was "unconventional" for an academic to write satirical articles; it was "a healthy outlet", but he also felt a sense of duty to communicate with lay people and taxpayers. "I would not go as far as to call satire a research genre, though arguably it is one... It is often the sustained harrumph, rather than the ashen-faced treatise. What is more it is immense good fun, good therapy and quite effective communication."
The education world was richer for having Ted in it and we were lucky to know him.
Sarah Bayliss, editor, TESFriday magazine, February 2006