Professor Anna Craft, who died on 11 August at the cruelly early age of 52, was a key figure in the development of the Cambridge Primary Review Trust, a widely respected educational researcher and writer, an outstanding colleague and a true friend.
Within CPRT, Anna concentrated particularly on research, and the Trust’s South West Research Schools Network based at Exeter and Bath Spa universities was very much her creation, as was the forthcoming research-based CPD programme on children’s voice on which the Trust is working with Pearson. The common strand was her commitment to making a difference to children’s lives. Heeding children’s voices and helping teachers to enhance their own understanding and skill were central to that quest.
Outside CPRT, Anna simultaneously held senior positions at Exeter University and the Open University, and her research on creativity in education, educational futures and ‘possibility thinking’ is highly regarded in both the UK and other countries. This work is driven by Anna’s concern that today’s complex and fast-changing world requires creative capacities whose development from the early years onwards we neglect at our and our children’s peril.
Anna saw creativity as an everyday and lifelong imperative, a problem-finding, problem-solving capability with possibility thinking – the transformation from what is to what might be – at its heart. Creativity in this larger sense includes but also reaches well beyond the arts to encompass a wide array of cognitive and affective capacities that have yet to achieve the central place in children’s education they deserve. Symptomatically, creativity thus defined could well be another of those ‘parts the national curriculum doesn’t reach’. In any event, Anna would have taken issue with the BBC interviewee who claimed that by including art and design, design technology and music, England’s new national curriculum does all that needs to be done for children’s creative development. Anna therefore bequeathes a challenge as well as a vision.
The best academic work in education displays not just impeccable scholarship but also a passion for the life-enhancing possibilities of education itself and a desire to persuade others that this is a cause for which we have no option but to fight. That combination of rigour, intensity and integrity of purpose and eagerness to communicate and persuade marked all Anna’s work and reflected the kind of person she was.
But the other Anna, noted by friends, students and colleagues alike, was warm, lively, engaging, affectionate, funny – in short the best of company and a wonderful person. We shall miss her.
- Anna Craft’s funeral is at 2pm on Friday 22nd August near Totnes, Devon. Full details here.
- Do please add your thoughts and memories below.