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Frank Barrett obituary

Jennifer Barrett
·2-min read

My father, Frank Barrett, who has died aged 74, was a teacher who was committed to education and social justice. He started his career teaching secondary maths and went on to train other teachers and work for access to education in projects around the world. Through his working life, Frank lived out his fundamental belief that education provides the building blocks for a more equal society.

Frank was born in Wishaw, near Motherwell, to Dominic Barrett, a miner, and his wife, Margaret (nee Lee), who had worked in a hotel. Despite growing up during postwar austerity, he enjoyed a warm and happy childhood, surrounded by five brothers and sisters and many cousins, aunts and uncles.

He attended St Patrick’s High school, Coatbridge, a grammar school. From a young age, Frank had a deep yearning for a more just world. He decided to make a career in education and after training at St Osyth’s Teacher Training College in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, Frank started his career at Sir James Altham comprehensive, Watford, where he taught maths and computer studies. He moved on to schools in Bushey and Ware, Hertfordshire, and Barnet, as head of maths, before becoming assistant headteacher of Bedwell secondary school, Stevenage, in 1980.

Not only was Frank passionate about the education of his students, he was also constantly striving to educate himself. He completed an advanced diploma in education at Cambridge University in 1973, obtained his BA in maths from the Open University in 1983 and then a master’s from King’s College London (1985), all the while teaching and bringing up a family with his wife, Sarah (nee Gatehouse), whom he married in 1980.

In 1989, he took up a post in teacher education at Leeds Metropolitan University and settled in Yorkshire. In this role Frank was really able to implement his ideas and passions. Starting out as a lecturer in maths, he quickly took up roles including managing the advanced diploma in mentoring for teachers and the master’s in professional education. He also helped to design and deliver a specialist enrichment programme for young teachers.

Access to education and cultural equality in education became Frank’s central drive. He delivered projects to promote this across Europe, as well as in India and the US. He was especially proud of his work to help establish the Centre for Race, Culture and Education in Leeds and organising an international conference for multicultural education, bringing together key educators from around the world.

After retiring from Leeds Met in 2007, he became a consultant, monitoring schools in Dubai and the UAE. He gave this up in 2013 when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and spent his time enjoying his family, being with friends and going on holidays to the Med with Sarah.

He is survived by Sarah, their three daughters, Catherine, Eleanor and me, and five grandchildren.