Tuesday, 7 October 2014

My Father - An Art Education Pioneer

I am afraid that this post is a bit of a personal indulgence but it does have educational relevance. My father (Ernest Goodman) sadly passed away in September 2007. He was 89 years old and had been in hospital for a short while. In the years since his passing, I have thought about writing about his life and career as I experienced it. However, I never felt quite ready to think too deeply about it as emotion soon took over.

Having become more reflective recently, I began to realise that he had quite an impressive life and career and that if I achieve half the things he did, I would be very proud.

During the Second World War, he served as a soldier and then officer in Britain and Kenya. During his time in Kenya he became fluent in Swahili as he commanded Kenyan soldiers and wanted to be able to communicate effectively with them.

On leaving the army at the end of the war, being art trained, he began teaching at Salford Grammar. While there he met LS Lowry at Salford Art Club, which he founded in 1947 and served on hanging committees with Lowry. I remember my dad telling me that Lowry often doubted himself, saying things like "Why do I do it, Ernest?" Also at Salford Grammar school he directed Albert Finney in a school play and taught the artist Harold Riley.

Leaving Salford Grammar school, he became head teacher at Manchester High School of Art in 1950 This was a secondary school that admitted as normal at 11 but also admitted children who showed a particular talent for the arts at 13+. The school was a pioneering school with regular visitors from around the UK and overseas. During his time at MHSofA, in 1969,  he was awarded an MBE for services to education. For ten years (1971-81) he served as Chairman of The Art Committee of the Schools Council. He lectured extensively on Art education and Aesthetics. He wrote many educational papers on art education that were published here and in the USA.

The MHSofA faced serious threat of closure when I was very young due to budgeting cuts. There were marches through Manchester with Tony Wilson (of Hacienda fame) becoming involved in supporting the school. That battle was won but unfortunately some years after my dad retired, the school was 'closed' under local authority reorganisation and re-opened under another guise.

I remember him once telling me that he had leant some of his drawings to a friend to help that friend gain admission to the Royal College of Arts. Late into his retirement, he began to paint again and one of his paintings has pride of place above our fireplace. In a strange coincidence, when I was on my final teaching practice, I met a semi-retired teacher who had been one of my dad's first pupils when he became head teacher. This led to a happy reunion which pleased my dad greatly.

If you have read this to the end, thank you for indulging me. I am proud and sometimes in awe of what my dad achieved in education and he was a pretty amazing dad too.

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