Journal of Education Policy, 34(1) pp 1-5

It is hard to come to terms with the scale of loss caused by Geoff Whitty’s untimely death – a loss that will be felt on many levels – from the academic to the professional to the personal. There is not the space in this brief appreciation to pay tribute to the many ways in which Geoff’s work has contributed to the field of education or to my own career and that of many others. This would need to include his landmark analysis of the sociology of school knowledge (Whitty 1985), his enduring commitment to an intellectually-underpinned teacher education (e.g. Furlong et al. 2000; Whitty 2000), and his exemplary leadership of the Institute of Education, University of London. Here I will concentrate on what I see as his main contribution to the field of education policy – a contribution that has been as significant as it will be enduring.

There are different ways of encompassing Geoff’s contribution to the field of education policy. One could, for example, catalogue his many important ESRC-funded investigations of the origins and impact of key interventions, including the Assisted Places Scheme (Edwards, Fitz, and Whitty 1989); City Technology Colleges (Whitty et al. 1993); the National Curriculum (Whitty, Rowe, and Aggleton 1994); Education Action Zones (Power et al. 2004). Such a catalogue would surely provide incontrovertible evidence of Geoff’s position as one of the pre-eminent researchers of policy in post-war England.

Alternatively, one might draw attention to the geographical breadth of his work. This is evident not just in the strong links he enjoyed with education policy researchers in Australia and the USA, but in the richness of his comparative analyses, which covered not only America and Australia, but also Sweden, the Netherlands and New Zealand (e.g. Gordon & Whitty 1997; Whitty and Edwards 1998; Whitty, Power, and Halpin 1998). Such an examination would illustrate the international reach of his work.