Anna Craft was born in Ormskirk, Lancashire on 10 December 1961 and was educated at the Maynard School in Exeter and Blackheath High School in London. After studying at Churchill College, Cambridge and the University of London’s Institute of Education, she taught in a London primary school (1984-88), served as a teacher fellow at what was then the Polytechnic of North London (1988-89) and then worked as a project officer at the National Curriculum Council (1989-91).
It was at this point that Professor Craft moved to The Open University. She would remain there for the rest of her career, as lecturer, senior lecturer, reader and finally professor of education, although she combined this last with a professorship of education at the University of Exeter from 2007 to 2014. She also spent time as a visiting scholar at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Building on her studies in both social and political science and the philosophy of education, Professor Craft believed that, in today’s complex and fast-changing world, creative abilities are essential and need to be cultivated from our earliest years. This led her to develop the notion of “possibility thinking” (PT) – the problem-solving skills that allow us to transform “what is” into “what might be” – and argue for its extension right across the school curriculum. Much of her research was devoted to elucidating the core features of PT and the forms of pedagogy required to promote it.
A co-founder of the international Journal of Thinking Skills and Creativity, Professor Craft also developed her ideas in dozens of articles and a series of solo-authored books, including Creativity and Early Years Education (2002), Creativity in Schools: Tensions and Dilemmas (2005), Voyages of Discovery: Looking at Models of Engagement (2008) and Creativity and Education Futures (2011). She acted as an adviser on creativity in education to the UK government and was in great demand as a conference speaker all over the world.
“The education community has lost a bright light,” said Teresa Cremin, professor of education (literacy) at The Open University. As well as “a very warm and wise friend and colleague…characterised by her commitment, intellect, energy and democratic stance”, she continued, Professor Craft was “an arch possibility thinker, an optimist and a problem solver. Concerned to understand the shifting shape and potential of creativity in education, she worked collaboratively to find innovative, student-centred ways forward.”
Professor Craft died of cancer on 11 August and is survived by her husband, Simon Stanley, a son and a daughter.