Leonard Marsh, 1930-2014

A leading authority on primary education who served for more than 20 years as principal of what is now Bishop Grosseteste University has died

October 23, 2014

Leonard Marsh was born in Ashford, Kent, on 23 October 1930 and educated at Ashford Grammar School and at Borough Road College in London. He decided to pursue a teaching career, securing an academic diploma in education and an advanced certificate at the University of London’s Institute of Education (he would later study for a master’s of education research degree at the University of Leicester). This led, in 1952, to a six-year appointment at Crofton Junior School in Kent, before he shifted into the academy as a lecturer in education and mathematics at St Paul’s College in Cheltenham.

Promoted to principal lecturer and head of department at what is now Goldsmiths, University of London in 1961, Professor Marsh moved on in 1974, becoming principal of Bishop Grosseteste College in Lincoln. He would remain there until his retirement in 1996.

In response to Children and their Primary Schools, the 1967 study known as the Plowden report, Professor Marsh was asked to form an advisory committee on the subject. Alongside more theoretical texts such as Children Explore Mathematics (1969) and Alongside the Child: Experiences in the English Primary School (1970), he wrote two series of texts for children, Let’s Discover Mathematics and Let’s Explore Mathematics. He also served as chairman of the National Association for Primary Education from 1981 to 1983.

Such was Professor Marsh’s eminence that he was greatly in demand as an educational consultant everywhere from Portugal to Puerto Rico. Long after his retirement, he still served as an inspirational adviser to many schools.

Kathleen Taylor, former head of department for undergraduate primary initial teacher training at Bishop Grosseteste who still works as a university-based mentor, recalled Professor Marsh’s “wonderful ability to bring people together from all walks of life with the sole aim of enriching their lives and ultimately enriching children’s lives through sharing and education”.

Along with this went a notable talent for “explaining through stories and anecdotes the complexity of educational philosophy and theory”. On one occasion, standing “in front of a large arched window overlooking the cathedral with natural light flooding in, he spoke of the need for providing similar inspirational spaces for children to work and learn in. In that moment I understood that teaching is about something that touches the soul. That what’s Len gave to me.”

Professor Marsh died on 3 October and is survived by his wife Ann, two children and four grandchildren.


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