Obituary: Terry Furlong ; Authoritative Figure in English Teaching

Article excerpt

TERRY FURLONG was a charismatic and influential figure in English teaching during a time of great controversy and change. He was fascinated by language, understanding the power it gives, and was committed to making this power available to everyone. The fact that he spoke several languages himself and was widely read in the literature of many countries made him an exciting companion and enabled him to communicate enthusiasm to friends and pupils from all sorts of backgrounds.

He was born in Cardiff in 1942 and after Cardiff High School went on to King's College London, where, with typical flexibility, he first did Chemistry, Physics and Maths and then switched to English, French and German. After considering various careers he began teaching English and Drama at Westminster City School, then Spencer Park School before becoming Head of English at Holland Park in 1973. In this large multicultural school where 40 different languages were spoken by children in the first year he transformed the English department. He opened up new ideas, brought in more exciting resources and supported the strengths of teachers working with him.

During this time he became Treasurer of the National Association for the Teaching of English which, under his guidance, dramatically increased its membership, its publications and its prestige. Later, in 1991 he became Chairman of Nate and was energetic and skilful in finding a voice for English teaching, combating some of the sillier ideas being promoted by old-fashioned pedants. After stepping down from the chair of Nate he continued his work in the cause of good teaching by becoming the Chairman of the International Federation for the Teaching of English and taking a leading part in international conferences in New York, Johannesburg and Warwick.

His experience of running a large department at Holland Park and his work as Chair of the Panel of examiners for CSE English at the London Board convinced him that the assessment system for 16-year- olds needed to be changed. He was influential in establishing the CSE syllabus as an alternative to O-level and then, later, in combining them into the present qualification known as GCSE. …