OBITUARY: JACK WRIGHT ; Leading Educational Psychologist

By Graham, Conrad | The Independent (London, England), October 25, 2005 | Go to article overview
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OBITUARY: JACK WRIGHT ; Leading Educational Psychologist


Graham, Conrad, The Independent (London, England)


Jack Wright was the foremost exponent of applied professional educational psychology in Britain in the post-war years. Leading teams of educational psychologists in Essex and Hampshire, he helped shape the development of the profession, and served as the first President of the Association of Educational Psychologists.

As a member of the Council of the British Psychological Society between 1955 and 1970 (elected a Fellow in 1961), he had pressed for fellowships to be awarded not just for academic prowess but also for excellence in the applied fields. He was, first, Secretary and, later, Chairman of the BPS's Division of Educational and Child Psychology. But educational psychologists, as well as wanting membership of a learned society, needed an association with more specific emphasis on their professional development and structure. The Association of Educational Psychologists was born in 1962, with Wright as President; he served on the executive committee for over 20 years. The AEP has extended its original membership from less than 200 to over 2,000 now, due in no small part to Wright's efforts.

Born in Bath in 1915, the son of a bookbinder; Wright attended City of Bath Boys' School and trained as a teacher at St Mark and St John College of Education, in London, qualifying in 1936. In 1938 he took an honours degree in Psychology at University College London, under Professor Cyril Burt, following this with a term's course in 'Problems and Methods of Teaching Backward, Dull and Difficult Children' at Goldsmiths' College, London, under Fred Schonell.

During the Second World War he served in the Royal Artillery, rising to the rank of captain and taking part in the long hard slog of the Italian campaign. He grew to love Italy and its culture, and to the end of his life he organised groups to visit the country. He was proficient in Italian; it was amusing to watch him, when shaving, whilst on educational courses, learning 10 new Italian words to add to his vocabulary.

At the end of the war he returned to teaching in East Ham, east London, where he had been before the war, to take charge of a class of primary- aged children with special educational needs. In 1948 he gained his postgraduate clinical training in Educational Psychology at the Tavistock Clinic, becoming the first educational psychologist in East Ham.

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