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Professor Kevin Brehony RIP

President, International Froebel Society
Died October 15th 2013

Kevin BrehonyI have known Kevin for ten years, since the day of his appointment to Roehampton University. I worked most closely with Kevin in two areas. One was the International Froebel Society, which Kevin helped to establish in 2004 and of which he became President himself in 2010. The other was the Froebel Research Committee, which is funded by what is now the Froebel Trust, and where his experience and wisdom supported its operation. I soon came to realise that Kevin was a giant, in more than one sense – a surprisingly multi faceted man.

From one perspective he was an old-fashioned gentleman-scholar, a lover of old books and arcane knowledge, but throughout his career he worked in disciplines (history, sociology) which he directly connected to practice and to policy. His interests went far beyond the somewhat arid landscape of policy issues: I recall, for example, an article of his from 1998 called 'Representations of Schooling in Rock and Pop Music', in which he berates 'sociologists of education, who have sought refuge in the study of education policy and management, rather than investigating popular culture'. No withdrawal from reality for this gentleman scholar.

He was a relentless labourer, and certainly not motivated by money or ambition: you will find 80 papers by him listed on the web, including more than 30 major refereed articles in the last 20 years (and 1101 citations by other scholars, of which half are in the last five years).

Though sometimes appearing other-worldly, you could not talk to Kevin for long before you were startled by his sharp thinking, dry wit, prodigious feats of memory and supreme skills in evidence-based argument – an activity he really enjoyed. These skills were often deployed to great effect in his uncompromising opposition to free market capitalism and profit-oriented education, the 'marketisation' of higher education, as it is now called.

My personal enduring reminder of Kevin's intellectual stature is a memorable paper which he delivered at the IFS Conference in Jena in 2010, in which he brilliantly distinguished 'alternative' from 'oppositional' elements in Froebelian thought and practice. Thus the kindergarten was 'alternative' practice, but became 'oppositional' after being banned by the Prussian authorities in 1851. However, that very act (i) attracted support for the kindergarten in liberal and radical circles, and (ii) accounted in large part for its successful international proliferation.

Another somewhat unexpected facet of Kevin was his intensive use of a smartphone and social media – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn – not to mention his amazing blog. I recall in 2009 driving with him in a hire car around Leipzig. We were lost. Then Kevin took out a mobile phone with GPS, before most people, especially 60-year olds, even knew what a smartphone was. We found our way, thanks to Kevin.

My enduring memory of Kevin himself, however, is of a wise and multi-talented friend. He was kind, thoughtful, and selfless. As Fran Bayliss wrote, 'He had a wonderful twinkle in his eye and loved to challenge ideas and issues…He never sought to be popular, but was immensely so'.

I miss you Kevin.

Dr Peter Weston
formerly Principal, Froebel College &
Deputy VC, Roehampton University

Froebel College Successful Move to NUI Maynooth

National University of Ireland, Maynooth Froebel College of Education made history in Irish education by becoming the first college of education in Ireland to be fully integrated in to a university. The Froebe name has been retained in the title of the new Froebel Department of Primary and Early Childhood Education, National University of Ireland. The move was completed on September 1st 2013 and there will be a new building due for completion in 2015. The building will have designated indoor and outdoor play areas and a garden. This is a very exciting development for us and for Irish teacher education and ensures the Froebel name lives on. We are very conscious that it is our job now to ensure his educational principles and philosophy also remain alive and relevant.

By Brian Tubbert Senior Lecturer Froebel Dept. of Primary and Early Childhood Education NUI, Maynooth

Professor Tina Bruce (CBE)

Professor Tina Bruce CBEProfessor Tina Bruce (CBE), Visiting Professor of Early Childhood Studies at Roehampton University has been appointed in the New Year's Honours List 'for services to Early Years Education'.

Tina, a member of the Research Committee of the Froebel Educational Institute and a trustee of the National Froebel Foundation, originally studied at the Froebel Institute (now, as Froebel College, part of Roehampton University).

She has written or edited 29 books, and is perhaps best known for the 'ten principles of early childhood education' first published in 1987 in her book Early Childhood Education (Hodder & Stoughton currently in its 3rd edition). She also co-presented the popular Radio 4 series Tuning in to Children with Kirsty Wark.

She has, for ten years, worked with successive Ministers for Children as Co ordinator of the Early Years Advisory Group, and is or has been Early Years adviser to more than 100 local education authorities, schools and centres across the UK.

She co-founded the Early Childhood Research Centre at Roehampton University, and as an educator she is guided by Froebelian principles, being known for her ability to interweave theory and practice in creative and challenging ways.


Publication of memoir by Joachim Liebschner, Iron Cross Roads

Formal Opening of Froebel Archives

On January 28th 2008 two major Froebel archives were for the first time brought together and opened in a new location – the remodelled Archives and Special Collections floor of the Roehampton University Library in SW London. These together now provide a unique and accessible resource for students and researchers into the history of the Froebel movement in the UK.

The archives can be found at:

The opening ceremony was addressed by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul O'Prey, and a plaque was unveiled by Dr Gillian Collins, a longserving Trustee of the National Froebel Foundation, to Joachim Liebschner in recognition of the instrumental role he played in establishing the Froebel Archive for Childhood Studies.

Joachim Liebschner then gave a personal account of the origins of the Froebel Archive, demonstrating the difference in educational approach between the Montessori apparatus and the Froebel 'gifts' (as he used to do for many years with students), and thanked numerous people for their support over the years.

Please direct all enquiries to the Archivist, Kornelia Cepok, tel. +44 (0) 20 8392 3323

Joachim Liebschner being escorted to the unveiling ceremony by Kornelia Cepok (left) and Kevin Brehony, Professor of Early Childhood Studies (right)

Joachim Liebschner in front of a cabinet containing many of the artefacts which he collected from various places around the world in the 1960s and early 1970s

Joachim Liebschner with Montessori apparatus and Froebel gift no.3 on the table


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