Guardian Columnist Ted Wragg Dies
Ted Wragg, a well-known figure in the field of English education, passed away suddenly at the age of 67. Although he retired as head of Exeter University’s school of education in 2003 after an impressive career of 32 years, Wragg continued to contribute to debates about education through regular columns in the Guardian. Known for his unwavering support of classroom teachers against bureaucratic and misguided political initiatives, Wragg was revered in staff rooms but often criticized by Whitehall and the schools inspectorate, Ofsted.
Teachers hailed Wragg as a "champion" upon receiving news of his passing, with tributes pouring in from across the country, including a message from Ruth Kelly, the education secretary whom Wragg had frequently criticized. Wragg was an accomplished writer, lecturer, broadcaster, and adviser who remained active until the end of his life.
His family confirmed that Wragg had suffered a cardiac arrest while out for a run and had passed away at the Royal Devon and Exeter hospital. Wragg is survived by his wife, Judith, his three children, Josie, Caroline, and Chris, his mother, Maria, and his three grandchildren, Oliver, Harry, and Harriet. A family funeral will be held, with a memorial service scheduled for friends and colleagues.
Wragg played an influential role in educational policy, having chaired an inquiry into Birmingham’s schools that had far-reaching consequences for the city’s education system. While the incoming Labour government after 1997 initially used the Birmingham blueprint, Wragg soon fell out with ministers, particularly Stephen Byers and Ruth Kelly. In his most recent column for Education Guardian, Wragg criticized the government’s white paper, describing it as "a dog’s breakfast."
Despite their disagreements, Ruth Kelly paid tribute to Wragg, highlighting his immense contribution to the teaching profession and educational advisory roles. Will Woodward, the editor of Education Guardian, described Wragg’s death as a devastating loss, emphasizing his sharp wit and expertise in the field.
Steve Sinnott, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, also mourned Wragg’s passing, noting his unwavering dedication to promoting the interests of every child and supporting teachers in their efforts to provide the best education possible.
Wragg’s debates with Chris Woodhead, a chief inspector of schools and a controversial figure among many teachers, drew packed crowds in London’s Institute of Education. Though both men were eloquent in their different ways, Wragg was the audience’s favorite in the clash of verbal powerhouses.
Ted Wragg, a renowned academic, teacher, and education journalist, was a natural on Teachers TV. Andrew Bethell, the director of programmes at Teachers TV, said that Ted’s work on the channel was exceptional and that he conducted some brilliant interviews with some of the most prominent figures in education. He had a deep understanding of the craft of teaching, and his independent spirit commanded respect from students, teachers, policymakers, and the media.
Ted’s passion for children and his deep knowledge of the education landscape made him an influential voice in the field of education. He was against pomp and circumstance and was vocal about education matters through his writing, radio, and television appearances. His death is a significant loss to everyone who knew him.
John Dunford, the general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said that Ted was irreplaceable, and his ability to cut through the complexity of the education system was unparalleled. Mary Bousted, the general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said that Ted delighted teachers by exposing the inconsistencies and incoherencies of politicians and public servants, and that his experience, knowledge, and wit would be missed.
Barry Sheerman, the chairman of the Commons education committee, described Ted as a gadfly of a man, a “do tank” man rather than a thinker, who wanted to make a difference on the ground. His work on the Birmingham commission contributed immensely to the quality of education in the city. Barry expressed his sadness at the loss of a delightful man and good company.