Letters: AH Halsey, one of the last great sociologists with experience of real life

Anne Corbett writes: AH Halsey was an intriguing figure for me, a youthful journalist in the early 1970s. My magazine, New Society, was riven by the sociological debate on 11-plus failure and bad school final results. Was it due to cultural deprivation? Or the structural causes of unequal distribution of energy, wealth and chance? This renowned sociologist had turned up in the New Society offices to persuade the editor to enrich the debate. His idea was a story on the new educational priority regions (EPAs) as backed by what he known as action analysis.

So I identified myself reporting on some inspiring colleges in Liverpool and the West Riding of Yorkshire. Although the EPAs had been set up in the political hope that they would show how colleges may possibly better assistance daily life possibilities, Halsey was faithful to the study ethic of evaluation.

Sadly this drive to advertise greater social equality through education got overtaken in 1974 when the Conservative social solutions secretary, Sir Keith Joseph, launched a significant investigation undertaking with an incendiary speech on generationally transmitted cycles of deprivation. Although Joseph withdrew the remark on how “the balance of our human stock is threatened”, the traces are with us nowadays. Halsey’s death is a reminder of the just and dignified different for which he and the group around him worked.

Tom Schuller writes: Chelly Halsey encouraged not just younger colleagues, but others whom he judged would carry on the progressive tradition. He was undeniably paternalist, but not for causes of ego or empire and he was internationalist, using the Organisation for Financial Co-operation and Advancement (OECD) as a beneficial channel. One of the brings about that he favoured was adult education, considering that he knew that numerous people from bad backgrounds would not get the possibilities they deserved early in life, and so would require second or third probabilities to return to schooling.

John Caperon writes: For MSc students of the governance of schooling in the Oxford department of educational studies in the early 80s, AH Halsey was an inspirational lecturer. This humble but great figure of the sociology of training was entirely without grandeur and quietly encouraged us to aspire to lead ordinary schools which had been locations of equality and opportunity for all. His profound Christian socialism was never ever worn on his sleeve, but permeated all his observations on the future marketisation of education. What has stayed most with me is his characterisation of the “public” schools as “the industrial sector” and I have minor doubt about what he would feel about the academisation of our extensive schools.

Peter Cook writes: Getting laboured over my PhD for as well a lot of many years and invested worthwhile time pursuing tangential dead-ends, interviewing participants who had little to supply beyond what I currently knew, with some trepidation I requested that Chelly Halsey be my examiner. He asked a couple of difficult queries which I answered as ideal I could, and as I commenced to come to feel that finishing this millstone had been a poor decision, he explained, as if an afterthought: “Of course, you have got your doctorate, there is no question about that, but we need to speak about some minor adjustments.” I do not don’t forget the rest, but I know that he was enthusiastic and encouraging of youthful researchers, and could see the larger picture – in contrast to numerous undistinguished thesis examiners who seem to regard the viva as an chance to display how clever they are by homing in on the trivial.

He was one of the final of that generation of eminent sociologists who had knowledge of “real life”. I when asked him if he had met Lord Nuffield, and he mentioned that they had a brief, inconsequential exchange. I doubt if Chelly informed Nuffield that he was a sociologist, provided the latter’s rightwing views, and his belief that he had been bamboozled by the university into founding a school for “lefty” social science rather than engineering.

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