Geoffrey Harrison obituary

Other lives: teacher who developed the first approved suite of GCSE technology syllabuses for the new national curriculum

My friend and colleague Geoffrey Harrison, who has died aged 90, was a pioneer in technology education whose influence is still seen in schools and universities.

Geoffrey was born in Cullercoats in Newcastle upon Tyne to Bernard, a company secretary at Priestman Collieries, and his wife, Katharine (nee Bookey). He attended Dauntsey’s school in Wiltshire and then in 1952 went to Cambridge University, where he gained a degree in mechanical sciences. Thereafter he spent several years working as a civil engineer before becoming a teacher and going back to Dauntsey’s as engineering master.

At Dauntsey’s he led a pioneering project in which the students built a new engineering block with his direction. That work led to his appointment in 1965 as head of the creative design department at Loughborough Training College (now Loughborough University).

In 1972 he moved to Trent Polytechnic (now Nottingham Trent University), where he was asked to establish the National Centre for Schools Technology. At the same time he directed a national curriculum development programme called Project Technology, which provided guidelines on how schools should approach technology teaching. Geoffrey’s work led to a distinct departure in the way handicraft and technology was taught in the UK, with a move away from a focus on the end result being an artefact to a more complete and iterative process of problem-solving, designing, making and evaluating.

For 22 years he remained at Trent, where we worked together, and in 1980 was appointed professor of design and technology education. In 1992 he set up the Nottingham Technology Education Development Group, which was successful in developing the first approved suite of GCSE technology syllabuses for the new national curriculum, and retired from Trent two years later.

Geoffrey was a keen walker, especially in the Lake District and Scottish Highlands, and at home in County Durham he spent much of his time designing and building improvements to his house and garden. He continued to think and write about technology education, and contributed to work on the subject carried out by the Engineering Council and the Royal Society.

He is survived by his wife, Laureen (nee Parnall), whom he married in 1953, three children, Peter, Katrina and Christopher, and three grandsons, Geoffrey, Timothy, and Michael.

Malcolm Batchelor

The GuardianTramp

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