Obituaries: Dr Jean A Carroll, pioneer of tertiary education in Human Movement


Jean Carroll had a massive impact on physical education in Scotland

The life force that was Jean Carroll took up post as a Principal Lecturer at Dunfermline College of Physical Education (DCPE) in September 1973. She would later hold the roles of Assistant Principal, Vice Principal and, ultimately, Principal of the College.

Jean made a significant contribution to the evolution of the Human Movement as a field of study and to the teaching of Physical Education in Scotland.

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Her pioneering role involved developing the socio-psychological curriculum and the delivery of the new B.Ed. degree in Physical Education, the first such degree in Scotland to be validated by the Council for National Academic Awards.

Jean had equipped herself extremely well for this task with knowledge, skills and understanding of the scientific, socio-psychological and aesthetic perspectives of the Human Movement.

She supplemented her Teacher’s Certificate, from St Mary’s College, Cheltenham in 1949, with a specialist course in Physical Education in 1961 at IM Marsh College in Liverpool. She continued to explore the theory and practice of Human Movement, undertaking an advanced course in 1957 at the Art of Movement Studio in Addlestone, Surrey, enabling her to absorb the innovative contribution of Rudolf Laban. She would go on to lecture at the Studio from 1964-67. By 1970 she had also enhanced her understanding of Psychology, completing a B.Sc. (Honours) at the University of Bristol. During this period she held a number of appointments in secondary and tertiary education. Immediately prior to her move to DCPE she had been a Principal Lecturer at Anstey College of Physical Education.

By then she was part of a dynamic think tank that set out the case for Human Movement – ​​a field of study. In its seminal publication of that name in 1973, edited by JA Brooke and HTA (John) Whiting, Jean wrote the chapter on Comparative Studies.

Her capacity for critical thought and innovation came into her own at a time of rapid expansion in Higher Education. At DCPE, Jean developed a curriculum that would introduce prospective Physical Education teachers to issues in Child Development including motor development, and to Psychology, as well as to an understanding of societal structures that influence opportunities for physical activity and participation in sport. Jean firmly believed that alongside knowledge of Physiology and Anatomy, students needed this wider knowledge base if they were to be effective, reflective professionals.

Jean deployed her depth and width of skills and experience effortlessly. Robust discussion was encouraged and Jean was very supportive of staff who initiated and established Momentum, a journal published by the College for this purpose.

Debate, however, was never at the expense of respect for the individual. Ever the educationist, Jean set the tone and, in all her interactions with her in different roles and settings, she skilfully managed to achieve this balance.

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Her persuasive advocacy for the agenda would reshape the education that was offered to successive generations of students, and would ultimately have a wider influence on Physical Education in Scotland.

Jean’s steely intellect was infused with a keen interest in people. People warmed to her from her ready smile from her, direct gaze and clear, pragmatic, unforced style. She was inspirational for colleagues and students. Many remained in touch with her for more than 40 years and have paid fulsome tributes to her positive influence.

She was admired for her authenticity, practicing what she believed in – an inclusive, non-judgmental approach with people and an intellectual rigor to the business in hand. Her evident openness and fairness of her enabled her to steer and stimulate students in a beguiling way. Never intimidating, always empathic, Jean was quietly influential as a teacher, as a peer and, latterly, as a high-level educational administrator in Scotland.

Jean retired in 1987 and, with her civil partner Mollie Abbott (who preceded her in 2007), settled in Kirkcudbright, later building their own house in Grange-over-Sands in Cumbria.

Jean’s thirst for learning would continue to appear with the completion of an MLitt followed by a PhD in Women’s Studies.

Alongside her curiosity and love of learning, she sustained her lifelong pursuit of physical skill. She swam daily, skied in Europe, ran the London Half Marathon in her sixties, trekked for charity in the Western Ghats in India in her seventies and walked regularly in the Yorkshire Dales into her eighties.

Jean was entirely without pretension. Even as she struggled with dementia in her final years she remained “a lovely lady”.

Jean’s brother David, children Helen (Helly) and Sara, and good friend and carer Liz Benson survive her.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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