Mark Neale, Chair of Trustees, marks the retirement of Professor Maurice Craft. Maurice Craft has been a trustee and committee member at the Froebel Trust for the last 10 years.

I first met Maurice Craft back in 2013 when, in the nicest possible way, I was inspected by Maurice and by Tina Bruce as a potential future trustee. I sat on one side of our big conference table at Clarence Lodge; Maurice and Tina sat on the other.

Two qualities of Maurice’s impressed me immediately.

One was Maurice’s warmth and courtesy. I imagine that Maurice and Tina had plenty of misgivings about this former Civil Servant, now running a financial services business, who in his time at the Department for Education and Science (as it then was) had been involved with distinctly un-Froebelian projects like school inspection and school tests. But you would not have known. Maurice then, and since, was kind, supportive and interested.

The other was Maurice’s intense commitment to Froebel and the Froebelian approach to education. In a patient, but forensic, way Maurice probed exactly how much I understood of Froebel’s philosophy and teaching. He wanted to be sure that the Trust was getting a future trustee – and possibly a future Chair - who could be trusted to advance Froebelian principles.

Well, I hope Maurice has not regretted giving me a pass back in 2013, but one thing is for sure: no contribution which I will make could possibly surpass Maurice’s own twenty years plus of immense service to the Froebel Trust as a trustee and as chair of the Research and Education Committees.

To those roles, Maurice has brought great strategic insight.

Maurice never allowed meetings of the Trustees or of the Committees to become over-preoccupied with detail. He was always far sighted and strategic and looked well beyond the UK, giving strong backing, for example, to the Trust’s work in both Soweto and Kolkata. One of his lasting legacies will be the Trust’s commitment to Doctoral Bursaries which Peter Elfer (trustee) rates as immensely valuable for the long-term future of research scholarship in the field of early childhood care and education.

Maurice has brought to the Trust his own huge experience of education.

Maurice has great stature in his field – just look at the list of his publications on google!

As Sue Robson, a previous Froebel Trust trustee, told me:

"Maurice always brought his own background and experience into discussion, often using these to highlight issues, and to ensure that fellow committee members grasped the bigger picture, and also the potential implications of proposals and policy directions."

Maurice has brought sympathy and support for his friends and colleagues.

He was always ready with wise counsel to me when I took on the chair. Peter Elfer was, I know, hugely grateful for Maurice’s confidence when he succeeded him as chair of the Research Committee. In Peter’s own words, he has steadfastly supported rookies and newbies!

More than that, Maurice was hugely supportive of, and kind to, colleagues who suffered loss or distress, as he was resilient and brave in the face of his own loss.

And Maurice has brought humour – which is indispensable for any enterprise.

Peter Elfer records that Maurice would introduce himself as a sociologist, always apologising for being in that disciplinary role (he is the only sociologist I have known to apologise for being one), and then passing on to give his predictably very wise advice.

Maurice would apologise too for his age. He would say that, with advancing years, it was high time for him to stand down and let a younger person, "say someone only in their 70s, or maybe even younger", take the reins.

Well, Maurice is now stepping back from day-to-day involvement in the Trust. And who can begrudge him doing so after such service. But age is an irrelevance. Maurice remains just as wise, just as courteous, just as knowledgeable and just as committed to Froebelian principles as ever he was. So I hope we shall see Maurice at Trust events and receive his counsel well into the future.

Meanwhile, we are immensely grateful for Maurice’s past contributions.

Mark Neale, Chair of Trustees, Froebel Trust