Emeritus Reader in Education (1939–2015)

Dr Charles Plummeridge passed away peacefully at Suncourt Nursing Home on December 8th 2015, aged 76. A dearly loved husband, father and popular grandfather.

Dr Charles PlummeridgeDr Charles Plummeridge was Emeritus Reader in Education at the Institute of Education. He studied music at Trinity College London. After graduating and completing a PGCE he taught in primary and secondary schools for a period of fifteen years. As an organist and choral conductor had been much involved in community activities. Dr Plummeridge joined the staff at the Institute of Education in 1977 and has taught on all courses in music education. He was also head of the B.Ed centre for many years where he and his colleagues developed degree courses for serving teachers both in this country and abroad. His publications cover a range of topics in music education and include a historical and comparative survey for the revised New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. He was visiting professor at the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland and has lectured in Sweden, Hong Kong, Singapore, Cyprus, Portugal, Jamaica and South Africa.

special interests...

His research interests were in curriculum areas and the history of music education. He had a sympathetic interest in those children who do not like attending school.

A Tribute

By Gordon Cox

The death of Charles Plummeridge, Emeritus Reader in Education at UCL Institute of Education, London, has deprived the music education community of a much loved and respected teacher and researcher. A graduate of Trinity College of Music, London, he then qualified as a teacher and for fifteen years taught music in a variety of schools. In 1977, he was appointed lecturer in education at the Institute of Education, University of London. There he played a major role in the development of the MA in Music Education and developed a fine reputation for his academic supervision of master's and doctoral students' research. He was also the head of the Institute's BEd Centre where he encouraged the development of courses for teachers in this country and abroad. Charles developed an international reputation through his teaching and lecturing in Europe, South East Asia, the Caribbean and Africa and his Visiting Professorships in Finland, Cyprus and South Africa.

Fundamentally, Charles believed that music and the arts were important within a broad and liberal curriculum as serious and powerful realms of human meaning. He outlined his position in his book Music Education in Theory and Practice (1991), and with his customary lucidity addressed some of his main preoccupations: music as a form of knowledge, the problem of musical assessment and evaluation, the demands of the National Curriculum, the complex role of the music teacher. He was always keen to bring theories of education into relation with the practical realities of schools and classrooms. Characteristically, he entitled one of his articles 'Aesthetic education and the practice of music teaching' (1999). In it he argued, with some passion, that however much importance was attached to music's extrinsic instrumental purposes, it always seemed to be counterbalanced by a more optimistic view of education as a process 'in which children are taken to new worlds where they gain experiences that transform their lives and develop them as persons' (p. 122)

Charles took 'a long view' of music education, and consequently developed a particular interest in its history. In this regard he was an active member of the Bernarr Rainbow Trust. I was fortunate to work closely with him on a series of seminars in the 1990s at the Institute of Education on Studies in the History of Music Education. Undoubtedly his major contribution to the field was his masterly, wide ranging entry in Grove (2001) on the history of music education in schools covering Ancient Traditions, the Middle Ages to the end of the 18th century, the 19th century and beyond, and finally to contemporary issues. It remains the first port of call for any new researcher with an interest in historical perspectives of music education.

My most recent dealing with Charles related to an article we collaborated upon to mark the 40th anniversary of SEMPRE – the Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research (Cox, Crickmore, Plummeridge and Sergeant, 2012). Charles had been a longstanding committee member on the forerunner of SEMPRE, the Society for Research in Psychology of Music and Music Education (SRPMME). We had several convivial meetings to prepare the paper, along with our colleagues Desmond Sergeant and Leon Crickmore. Charles brought to these meetings his customary warmth, incisiveness, humour and respect for others. In spite of a recent illness, he was able to attend our joint presentation of the paper at the SEMPRE conference in London on 14 September 2012. I well remember walking with him to the station afterwards, when —as we often did— we shared our stories and experiences as fellow church organists.

Charles contributed so much to the development of the academic field of music education. He taught and wrote from the viewpoint of an active practitioner and an experienced music teacher. He never talked down to his audience, but instead communicated often quite complex ideas in ways which people could understand. In doing so, he touched the lives of the many students, teachers and colleagues who were fortunate enough to encounter him.

29 January 2016


  • Cox, G., Crickmore,, L., Plummeridge, C., & Sergeant, D.C. (2012) 'SEMPRE: Forty years on', Psychology of Music 40 (5), 523-535.
  • Plummeridge, C. (1991) Music Education in Theory and Practice. London: The Falmer Press.
  • Plummeridge, C. (1999) 'Aesthetic education and the practice of music teaching', British Journal of Music Education 16 (2), 115-122.
  • Plummeridge, C. (2001) 'Schools', in Sadie, S. (ed.)The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, vol. 22. London: MacMillan, pp. 614-629.

A tribute

By Paddy Walsh

Next to Music, Charles' main preoccupation at the IoE was its In-Service B.Ed. This was a lone undergraduate degree in a generally postgraduate Institute. It had been designed to catch the eye of teachers, at home and from abroad, whose qualification had preceded their country's introduction of all-graduate entry to teaching. They would be tempted and enabled to build on their Teacher's Certificate and thus match the degree level of all the younger colleagues now arriving in classrooms. Charles took to this B.Ed idea – and ideal – and co-led it from near its beginning until his retirement, in which for a decade or so I was his partner. Both of us were former schoolteachers.

Part 1 of the B.Ed was common core and taught by a small team, but the larger Part 2 saw most Institute of Education departments offering options in a long menu of honours courses, from which the students would choose four (often in twos, e.g., Psyschology 1 and 2, Theory and Practice 1 and 2). So our B.Ed had an Institute-wide presence – reflected, for example, in Denis Lawton's agreement to chair its Advisory Committee when he retired from the position of IoE Director.

The degree also proved highly adaptable to changing educational landscapes and to the shocks and opportunities of globalisation. Early intakes of mainly 'home' teachers gradually gave way through the 1990s to mainly overseas intakes from Hong Kong, Cyprus and sub-Saharan Africa. Those 'markets', in turn, gradually fell away as their local universities developed their own pre-service and in-service B.Eds. A year came in which we decided to suspend our B.Ed for a lack of applications, only to reverse the decision at the eleventh hour when Botswana asked for a course that would prepare twelve select Primary School Heads for jobs in its Ministry of Education (oh, that our Ministry would recruit like that!). By the time that remarkable group was graduating, a new market was fortunately mushrooming that would sustain the B.Ed for the next five or six years. A recent baby boom had led to severe teacher shortages in London Education Authorities, and an overseas recruitment drive had drawn significant numbers of non-graduate teachers to London schools. They came especially from Jamaica and the Caribbean. Word of our B.Ed spread among them and they embraced it, bringing to it their own rich culture and energy. (Later, as Charles was retiring, and continuing beyond my own retirement and until now, the B.Ed found yet another new niche, as an attractive follow-on option for students – often teaching assistants – who were undertaking the new Foundation Degree. And it still thrives in that role.)

What was our job as B.Ed leaders? In addition to adapting its courses – and ourselves – to the changing intakes, and over and above our own specialist academic contributions to it, our work for it particularly included protecting its interests and status in the Institute—in which Charles excelled—and encouraging and looking after the students as their personal tutors.

We were also happily involved quite a lot in working abroad. So, on a dozen or more times, Charles and I travelled together to and from Hong Kong on week-long teaching trips – and on which we might be accompanied by colleagues like Denis Lawton, or the late David Warren, the Institute Secretary, or the doughty Mary Scott, our specialist in 'academic literacy'. There were two things we were sure we had learnt on those trips. One was that working abroad is the truest 'tourism', provided the work is mainly with the real locals rather than the ex-pats. The other was the location of the seats with the most leg-room on a Jumbo Jet. We both grew to love Hong Kong.

In all this Charles was the more experienced, better organised, more disciplined, wiser partner. When I had to do it on my own after his retirement, I missed him! He was a marvellous, gracious, patient, kind colleague and travelling companion.

I last saw Charles in his Sheringham nursing home in the summer before he died, when he greeted me with his characteristic grace, warmth and dignity while battling with his disabling condition, when we recalled in a melancholy moment that we'd never carried out our threat to summon 'the old team' to afternoon tea at the Ritz, and when, also, I got to see the fine house and amazing garden that he and his wife Anne had constructed—a side of him I'd not known about—and when I saw Charles' and Anne's devotion to each other in vivid action in the manner of her great care of him and his appreciation of it.

The Anglican funeral service on the Norfolk coast in bleak mid-winter was as uplifting and heart-warming as it was sad, the music as beautiful as Charles could have wished, the tributes flowing and deeply felt, and the congregation from near and far – family, neighbours, friends – filling the church.

A final thing that Charles and I shared was our stubborn Christian faith, his the Anglican hue, mine the Catholic. I spoke a little about this too at the service – and then was unable to resist the temptation to visit some foreign words on a very English corner of England: Go ndeanaidh Dia trocaire ar a anam uasal. It is a common prayer in our Irish death notices and funerals and it translates as 'May God have mercy on his noble soul'. Amen to that!

Paddy Walsh
27th June 2016


This is a fitting and affectionate tribute to Charles and his work within the field of music education. I have nothing to add. The tribute sensitively reflects the thinking and philosophy of Charles, the music educator, and the man.

Pauline Adams,
IoE Music Education colleague

Charles was such an important inspiration to me during my MA and he has remained an inspiration ever since. In fact, there is hardly a day of my academic/teaching career when I don't tell a story about music or education that he told me, or encourage someone else to consider issues that he encouraged me to consider. His impact on the historical aspect of my doctoral research has been profound because he taught me the importance of understanding the past as a means of interpreting the present. One thing that really sticks in my mind about Charles was his strong personal links with a previous generation of IoE 'luminaries' like Basil Bernstein and Louis Arnaud Reid. Because he had got to know these people well in the past, he would often offer anecdotes that came directly from them in his teaching. I always felt that he was like a 'bridge' back to their ideas, passions and writing because of this, and his enthusiasm for their work was really infectious (influencing my own teaching to this day!) In his piece, Gordon already mentions that Charles took the 'long view' of music education and I think this is absolutely right, partly because he had these personal links with this older generation. One would ask him a question about a contemporary issue and he would sit back, raise his (highly expressive) eyebrows and say something like 'I remember Louis once saying to me...' I was very, very sorry to learn of Charles’s passing but also proud and pleased that I had the opportunity to study with him.

Ross Purves
Lecturer in Education Studies, De Montfort University