Barry Jones – a life of distinction

07 Apr 2015

Barry Jones - Celebrating a life of distinction


It is with great sadness that we have learned of the death of Barry Jones, Emeritus-Fellow of Homerton College Cambridge.   Barry will be known to many language teachers as an outstanding teacher educator and constant source of inspiration, guidance and reassurance to teachers throughout their careers in the UK and across Europe.  There will be few teachers of languages who have not been (or will not be in the future) influenced by his vision, his practical wisdom and his creativity, because Barry was at the heart of language teacher education, curriculum development and assessment practice for the best part of five decades, as a teacher, a teacher trainer and a leader of other teacher trainers.

Barry was a graduate of the University of Birmingham and also of the Université de Lille, where he was awarded a Licence-ès-Lettres avec mention. His passion and infectious enthusiasm for the French language and its culture led him to a career in teaching.  His own rich experience of teaching French and German in Birmingham and Hertfordshire in a range of different kinds of schools including Technical, Grammar and Comprehensive schools accounted for both his conviction in the central value of language and cultural education for every learner, and to his credibility as a distinguished teacher educator, whose understanding of how to motivate learners in the classroom was second to none.

Barry joined Homerton College in 1971, where he was Head of Modern Languages and Principal Lecturer, becoming Lecturer in Education in the Faculty of Education, when Homerton College converged with the University of Cambridge in 2001.  Working closely with his students and their mentors in schools through undergraduate and post-graduate programmes, Barry could inspire and nurture innovative practice.  Homerton College became a hub for ongoing research and development, offering invaluable and coveted research opportunities to teacher associates from local authorities, and giving curriculum developers the chance to participate alongside students.

To be a student or a researcher with Barry as your supervisor was both a privilege and a pleasure.  His seminars engendered a fertile and questioning environment, where new ideas could be generated, discussed and refined and turned into creative projects for learners in the classroom, enriching their experience of language learning and deepening the professional knowledge and skills of student teachers and their mentors.  This invaluable triangulation of expert/student/teacher interaction, practical experience of the classroom and reflection on practice became the foundation of the very best models of initial teacher education and curriculum development, extending Barry’s influence across the UK and beyond.

Barry made an enduring contribution to language education theory and practice through his work with the Council of Europe.  He played a key role in developing the guidance for teachers and teacher trainers to support the introduction of the Common European Framework of Reference for Modern Languages (2001).  He continued with a major seven year project, developing a pan-European competence model for Modern Language student teachers, resulting in the publication of a European Portfolio for Student Teachers of Languages (EPOSTL), which has already been translated into 14 European languages, earning him the prestigious award of Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques.

Barry will be remembered with the highest respect for his tireless national presence in providing CPD for teachers organised through CILT, the National Centre for Languages and many other organisations.  He will also be remembered with gratitude for his longstanding local and regional contribution in providing regular network meetings for teacher groups through his support of the local branch of the Association for Language Learning and for his leading role as Regional Director from 1993 in what was to become the Comenius Centre for the East of England, managed by CILT, as part of a national network, linking universities, schools and local authorities in supporting and promoting the teaching and learning of languages for every learner.  Comenius East, under Barry’s leadership was greatly valued by teachers and local authorities from across East Anglia, providing access to expertise, disseminating reliable information and making sense of policy change throughout the development of the National Curriculum, the National Strategy, changes to GCSE and A level, the introduction of Ofsted and performance league tables and the multiple changes to how teachers, as well as their pupils, were trained and assessed.  His insights and advice strengthened the Comenius Network nationally, and he will be greatly missed by teachers and language educators in all four nations of the United Kingdom.

One of Barry’s most significant earlier contributions was in the field of communicative assessment.  Before the introduction of the National Curriculum in 1988, teachers had a greater degree of freedom to develop their own assessment systems as alternatives to the official examinations, the GCE (General Certificate of Education) Ordinary Level and the CSE (Certificate of Education).  These alternatives took the form of criterion-referenced statements of achievement and came to be known as GOML (Graded Objectives in Modern Languages).  Barry was swift in developing a Cambridgeshire scheme and was generous in his support of the many other teacher and local authority groups that sprang to life at the opportunity of devising local assessment schemes that could recognise achievement when and where it took place, and that did not involve suspending the learning of language to facilitate the testing.    Barry ‘s irrepressible creative energy, combined with his rigour in understanding and communicating levels of achievement sparked the development of many successful GOML schemes and provided inspiration for the then fledging Sixteen Plus, which was later to transform into the National Curriculum and the GCSE.

Barry was a CILT governor during a critical period in the history and expansion of CILT.  He was a prolific author of CILT publications, which included the results of his research projects such as Something to say? Promoting Spontaneous Classroom Talk (2001) and Boosting Boys’ Motivation in Modern Foreign Language Learning (2005), as well as books in the Pathfinder series on practical aspects of language teaching methodology, such as It makes you think; creating engagement and offering challenges (2004),  Exploring otherness (1995), Being creative (1995) and two editions on Using the Target Language (2002, 1991).  Through these publications, and his work as a conference speaker and trainer throughout the UK and abroad, he reached many thousands of language teachers.

We will remember Barry with deepest affection and admiration for his countless achievements. We will celebrate his life, which was a life of distinction, given so generously to language and cultural education.  We will recall his ability to listen and build on the ideas of others, valuing even the most humble idea and encouraging its provider to think a little more deeply, question a little more sharply and see with greater clarity further possibilities for how to improve professional practice. We will remember his exhilarating lectures, his incomparable sense of fun, his impeccable delivery and ability to captivate his audience and hold them spellbound.  We will be inspired when we think of his meticulous mind, his careful consideration of every problem and his unfailing ability to find a creative solution.  It is time to give thanks and remember.

On behalf of Speak to the Future, we send our deepest sympathy to his wife, Gwenneth, his family and his friends.


Jones, B., Devitt, S. (2001) The Common European Framework of Reference for Modern Languages: a guide for teachers and teacher-trainers in Trim, J. (ed) A guide to the Common European Framework of Reference for Modern Languages. Council of Europe, Strasbourg

Burch, B., Darcy, J., Harris, V., Jones, B. (2001) Something to Say?: Promoting Spontaneous Classroom Talk. Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research, London

Jones, B. (2005) Boosting Boys’ Motivation in Modern Foreign Language Learning. Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research, London

Newby, D., Allan, R., Fenner, A-B., Jones, B., Komorowska, H., Soghikyan, K. (2007)

European Portfolio for Student Teachers of Languages (EPOSTL).Council of Europe, Strasbourg

Jones, B., Newby, D., Fenner, A-B. (2011) Using the European Portfolio for Student Teachers of Languages. Council of Europe Publishing, Graz, Austria

New Pathfinder Series

Jones, B., Swarbrick, A. (2004) It makes you think: creating engagement, offering challenges. Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research, London

Classic Pathfinder Series

Halliwell, S., Jones, B. (1991) On Target: Teaching in the Target Language. Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research, London

Jones, B. (1992) Being creative. Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research, London

Jones, B. (1995) Exploring Otherness: An Approach to Cultural Awareness. Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research, London

Halliwell, S., Holmes, B., Jones, B. (2002) You Speak, They Speak: Focus on Target Language Use (Classic Pathfinder). Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research, London

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