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William Cropley Radford (1913–1976)

by W. F. Connell

This article was published:

William Cropley Radford (1913-1976), educationist, was born on 20 May 1913 at Crowlands, Victoria, second child of Henry William Radford, state schoolteacher, and his wife Daisy, née Cropley, both Victorian born. Bill attended Horsham High School and stayed on as a junior teacher. In 1932 he entered Melbourne Teachers' College and the University of Melbourne (B.A., 1935; Dip.Ed., 1936; M.A., 1937; M.Ed., 1939); he graduated with first-class honours in English and French, and won the Childers prize.

After teaching at Bairnsdale High School in 1936-37, Radford was seconded to the Australian Council for Educational Research. With Kenneth Cunningham and G. A. McIntyre, he edited Review of Education in Australia, 1938 (1939). He published The Educational Needs of a Rural Community (1939) in which he argued that schools should become 'cultural centres for their districts'. In 1940 he taught briefly at Preston Technical School and worked in the curriculum and research branch of the Victorian Education Department.

Commissioned in the Militia in January 1940, Radford transferred to the Australian Imperial Force on 1 July. At All Saints' Church, Kooyong, on 30 August that year he married with Anglican rites Dorothea Eyres Allen, a teacher. He sailed for the Middle East in November. For his staff-work with the 9th Divisional Artillery in May-October 1942, he was appointed M.B.E. (1943). In 1943-44 he served in New Guinea as a temporary major at headquarters, II Corps. He then joined the Australian Army Staff in Britain. Enrolling at the University of London (Ph.D., 1954), he wrote a thesis on the effects of a scheme to consolidate schools in a rural area of Australia. Back in Melbourne, he was placed on the Reserve of Officers on 5 March 1946.

That year Radford was appointed assistant-director of the A.C.E.R. He co-edited its Review of Education in Australia 1940-48 (1950). His comprehensive study, The Non-Government Schools of Australia, appeared in 1953. Succeeding Cunningham as director of the A.C.E.R. in 1955, he oversaw the publication of the Review . . . 1948-1954 (1956) which he had helped to prepare. In his introduction to the Review . . . 1955-1962 (1964) he noted that Australian education had made 'steady and even spectacular progress' at a time when the secondary and tertiary sectors were expanding rapidly and parents were showing more interest in schools. None the less, he thought that much remained to be done to extend educational opportunities for poorer children, to improve equipment and facilities, to enhance the professional training of teachers, and to provide adequate research on schools' curricula and educational practices.

During the 1950s the A.C.E.R. increased its interest in the development of intelligence and aptitude tests. The signing of an agreement with Science Research Associates, Chicago, United States of America, in 1961 to print and market the firm's 'reading laboratories' in Australia emphasized the new direction the council was taking. Radford had to become much more of an entrepreneur, a role he cautiously adopted. His book, A Field for Many Tillings (1964), analysed educational research in Australia.

Radford lectured part time in the University of Melbourne's faculty of education. He was president (1969-71) and an honorary fellow (1976) of the Australian College of Education, and president (1974) of the Australian Association for Research in Education. The Queensland government appointed him (1969) to chair a committee whose report, Public Examinations for Queensland Secondary School Students (Brisbane, 1970), led to the abolition of external examinations in that State. He also served on P. H. Karmel's committee of inquiry into education in South Australia. A welcome chairman of committees, a popular speaker at conferences, and an informed and honest referee, Radford was one of the best known and most widely consulted educationists in Australia.

In 1972 Monash University conferred on Radford an honorary LL.D., and the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science awarded him its Mackie medal. In 1976 he was appointed A.O. He was president (1960-61) of Melbourne Legacy and a part-time member (1961-72) of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. The reduction in the Commonwealth government's financial support for the A.C.E.R. in the mid-1970s distressed him. Sensitive and concerned, he suffered bouts of depression. He committed suicide on 25 November 1976 at his Balwyn home and was cremated. His wife, son and two daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • W. F. Connell, The Australian Council for Educational Research, 1930-1980 (Melb, 1980)
  • W. F. Connell, Reshaping Australian Education 1960-1985 (Melb, 1993)
  • Education News, 15, no 10, 1976, p 54
  • Melbourne Legacy, Bulletin, 7 Dec 1976.

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Citation details

W. F. Connell, 'Radford, William Cropley (1913–1976)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 17 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

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