Peter Pumfrey 1928-2015

Professor Peter Pumfrey, Formerly Dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Manchester, died on 14 December 2015 aged 87. Peter was a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and a member of the Council of Dyslexia Action (The Dyslexia Institute) and a Vice-President of the British Dyslexia Association. He was also an active member of the BPS and served on the DECP committee for several years in the1980’s. 

Peter’s wide ranging research and teaching interests included the nature, identification and alleviation of developmental dyslexia,
 attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and the education of ‘looked-after’ children. However psychologists, teachers and related professionals will probably remember him chiefly for his outstanding contribution to the field of specific learning difficulties/Dyslexia an area in which he was a prolific author with over 91 papers in peer reviewed and professional journals and 31 single or co-authored books. His most influential and widely read book, co-authored with Dr Rea Reason, entitled Specific Learning Difficulties (Dyslexia): Challenges and Responses published in 1991 by NFER-Nelson, featured as the key text for students all over the world for many years.

Peter had a razor sharp mind coupled with meticulous attention to detail and this, together with the nature of his penetrating questions, kept all his students and colleagues on their toes.  Indeed, in the early stages of their studies, many of his students felt in awe of him. But gradually they began to appreciate his concern for their welfare, his commitment to providing high quality teaching and the hours of support that he willingly gave to helping them through their programme. As a colleague at the University of Manchester and a member of the DECP committee, I also appreciated his commitment to maintaining the highest standards of teaching and research and the support he willingly provided to us all. 

Two other aspects of Peter’s life will, I am sure, be remembered by his friends, former students and colleagues. The first was his insatiable desire for hard work. He was normally the first to arrive at the university in the morning and the last to leave, and it was not uncommon for him to book appointments as early as 8.00am or as late as 7.30pm. More often than not he would come into the university at weekends and rumour has it that he also there one Boxing Day! The second was the unbelievably untidy state of his office. Several times when I knocked on his door I would receive a brief response ‘Come’ and, on opening the door, I was confronted by mounds and mounds of papers and files - indeed that was all I could see! However, if I stood on tiptoe, I could just about make out Peter’s thinning grey hair peeping up between two mounds of box files. I would then carefully negotiate my way around the debris to find him sat at his desk in the far corner of his office.

Since retiring from Manchester University Peter moved to Worcestershire when he became Honorary and Visiting Professor at the University of Worcester Institute of Education Centre for Education and Inclusion where he continued to pursue his academic and research interests.

Peter Farrell

Professor Emeritus in Educational Psychology

Manchester Institute of Education

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Comments

Thank you for writing this, Peter.

There is a phrase I heard Peter Pumfrey use once in a lecture that has stuck with me and crept in my pronouncements more than once. He was talking about people who hold and promulgate impassioned views about a topic, views that fly in the face of carefully accumulated research evidence - 'When skating on thin ice, speed of the essence'.