My father, Richard Evans, who has died aged 79, dedicated his life to widening access to education, a mission born of his experience of being called a failure while at primary school, thanks to the 11-plus.
He was born in Solihull to Mildred (nee Bryant), who went into domestic service in her early teens, and Benjamin Evans, a career sailor who joined the navy aged 14. Richard failed the 11-plus on two occasions, yet he went on to achieve five degrees, including a PhD in physics. He credited this to the support of teachers who encouraged his love of science.
After attending Hilsea secondary modern school, Portsmouth, Richard took his A-levels at Portsmouth Technical College, while working night shifts in various jobs, including at R White’s lemonade factory. He studied physics at the University of London, graduating in 1965, and did his doctorate at the University of Essex, completing in 1969. He later took a Graduate Certificate in Education in London, an MEd at Manchester University (1977) and a DMS (Diploma in Management Studies, 2000).
He started his career in 1971 as a lecturer in further education at Great Yarmouth. After three years teaching in Blackpool, in 1978 he became head of science, maths and computing at Peterborough Technical College. In 1982 he became deputy principal at Cornwall College and in 1990 was appointed principal and CEO at Stockport College of Further and Higher Education.
Throughout his career he looked for ways to help widen access and to support local technical education. At Great Yarmouth he set up a class for special educational needs, which he ran on top of his lecturing duties. At Blackpool he created a primary school science centre. At Peterborough he created a centre for local technical expertise in sugar processing.
Richard contributed to a national inquiry into technology education, chaired by Monty Finniston (1988), and to the Royal Society’s Beyond GCSE report in 1991. He also developed a maths teaching diploma for primary schools. He was chair, member or representative of over 30 bodies, including the Engineering Council and the Association for Science.
On retirement from Stockport in 2002, he worked as a consultant and was an active member of the Institute of Physics, City and Guilds, and the Institute of Leadership and Management.
Despite never passing his English O-level, he was a prolific writer, with 350 articles published on education and science.
Richard never forgot his background, and while this drove his work, it often left him frustrated at the unfairness of a system stacked against so many.
He had a lifelong love of blues music and film noir and always had a hobby on the go: growing vegetables, learning Mandarin, gazing at the stars through his telescope, or on his barge, the John Lee Hooker.
In 1971 he married Carol Morrell. She survives him, along with their five children, Matthew, Imogen, Dominic, Tristan and me, and six grandchildren, Harriet, Daniel, Ellis, Eric, Ruby and Olive.