Keith Duckitt with Joyce Martin
ALT members have been saddened to learn of the death of Keith Duckitt early in October. Keith, after pioneering IT roles in the private sector, worked for the Further Education Funding Council (FEFC) and Learning and Skills Council (LSC) in the years before his retirement and was an amazing champion for learning technology. Seb Schmoller's Chief Executive's report in this edition shows what a debt is owed to Keith. His work within and between national agencies and departments provided the detailed basis for all the investment in technology in the Further Education (FE) system which has taken place over the last twenty years. He was indefatigable in arguing for the sector and building links between FE and Higher Education (HE) and never lost touch with the needs of practitioners. Humanity and humour accompanied his rigorous approach and all have been captured in the eulogies from friends and colleagues who will miss him and his remarkable contribution. The following reflection, from Keith's close colleague and former college principal John Gray, helps show why Keith was such a worthy ALT Honorary Life Member
I worked with Keith from his earliest weeks in the FEFC, right through to the days just before his departure from LSC. At the start he'd heard we were using something called "Microsoft Access" at Basford Hall College and he wanted to come and see what we were doing with it. Keith had been taken on (from his job in the National Bus Company) by steely-eyed Bill Stubbs to fix up the FEFC's computers and to steer their "brown-field new build" at Cheylesmore House. This second part of Keith's new job seemed to take up far and away the most of his time in those early days, and "doing something about Higginson" was low on his list of priorities at that early stage. In return for our intelligence about Access I got to hear Keith's plans for the "media wall" that he intended to install in the new FEFC building's board room - presumably with Access creating the data and diagrams for the new-age board room, allowing Stubbs and Bob Gunn, aided by McClure, Hall and the rest to chart the path to the “Brave new FE” we were all focused on creating. I nursed Keith's ideas about media walls for some years until - eventually - finding the money to create one in our learning centre at Newark some years later. Thanks, Keith; you affected a lot of people by sharing your vision with me.
Over the years Keith and I had a pretty continuous working relationship - always strictly business, I knew as little about his personal life as he did about mine. Our interactions were generally initiated via a brief phone call from Keith, following the general pattern: "x is happening at y and I need someone to do z; will you do it for me?" Most of Keith’s requests were quite mundane gospel-spreading tasks, whilst some were milestones. Of the latter, three come to mind: launching QUILT (perhaps the most important Higginson outcome) at Hammersmith; the flag-waving ceremony at Cheylesmore to mark the transition from FEFC to LSC when (in a temporary pairing with Chris Yapp to provide intellectual rigour and geopolitical context) Keith asked me to present a picture of where we'd come from since ILT was invented by Higginson; and finally that unforgettable meeting on the 28th floor of Centrepoint when (following FE becoming a full funding partner of JISC) we were faced, by the genial John Slater, with an agenda for our first meeting that placed our FE interests 9th on the list for discussion after internal JISC things - which we had to renegotiate on the fly to reflect Keith's steer that we were to do whatever we could "to get FE's money's back".
The days of folks calling me and asking me to do something are long gone - no calls to duty from LSC, Becta or AoC NILTA - but it happened that on the day of Keith’s funeral October 14th I did have a promise to fulfil, at the Institute for Education (IoE) where my PhD research is now based. The research is a direct, and more thoughtful, extension of that same long-lasting ambition which Keith, I and many of you had - to understand how to get the best added-value for FE that ILT could provide. I'd been asked to present a picture of my research to research students at the IoE - and, with regret, I didn't feel able to cancel this at late notice. I did, however, think about the many things we all shared as I fulfilled the commitment - and remembered Keith with respect and affection. John Gray