David Price

news | Words Valerie Hannon | 30 May 2024

It is with deep sorrow that we report the death of our brilliant colleague and contributor David Price.
David was a remarkable educator, thought leader, learning designer, activist, musician and
much besides. He worked with IU almost from its inception as an independent entity in 2006.

David’s particular qualities emerged in part from his experience as an early school leaver and then subsequently as a mature student. He had empathy for those whom the education systems fail. He understood what it takes and what it means to come to learning late, and differently. So initially he blended his expertise in the arts with learning in alternative and different contexts – community arts, adult education and then seminally, becoming the first Director of Learning at the newly established Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts, sponsored by Paul McCartney.

On the basis of his own experience he designed and developed the seminal program called Musical Futures, which was supported over a number of years by the Paul Hamyln Foundation. Musical Futures, entirely through his vision, established a mode of learning music that was truly inclusive; that didn’t require the usual formal approaches that put off so many kids, but which released the joy of music-making in groups as a gateway to other pathways. That David achieved lasting support for the work in an organisation better known for its support of opera, and led by Lord Claus Moser a formidable classical musician, is in itself a tribute to his powers of persuasion and the quality of his ideas. Rightly, David’s work was recognised nationally by the award of an OBE in 2008. His work was visionary and ahead of its time.

Musical Futures spawned many other programs: Language Futures extended the idea of inclusivity and community assets into the space of language learning. With IU, Dave worked on the major Learning Frontiers program. This was an Australia-wide effort to address the root causes of learner disengagement in secondary schooling. It is undoubtedly the case that there are thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of children in schools whose learning lives are seriously richer and more meaningful because of the profound influence he had upon their teachers and schools leaders; giving them back their agency and with new tools to exercise it.

Dave published 3 important books – characteristically ignoring the conventional publishing routes and using all the newly available tools to bring his ideas to public attention. Open, and The Power of Us, set out new visions as to how learning could be democratised, inclusive, socially useful, engaging and liberating. He drew on some of the classical sources but the research underpinning these books was all fresh and set out with flair. He had a world-wide vision – nourished by his own love of travel. So he was happy to work and research pretty much anywhere: Australia, New Zealand, the US, India, China, Kathmandu, South Africa, Brazil, all across Europe. In 2017, he edited the collection Education Forward which brought together contributions from many education innovators and activists, including from IU, arguing for a new paradigm for learning and a departure from the
systems that have failed so many young people.

Dave continued his ground-breaking work until days before his death, working on a program for the Roma Education Foundation, in association with IU and University College Dublin, on new approaches to learning for the under-served Roma people of central Europe. His contribution was inspirational and invaluable.

Dave will be deeply mourned by many colleagues and friends across the world. His funeral will be on Thursday May 30th at 2pm and the link to join remotely (or to watch a recording) is https://www.funeralstreaming.co.uk/viewing-room/43788/