Tim Rylands was a 'pied piper' of education who we all loved to follow and learn from. Jack Kenny marks his passing

I admired Tim Rylands without reservation; he was a completely remarkable man, a hero.

When I heard of Tim’s death this week, I thought about him in his classroom in Chew Magna, Somerset. I was there because I was working for Becta [the former Government education technology agency] and we were looking for great practitioners of ICT in education for its awards scheme (see also BESA tribute below).

Within a couple of minutes of the lesson starting I knew we had found a remarkable teacher. I wrote in The TES (sponsor of the awards): "Sometimes you encounter a teacher for whom the term 'good practice' is not appropriate. More like 'brilliant practice', 'superb practice', 'ground-breaking practice'. Tim Rylands is such a teacher."

ICT can be dangerous because people can fall in love with it and lose a sense of perspective. Tim did not do that. He insisted always that children should relate to the real world.

He loved ICT because he knew it could make learning more vital, more engaging, more enveloping, that it could give experiences to children who had been deprived in some way. That is what I saw that day, children who were absorbed in the beauty of a game, Myst, as Tim led them through it, getting their thoughts their reflections, leading quite naturally into writing. He was a great teacher who did not really need IT.

With "Mr Walker", his walking stick flute, he could entertain and amuse: the Pied Piper of Chew Magna. He led both teachers and children into a rich future if they had the vision and courage to follow him.

'Renaissance man, inciting children to become composers'

As I got to know him I realised that Tim was a renaissance man. I remember a taxi journey into Bristol where we talked about Shostakovich and whether Madeleine Peyroux was as good as Billie Holiday. His love of music led him to work with Joe Moretti at Bath Spa University. At another visit to Chew Magna I saw Tim and Joe incite children to become composers using the technology.

Tim used his BECTA award to heighten his profile and to spread his message of freedom and liberation from the mediocre — across the UK and then internationally. He received invitations, which he accepted, from across the world and together with his partner Sarah Neild, who was also a gifted Becta award winner, they inspired all who met them.

A few days ago I looked at Tim’s website. I glimpsed the excitement that I felt in Tim’s classroom that first day. Tim was using the Internet to find mainly free software that teachers can use to increase learning for their students. The site is packed with good things and full of Tim’s spirit and philosophy that teachers can use in the way that Tim used ICT.

Thanks Tim.

JJack Kennyack Kenny writes about education and music and was researcher and evaluator for the Becta ICT in Practice Awards  


Tim Rylands died, aged 54, at his Somerset home on Monday October 30, 2017


BESA tribute at House of Lords reception

Chris Ratcliffe, chair of the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA), paid tribute to Tim Rylands at an education reception at the House of Lords on Thursday evening:

"It is with great sadness that we found out that a dear colleague and friend of many members of BESA passed away this week.

"Tim Rylands was a vivacious, energetic educator, who inspired hundreds of thousands of teachers across the world, introducing many to the benefits of edtech, demonstrating how to improve writing skills with games such as Myst, or simply inspiring conference rooms with one of his brilliant keynotes (at which he told me off numerous times for my loud laugh).

"His passion for education was unmatched, his joie de vivre a delight. He was a character that has been in and around the edtech world for many years, and will be very much missed. Thank you Tim."

Tim and Sarah
Goodbye Tim - with his partner Sarah Nield he inspired thousands of teachers worldwide