Conrad Graham (1929-2014)
Conrad Graham who died on 7th August after a long illness, was a key figure in the early history of this Association. He had a long career in the profession in London, first in Ealing and then as Senior Educational Psychologist in what was at that time the Borough of Willesden. He steered the educational psychology service there through the combination of Willesden with Wembley to form the London Borough of Brent where he was Chief Educational Psychologist for 17 years. He helped to shape Brent’s response to rapid changes in the school population and to complex challenges from the vicissitudes of the 11+ examination. His contributions to the latter were informed by a longstanding interest in the psychometric underpinning of the test regime and its ill understood complexities.
Conrad described himself to friends and colleagues as an “inveterate joiner”, and a good number of the many societies and organisations he joined were eager to elect him to honorary posts where his organisational skills made things happen. At one point in the early 60’s he held five concurrent secretaryships, and that may not have been the peak of his activity. Friends remember his energy and pleasure in the service of philatelic societies, Rotary International and local community organisations. The most far-reaching of his professional initiatives was as originator and joint founder of the Association of Educational Psychologists. Conrad was its first Secretary and later a successful President. He was also the Soulbury Representative for many years. He played an important role in ensuring that its services to members extended beyond those of a trades union to the provision of focused professional support and consultation.
In 1976 he left Brent and joined a number of other educational psychologists in the small team of Inspectors of Special Education in the Inner London Education Authority. He had responsibility for special education matters in all schools in a large division covering two boroughs. He also had specialist responsibility for work across Inner London with pupils who had emotional and behavioural difficulties. Colleagues had always turned to Conrad for advice and for practical support. Now more than ever his calm approach to knotty problems, his clear-sighted analysis of any situation and his firm, confident judgment were in great demand. He was close to the schools and the teachers and supportive of them but also able to look at their needs from outside dispassionately. He retired in 1988 after 40 years’ service in Education but continued to keep in touch with a wide network of old colleagues even when he became seriously ill.
One of his own favourite anecdotes from his days as a psychologist illustrates some of those qualities of perspicacity and determination that characterised Conrad’s whole career. He was asked to interview an intelligent, fifteen year old boy who had an obsessive interest in poisons. There was no direct evidence, but on the basis of the interview Conrad became convinced that he was administering poisons to others in small quantities. His immediate superior in the local authority hierarchy was loath to take action. So Conrad ensured police involvement through his own local network, leading to the boy’s conviction. Sadly after release from Broadmoor some years later Graham Young killed three workmates with poison and was sent to prison for life. The episode illustrates some of the qualities that professional colleagues valued highly in Conrad. He was able to see past the surface of things, was always willing to face difficult facts and was ready to do whatever was needed to achieve the objectives he thought were required. He is survived by his wife Kay, their two children and four grandchildren, including his daughter Carolyn who practises as an EP in London and enjoyed professional discussions with her out of date but never out of touch Dad.
Many thanks to Professor Tony Cline for preparing this obituary on behalf of the AEP and sincere condolences are sent to Conrad’s family