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A Tribute to Rene Saran

Rene was an early member of BELMAS and maintained a lifelong interest in education. Her own experience was varied included nursery in Berlin, early schooling in a German ‘Walkemuele’ in Denmark and, as a teenager, attending St Swithin’s School in Winchester and Hillcroft College, Richmond.

Her career included wide range of work, including at the Fabian Society but education was her primary focus.

She had a deep interest in educational policy, particularly in the organisation of secondary education and teachers’ salary policies which led to several research publications. She was teacher and researcher at the City of London Polytechnic until she retired in 1986. A Primary School Governor in Camden, she was initially a political appointment as a Governor at Hampstead Comprehensive School from the early 1970s, about the same time as she became a member of BELMAS. As Chair of Hampstead Governors she appointed Tamsyn Imison (DBE 1998), also a BELMAS member, as Headteacher in 1983 and retired when Tamsyn did in 2000.

Rene was particularly attracted to the bridge-building in BELMAS between practitioners and academics, because her research was strongly oriented towards the study of actual practice within the framework of policy and theory. Her major role in BELMAS was to chair the Research Committee for 12 years between 1988 and 2000, and that included two research conferences, so she had a key role in helping to promote research in the field over a substantial period of time. She was also on BELMAS Council for a number of years. She was made an Honorary Vice-President in 1999 and awarded the Distinguished Service Award in 2005. She was also active in the European Forum for Educational Administration (EFEA) in the 1990s, particularly in relation to new members from former Communist regimes after the Berlin wall came down: the 1993 conference was held in former East Berlin.

Rene’s other great interest was promoting the work of SFCP (Society for the Furtherance of Critical Philosophy (qv) of which she was Chair and Secretary for many years and more recently became an Honorary member . She offered contributions on the use of Socratic Dialogues in education at BELMAS Conferences for several years and enabled the participation of those interested in attending that organisation’s Conferences and training in Socratic facilitation both in the UK and in Germany.
A fluent German speaker, she was a member of SFCP’s sister organisations PPA and GSP (qv).

Rene had a long and fruitful life. A distinctive personality, she marched to the beat of her own drum and became a friend and mentor to many. Her hospitality at Kings Gardens and her parties will live long in the memory of those who enjoyed them. She published a memoir Rene’s Tree of Life in 2017 at the age of 95.

She died in St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington on 31 May 2023, just two weeks short of her 102nd birthday, after a fall at home where she was cared for wonderfully by Tess. She will be missed by many.

The photograph shows Rene receiving the BELMAS Distinguished Service Award from David Cracknell, a former Honorary President of the Society.

WATCH: BELMAS Celebrates Rene’s 100th Birthday