1972 classroom is reinvented as an art installation

Dave Wilders one of Muriel Pyrah's students, in the classroom.
Dave Wilders one of Muriel Pyrah's students, in the classroom.
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A former pupil of an untrained but inspirational Yorkshire teacher took his place yesterday in a life-size recreation of her 1972 classroom, reinvented as an art installation.

Dave Wilders had attended Airedale School in Castleford, under Muriel Pyrah, whose experimental techniques drew national attention at the time, encouraging what was known as “self-directed learning”.

Her classroom has now been recreated as an interactive exhibit by the Glaswegian artist Ruth Ewan, in the Longside Gallery at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Wakefield.

Mrs Pyrah’s technique, “asking out”, urged children who had been brought up to be seen and not heard, to ask questions and directly engage with each other.

She developed her practices despite having had no formal training. Sir Alec Clegg, who was chief education officer of the West Riding, said her work “was unlike anything I had ever seen and indeed I have never seen its like”.

One of her pupils, the late Alison Drake, went on to become instrumental in cultural developments in Castleford, including the restoration of Queen’s Mill.

Mrs Pyrah died in 2001, aged 95. A collection of art produced for her by Castleford children is at the National Arts Education Archive, and has inspired films and television programmes.

The exhibition at the Wakefield park opens today until November 3.