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PEDAL Hub: Resource Library

Dear Colleagues and Partners,

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Dr David Whitebread, our esteemed colleague and partner on the mission to improving children’s learning and development. His sincere efforts in emphasizing the qualities of childhood, strengthening the understanding of the value of play, and the openness, curiosity and warmth he brought to collaborators across the globe will hold a lasting, positive impact on the organisations and communities with which he engaged.

David was widely recognised as an influential academic in children’s early years. He started his career in education as a primary school teacher and was a member of the University of Cambridge for over 30 years. His work inspired programmes and research internationally, advancing what we know of young children’s self-regulation, metacognition and play. He was a generous teacher and mentor for many PhD students and colleagues, and contributed to teachers’ professional development through training and collaborative research.

David was actively involved in social impact and outreach with the LEGO Foundation, establishing a long-lasting collaboration to provide opportunities for learning through play to children all over the world, including in Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Chile, China, India, Poland, Uganda, the USA, and Tanzania.

In 2015, David founded the research centre for Play in Education, Development and Learning (PEDAL) at the University of Cambridge, with support from the LEGO Foundation. He continued as the centre’s acting director until his retirement. The PEDAL centre is committed to developing new generations of researchers dedicated to understanding the role of play in child development and education. 

Most recently, David worked with BRAC in Bangladesh. He was extremely excited about the impact that the Play Labs (a model for integrating learning through play into the lives of young children) would have on early childhood practice around the world. Throughout his work, David was joyful, curious and kind. He enjoyed travelling and meeting staff and children of the programmes to which he contributed in many countries.

David worked continually to improve educational policy. He campaigned on a range of issues, always placing children at the heart of education, and advocated for the importance of play-based education. He frequently spoke to the media and governments about improving the quality of young children’s lives. 

His passing is a huge loss to our community – in education, research and social impact. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with his family, friends, former students, mentees, and colleagues.

A digital condolences book has been set up here.