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Bill Broderick obituary

Imogen Bastable
·3 min read

My father, Bill Broderick, who has died aged 80 of Covid-19, was an educationist ahead of his time in the field of computing. His vision and enthusiasm led to the first computer being installed in a British secondary school, the Royal Liberty school in Romford, Essex, where he was a maths teacher, in 1965.

In a broadcast by the BBC programme Tomorrow’s World from the school, Bill said: “Computers are as radical and important a keystone to our standard of living and industrial wellbeing as was the steam engine.”

Born in Farnborough, Kent, Bill was the only son of Ralph Broderick, an engineer, and Ida (nee Massey). He was educated at Lord Wandsworth college in Long Sutton, Hampshire, then went to Hull University to study mathematics. Graduating in 1961, he stayed at the university to earn a teaching qualification, then was appointed to the Royal Liberty school in 1962.

Having caught the computing bug at university, he set up a programming course for the sixth form. His proposal to install a computer in the school led to a fundraising campaign, and, backed by business, the Financial Times and a local authority grant, £16,500 was raised (about £337,000 now). As a result, an Elliott 903 was installed, along with equipment including calculating machines and paper tape punch. Former pupils recall Bill describing the computer as being “a high-speed electronic moron”.

Bill’s enthusiasm caught his students’ imaginations, and computer clubs were always oversubscribed. In 1973 Bill progressed to being the first local education authority adviser for computer education, for the London Borough of Havering, and was manager of Havering’s computer education centre, the first of its kind in England. He was instrumental in leading many pupils to a career in computing, giving them a head start in those early days. He also promoted computer-assisted learning in literacy skills, mathematics and biology.

In 1979, through Bill, Havering was chosen to trial the careers guidance JIIG-CAL programme devised by the University of Edinburgh, after which the software was expanded countrywide.

His enthusiasm to ensure that computer education continued to evolve led him to work in the EU for the microelectronics education programme in an advisory and developmental role (1980-86). He promoted initiatives worldwide through the British Council, and set up joint programmes across Europe and Canada.

Bill then set up his own business, the Literacy Development Company, in 1992, selling scientific equipment and resources to schools in conjunction with the US company Pasco. He was also a non-executive director of a property company, Warners, until his retirement in 2010.

Bill’s joie de vivre and culinary skills will long be cherished by all who knew him. He was married three times, to Irene Gover, Janet Smith and Linda Cook. The first two marriages ended in divorce. Linda survives him, as do Tristan and I, his two children from his marriage to Janet, and five grandchildren: Jack, Scarlett, Oscar, Lily and Jude.