Biography of the life and work of Charles Sharpe. By Craig Fees

Craig Fees writes – The following biography by Charles Sharpe was written for the 2013 Child Care History Network  (CCHN) ‘Radical then, radical now’ conference held at the site of Homer Lane’s ‘Little Commonwealth’:

‘”Charles Sharpe, Former CCHN Board member, editor of the online Good Enough Caring Journal, a qualified psychodynamic counsellor and psychotherapist with over 25 years experience of therapeutic work with adults and young people, having trained and worked as a teacher in both day and residential schools and been a manager in residential child care settings in the public, voluntary and private sectors. Independent consultant, trainer and lecturer.”

But we also asked him for a fuller description himself, which perhaps could be used as the basis for the brief biography. It accompanies his paper at the Homer Lane event, “Freedom cannot be given. It is taken by children and demands the privilege of conscious wrong-doing.”

It reads:

“Charles Sharpe trained as a teacher in at Trent Park College in Middlesex in mid-1960s. During his career he taught in prep schools, public schools and in residential schools for children and young people who were in the public care. It was while he was involved in the latter at Sparrows Herne Observation and Assessment Centre in Hertfordshire – where he was influenced by the thought and kindness of Martin Wigg – that he came to feel that there should be no delineation between care and education.

In the early 80s he was seconded to the course in Residential Care and Education at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne led by another fruitful influence on his feelings and thinking, Haydn Davies Jones. After this Charles worked in residential care in a variety of roles and since the mid-1990s he has been a consultant to agencies responsible for residential child care resources in the public, voluntary and private sectors. He has taught about child development and about therapeutic approaches to residential child care, to students in work-based, FE, and HE settings. During the 1990s Charles was at one time the only male FEFC inspector for child care and child development in England.

During the 1990s at the University of Sheffield he also began the training that led towards his becoming a psychodynamic psychotherapist. He completed the clinical training for this at the Westminster Pastoral Foundation.

Each week, Charles runs his psychotherapy practice in Totnes from Monday to Wednesday and carries out his child care consultancy on Thursday and Friday. At other times he writes and is one of the editors of the goodenoughcaringJournal an online publication which he founded in 2006.

Charles came to know of Homer Lane during his teacher training when his psychology lecturer, David Lane (no relation to the CCHN Chair) did not seem much interested in more formal academic educational psychology – touching only briefly on the likes of Jean Piaget – but was much keener for his students to consider Freud’s psychodynamic psychology and work of the educators like Homer Lane and A.S. Neill who were influenced by him.”

He wove personal details throughout his papers and talks, and I am certain a much deeper picture could be obtained in going through them. He gives a bit more detail alongside a review of “Therapeutic Communities for Children and Young People” for Free Associations:

Charles Sharpe trained and worked as teacher in both day and residential schools. He has been a manager in residential child care settings in the public, voluntary and private sectors. For the last ten years he has been a child care consultant to a variety of organisations. This has involved the provision external supervision to child care managers, staff training, project development, and policy and procedure development. Until recently he was for a number of years a tutor on the Caldecott College/University of Exeter Graduate Course in Child Development and the Care of Children and Young People and before that a tutor on the Caldecott College/University of Greenwich Graduate Course in Therapeutic Child Care. He currently teaches his own course in residential child care based on psychodynamic theory and practice.

In the mid-1980s he was a student on the Advance Diploma/B.Phil course in Residential Child Care and Education at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. At the turn of the millennium he was a student on the Psychoanalytic Studies MA at the University of Sheffield. His main research interests have been the educational experience of children in the public care, and the training of residential child care staff. He is currently training at the Westminster Pastoral Foundation with the view to becoming a psychoanalytic psychotherapist.

He also spent a great deal of time with John Cross over the last year’s of John’s life, recording and in the end putting together that book on John’s life and work. I’m not sure if that’s the last thing Charles wrote – I can’t imagine it was, although perhaps the last substantial completed work. But I wonder if he had been working on his own memoirs? I wouldn’t be surprised.

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