My husband, David Gribble, who has died aged 87, was for many years a language teacher at Dartington Hall, Devon, a progressive boarding school, where he was a strong advocate of student-centred learning.

He wrote several books on his philosophy of teaching, which was that “for most children progressive methods of education work better than conventional ones”. His published works included Real Education: Varieties of Freedom (1998), Lifelines (2004) and Children Don’t Start Wars (2010).

Sadly for David, after almost 30 years of working at Dartington, the school was closed in 1987. In response he, two other teachers and 12 pupils went on to set up a new progressive school in nearby Ashburton. Run by a charitable company and called Sands school, it gave children responsibility and freedom through a weekly meeting where students and staff had an equal vote. David worked there as a maths, drama and language teacher until his retirement in 1992.

Born in London to Majorie (nee Lyall) and her husband, Philip Gribble, a war correspondent for the News Chronicle, David went to Eton and studied modern languages at Cambridge, where he edited Granta and wrote material for the Footlights. He began teaching at Dartington Hall in 1959 and from the beginning found it to be a place where he could be himself, eventually moving up to be teacher-in-charge of the junior and middle schools there.

In 1961 he married Jenny Davies and they had two children, Emma and Nathan. They decided to adopt a third child, Sam, but before the adoption could be completed, she died of an undiagnosed medical condition in 1966.

The two of us met at Dartington, where I was also a teacher, and we married in 1967. Together we completed Sam’s adoption and went on to have a son, Toby.

David was a warm man with an infectious laugh. His recreation time was mostly spent at the piano, and he had a love for jazz and revue songs. He also liked to create quirky crosswords, which were sometimes used by the Times in its Listener puzzle section.

He is survived by me, Emma, Nathan, Sam and Toby, nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

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