A tribute to Joe Whittaker

Rest in power dearest Joe, ALLFIE team

Joe Whittaker in action at ALLFIE's AGM, which he Chaired. Classic Joe, talking and thinking at the same time.

Dear ALLFIE members,

We are sorry to share the devastating news that our beloved Joe Whittaker has passed. This is a huge loss to his family, ALLFIE and the Disabled People’s Movement.

We have lost a friend, trustee and committed activist who never stopped fighting for Inclusive Education and inclusion generally. He affected us all with his amazing presence, supporting and fighting alongside countless individuals and families in their inclusion journey over many years.

Joe’s legacy will carry on at ALLFIE in his determination to achieve equality and equity for all disabled people. We will continue to fight as Joe would have wanted.

Solidarity to our many members who met and spoke with Joe in the fight for inclusive education. Please reach out if you want to chat, our thoughts and love are with you all at this sad time.

Rest in power dearest Joe 🕊️


  • I read the sad news about Joe’s death on your Facebook page. Joe went out of his way to help me, a total stranger, in my battle to keep my disabled daughter in mainstream school. His kindness, humour and strength of character were an inspiration to me. I have often thought of him over the years and am so sad to hear that he has died. He really was one of a kind. I am eternally grateful to him for his support. (Carolyn Leather)

  • We have all lost a giant in justice within all our lives. He transformed more lives than anyone else I know. His presence will be sorely missed. Rest in eternal love our dear Joe (Sandra Barrett)

  • This is very sad. As a young teacher in a secondary modern school In Manchester he was a pupil in my art class. Occasionally, when I met him, he reminded me of the times we shared. He was a great advocate for inclusive education (Mel Ainscow)

  • I’m so sorry to hear this. I know how loved Joe was. He had an enormous impact on me when I attended Partners in Policymaking. My sons education for the last 12 years would not have been so positive without it (Marianne SB)

  • Ah. Rest in power. Joe was truly a one off. He was also one of the funniest people I have ever met. Wonderful human. (Professor Dan Goodley)

  • Rest in power, thoughts and warm wishes for his family and friends (Uzoamaka P. Ojinnaka)Love and care. Rest in power  (Doderonomy)

  • Joe understood me from the begining. Like losing Nelson Mandela I will find life very hard without him – and of course I will be OK ! Rest in peace dear Joe. Your work lives on (Belinda Shaw)

  • What a giant loss for us all and especially for inclusive ed. Oh Dear Dear Joe. Thank you for everything you taught me about activism , most of all that anger is ok and to use it for campaigning energy. If any of us can ever be ten percent as good as you, my dear brother, we’d be truly amazing indeed. (Dennis Queen)

  • So upset reading this. Ross who’s now 25 wouldn’t have been in mainstream school if it hadn’t learned what I did from Joe. He was kind, funny, generous with his knowledge and time. A true hero. Rest easy lovely man. The world is a better place because you were in it. X (Jaynie Mitchell)

  • Awww such sad news I remember how lovely Joe Whittaker was when I was a trustee and he was such a compassionate and friendly and positive person and loved me telling my opinions on whatever topics we talked about in trustee meetings and was always such an asset to the organisation. Condolences to my fellow ex colleagues and friends at ALLFIE and to his family and friends. (Katie Fraser)

  • The saddest news, he embodied the word ‘Ally’ more than anyone I have ever met, he was the fiercest, most steadfast, most willing to learn if there was more he could be doing, fearless and true -and always funny and warm ❤️💔 (Chloe Bowles)

  • He was always such a positive motivational ” ally” to the organisation! (Katie Fraser)

  • I’m so sorry to hear this about such a committed ally and such a fine man. My condolences to his partner. (Janet Mearns)

  • Such sad news. An incredible man. 💔 (Adam Barrettt)

  • I am so so devastated by this sad absolutely not yet expected news. Joe was a wonderful friend and the best and never ever judgemental ally to my daughter and family. I will miss him so much. You will stay in my heart for ever, rest in peace Joe. Condolences to all who knew him at Allfie (Yvonne Brouwers)

  • I saw this on GMCDP’s Facebook page – posting my response here as well. Joe was my tutor at what was then Bolton Institute of Higher Education (now of course University of Bolton). I trained as a teacher in 1994-95. Absolutely fantastic human, supported me so much when I was there, in a age where being a teacher and a disabled person mostly wasn’t a thing. The phrase “changed my life” can get thrown around a lot but he genuinely did in my case. I got to know him via a friend before starting and it was Joe who persuaded me to apply. 29 years later I’m still working as a teacher and have had a successful career. Very sad news and thoughts are with his partner, family and friends at this time. (Richard P Sunderland)

  • Joe was an amazing and inspirational man; he touched the hearts of many and he will be sadly missed. (Debbie Jones)

  • Broke the news to GMCDP exec this afternoon and everyone is gutted. He was our chair too for a number of years. We’ll release a statement this afternoon too. 💔 (Dennis Queen)

  • Sending love 💕 such sad sad news. Joe was an inspiration to us all xx (Clare Roberts)

  • Such sad news (Jenny Carter)

  • I remember being so motivated by Joe when Nadia Clarke was in nursery and we were “fighting” to get her into mainstream primary education 27 years ago. Joe told us stories of inclusion and gave us hope. We knew then we were doing the right thing by moving 100 miles. Joe believed in rights, justice and humanity and he will be greatly missed. (Katie Clarke)

  • Very sad. Joe will be missed a great deal. A great man. (Rick Burgess)

  • So sorry what a loss, Joe was a champion for inclusion (Ange Taggart)

  • Brilliant man the world is a little duller (Zara T)

  • So sorry to hear this news. He was a great speaker on Partners courses. He was also a great support in the struggle for Eleanor accessing mainstream secondary school. Finally he inspired me to do a Masters degree! Will be greatly missed. But glad his work goes on. (Liz Barraclough)

  • Very sad to hear this – Joe was an inspiring tutor who really made a difference to me when I was just starting my teaching career. (Helen Walmsley-Smith)