Memories of Ewell Castle School
FORMER TEACHER’ S VIEW OF SCIENCE AT EWELL CASTLE SCHOOL 1972 - 2005
I arrived to teach at the School in the summer of 1972 having previously taught for 2 years in a rural comprehensive at Bishop’s Castle in Shropshire near Shrewsbury after leaving Exeter University after my degree and teacher training qualification. Initially I was appointed to teach Physics and some Maths to replace a retiring member of staff but another member of staff gave in his notice to move to another school so I ended up teaching Physics and Chemistry.
The School was part boarding at that time – with only one classroom in the main house – as all the other rooms were taken up with the boarders’ dormitories, bathrooms sickroom and also rooms for live-in members of staff, including a matron for the boarders’ needs, and the Headmaster.
The number of pupils in the School was much smaller so there were only two of us in the Science department. My colleague taught Junior Science in years 1 and 2 (or years 7 and 8 in modern parlance) and Biology from year 3 up to O level (i.e. years 9 to 11). I taught all the Physics and Chemistry from year 3 to O level.
You will notice there is no mention of A levels as the Sciences were not really up to standard, so A levels were only offered in the Arts subjects and Maths. One of my predecessors had already made progress with the Chemistry and also my colleague had improved the Biology but the Physics left much to be desired. In fact, my predecessor had written in the School magazine that O level Physics was too difficult to be taken in the 5th form and should only be taken in the lower sixth.
By 1975 the results in all the Sciences were so good that a decision was taken to start A levels in the Sciences. Already in 1974 the staffing in the department increased to three and when we started A level it increased to four teachers and for the first time ever we also were allowed a laboratory assistant – so no more spending time washing our own equipment. Within three years of starting teaching A levels we had our first Oxbridge entry.
The laboratories in those days were a little more primitive. The Chemistry lab was where it is now. The Biology lab was an asbestos built hut attached via a prep room to the Chemistry lab behind the Maths rooms. The Physics lab was a separate wooden hut along the Vicarage Lane side of the grounds, where the Sports Hall now is. Luckily, these old huts were demolished to build the new labs so I did end my days teaching in a bright, new, well equipped lab even though it was very stressful being without a room for a year while these were being built.
With the smaller numbers in the School we only had two forms of a maximum of 24 in each in years 1 and 2, but this increased to two forms of a maximum of 30 in each from the 3rd to 5th years, when extra pupils came in from the local Prep Schools. Gradually the demand for the boarding aspect decreased so in 1981 it was decided to close the boarding house, to go fully day boy and convert the rooms in the main building to classrooms, though some rooms were retained for live-in members of staff. With an increased number of pupils in the School there was inevitably an increased number of staff in all departments including the Science department.
I know girls in the Senior School seems like a relatively new event but in fact in 1985 for a few years we did have a few girls in the sixth form taking different subjects including the Sciences. This was as a result of the Convent of the Sacred Hearts School in Epsom closing its doors, but the influx of girls petered out after about five years. It is nice to see the School has become fully co-ed as this idea had been proposed a few times in the past.
Malcolm Sagar, Science Department 1972 to 2005