Old Ewellian Email Bulletin Content
It's been another year of us all having to live with Covid, making the most of what we have and relishing every opportunity available to us to meet up with friends, family and loved ones. Those of us lucky enough to have escaped for a few days holiday this year will I am sure have treasured those days like never before.
Old Ewellians are a positive and stoic bunch and the current School values of social responsibility and lifelong resilience will resound for all of us within Ewell Castle School. As 2021 draws to a close, we look back and remember those members of our community (former pupils and former staff) who have passed away this year including former Principal Ron Fewtrell and former Physics Master and OE Association Committee member Malcolm Sagar. We pay tribute to them and thank them for what they brought to the life of the School.
Whilst disappointed for the OE events that had to be cancelled, we are also grateful for those that were able to take place such as the cricket afternoon and the golf day and at the time of writing, we are planning a new OE football 5-aside tournament in May (email firstname.lastname@example.org asap to ensure we have enough OEs interested in taking part) and a summer reunion in July 2022, which we hope will be attended by former pupils as well as former pupils.
So, with the final countdown to Christmas just days away, on behalf of everyone at the School, myself and Lindsey in the alumni office, we would like to wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.
Here's to a better 2022 for us all.
1st XV Rugby Team Win Trophy
Congratulations to our 1st XV Rugby Team who on 15-12-21 won the School's first rugby trophy in 20 years after they beat Saint Cecilia's Church of England School in the final match of the Calm Cup Tournament. It was a very close match and a brilliant win for our Ewell Castle team. The score was 19-19 with Jamie P sealing the victory with a sudden death conversion. The Calm Cup Tournament was established by Wetherby School in London and is one of the premier local rugby tournament for this age group. The schools in the tournament were; St Cecilia's Church of England School, St Benedict's School, Fulham Boys School, Mill Hill School, Wetherby School and Lattymer Upper School.
Ewell Castle School History and Politics teacher Leah Wilkinson recounts her incredible journey to Olympic success.
'A slinky, the famous toy, has the ability to recoil, to spring back, to be stretched and then re-form. My hockey career has very much been like the slinky. I love all things sport! Growing up I took part in hockey, football, judo, gymnastics, cricket, you name it, I played it at some point! My parents played hockey so every weekend I would be dragged down to the local hockey pitch to watch. At 5 years old I was allowed to join in the ‘Mini Hocs’ session on a Sunday morning and this is where my love of hockey began. The speed, tactics and risk all drew me to the sport. By the time I was 15 I was balancing playing football for Derby County Ladies with playing hockey for Belper, Derbyshire and the Midlands, it was an impossible balance and at 16 I had to give up football to focus on hockey. It was certainly a tough decision but one which paid off, the extra time and focus I had by concentrating on one sport really allowed me to improve at a quicker rate. This hard work was rewarded in 2003 when I represented Wales in the U18 and U21 teams and in 2004, aged 17, I played my first senior match for Wales. It was an unbelievable feeling to play my first match for my country, there was great pride in wearing the Three Feathers on my chest and singing the anthem for the first time. That pride never leaves you and the older you get the more you learn to appreciate those special moments even more. It is so important to never take things for granted. Playing international sport at a young age certainly had its challenges, now I can look back with pride but at the time I felt like I was making so many sacrifices; missed parties, special occasions, time spent in the gym rather than with friends. Though at the time I was not aware of it, I do think these early challenges and difficult decisions lay the foundations for building my resilience.
Whilst the few years of my hockey career had armed me with a certain level of drive and resilience, I was missing another vital skill, one that for me, is crucial in both sport but more importantly, in life. At 18, I started university, attending Loughborough University, the sporting Mecca of the UK. I loved being a hockey player; I had now played for Wales a number of times at this point and was well known throughout Loughborough’s hockey circles. I was a big fish in a small pond, and I enjoyed it, I liked people knowing who I was, and I liked feeling very comfortable and confident in my abilities. However, this is a very dangerous mind set to have in sport, and no doubt, in any professional environment, because with this over confidence came complacency. By the time I left Loughborough, yes, I was a big fish, but in the same pond. I had taken my foot of the gas, I didn’t go down to the pitch when I could, I certainly didn’t run enough or lift weights enough, I relied on my ability and what I had, not what I could have gained. At this point, I watched as some of my peers overtook me or moved to bigger ponds. I told myself that Loughborough was a good enough standard, that I was challenged where I was, but the truth was, I was complacent and plateauing and this was highlighted over the next couple of years.
This links me back to that other invaluable life skill I hinted about a moment ago, one that works hand in hand with resilience, being comfortable with being uncomfortable. I needed to get out of my comfort zone, out of that pond; instead, I chose to feel comfortable. If I had pushed myself more and used what I had around me, then who knows what I could have achieved? Yes, it takes bravery and practice to feel uncomfortable but we adapt quickly and if we fail, then our resilience is at least tested, surely it is better to take the plunge than live with regret and those ‘if onlys’.
This lesson was a hard one for me and really hit home in 2012 when I watched many of my old teammates take part in the Olympic Games, all from the comfort of my sofa. Whilst my Welsh career was going well; having now played in my first Commonwealth Games and represented Wales over 50 times, I felt I had wasted an opportunity, I was full of regret and anger for what could have been if I had worked harder. Don’t get me wrong, I worked hard, continued to make certain sacrifices, but none of this was truly enough to move me on to the next level and I knew it. I deserved to be sat just where I was, watching my old teammates and friends play at a home Olympics, I didn’t deserve that Great Britain vest.
Watching those Olympic Games and feeling the buzz the whole nation shared for the home games was one of those sliding door moments for me. Was I going to keep going on the same hockey path or was I going to take a slightly different path, one that would be harder and less comfortable. It was time that I truly pushed myself, if I wanted to play for Great Britain then I needed to give 100%, I needed to feel comfortable being uncomfortable. I needed to have no regrets.
The irony was that in that moment, when I had finally decided to give 100% to my training, I had less time and fewer facilities around me then I had had in the previous decade! I was now a full-time teacher in Bournemouth as well as a housemistress in the boarding house there too. I am proud looking back at this period, I kept to my inner promise and started to train more, getting up early, training before and after work. I also moved clubs to Reading Hockey Club, the best team in the country at the time. Though the travel was tough between Bournemouth and Reading, a 3 hour round trip, I knew it was the right place to be, playing with some of the best players in the world. If I kept working hard, I hoped my opportunity would come, but also, importantly, I silenced some of those past regrets.
I have always been lucky in my hockey career with injuries, yes, I have numerous scars on my face from not moving my head out of the way quick enough, but I have very rarely had an injury that has kept me out of training or matches. In 2014, I got the opportunity to trial for Great Britain, I had such mixed feelings when I heard, happiness, nerves, self-doubt. The Saturday before my trial, whilst playing for Reading, I went over on my ankle and twisted it badly. I could not believe it; I had trained so hard, waited what felt like a lifetime for this chance and an ankle injury stopped me going to my trial. I was full of so many emotions, frustration, anger, self-pity; it was a challenge to believe in the processes that had got me the trial in the first place and to believe that if I kept going, I would hopefully get another shot. I was fortunate enough that only a few months later I was given the opportunity to trial again. The Saturday before my trial I was playing a game away in Canterbury, we were winning narrowly with only a few minutes to go, as their player pulled her stick back to strike at goal I jabbed the ball away, her stick missed the ball but did not miss my wrist. I knew it the moment it happened; I had broken my wrist. I was injured right before my trial again, was this a joke? I had to call the Great Britain coach at the hospital and explain that I could not come to my, now second trial, because I had broken my wrist. I was gut wrenching, why me? I think that resilience has different levels and having to bounce back from the same emotional distress I had felt only a few months month was tough. It took a lot of strength to keep getting up in the mornings to go for a run, or to turn down social events, so that I could try to fulfil a dream that I did not know was even possible anymore and one I had been so close to only a few months before.
I had to believe that the coaches at Great Britain liked something about my game and therefore if I kept going on the same path, I would hopefully get the same opportunity again. I had to wait until 2015 to get another opportunity, I knew that I would have to trial very well, the Olympics was just over a year away and the team trained in four-year cycles, I would be coming in to the squad very late on in this cycle.
I love Indoor hockey, it is so fast, so many goals are scored and even better, it’s played indoor, it’s much warmer indoors and I hate the cold! Indoor hockey is very different, you can’t lift the ball or hit the ball, you play with both hands on the floor and because of this you wear big cricket style gloves. If anyone has seen or played in cricket gloves, they are huge and offer lots of protection. In the last minute, of the last game that indoor season, a ball hit me at the wrong angle and broke my thumb. I have played hockey with broken toes and fingers before but not a broken thumb, the thumb is so important for your grip and hand speed. The indoor season is played between December and January: my trial for Great Britain had been arranged for the start of February. As hard as I tried, the amount of milk I drunk; my thumb was still nowhere near better when I attended my trial. But I was not going to let this stop me, I had missed two trials already and it was so close to Rio, this would be my last shot to try to get into the squad. I walked onto the pitch and told myself I would be okay, I had to take this chance. I started to hit a ball and after about 2 minutes I burst into tears, I couldn’t. Those who know me know I play through most things, often playing with stitches and half healed cuts on my face. But I could not grip my stick, I could not play my game, or in fact, any game. So, I had to take my shin pads off, gum shield out and drive home. I was devastated, that was it, my chance of going to Rio was over, just over a year later, that squad won the Olympic gold medal as I sat on my sofa and watched again.
After each Olympic Games players leave, spaces open and trials held. I am going to tell you all nice and early that yes, I got another trial and no, I wasn’t injured for it! The trials in 2014 and 2015 were just for me, this often happens, if a coach likes a player, they will bring them in to train with the group full time for a few weeks and then decide if they want to give them a spot in the squad full time. This trial was very different, there were over 20 athletes trialling. I knew I was facing an uphill battle; the coach had told me even before Rio that my age was not an advantage and that I didn’t fit the age profile of a player they typically offered a full-time contract too. So, during my trial I was very self-conscious of this, I would be 33 at the Tokyo Games. I found it difficult to believe in my abilities and myself, I was trialling with 18/ 19-year-olds and was the oldest person by 3 years. After 3 weeks of trials, I received an email to say that I was not going to be offered a place in the squad. My emotions were fuzzy, I was not sure how I really felt. I do know that my previous disappointments had given me the foundations to cope with this disappointment far better than on previous occasions and I tried to put things into perspective. But that was that, my dream of playing for Great Britain was over. After a few weeks of moping around, I worked hard to change my mind set. I looked at what I had and what I had achieved in hockey. I had competed in two Commonwealth Games; I had played over a hundred times for Wales, only a handful of athletes had ever done that before. I had met some amazing people, travelled the world, and played in front of thousands of people, how lucky was I! There was something very cathartic in changing my thinking, I was able to play with more freedom again, not trying to impress the Great Britain coaches or worry about always doing the right thing. Over the next two years I played in another Commonwealth Games, became the most-capped Welsh athlete of all time and got to see more of the world, playing the sport I loved. Yes, there were times I thought about Great Britain, and it did hurt, I had put it all out there and failed but at least I had no regrets, and in the long run, that helped me to bounce back from the disappointment and reflect on what I had achieved and could still achieve.
In all different forums and environments, decisions are made based on either subjective perspectives or objective, hard facts. Unlike sports like athletics, swimming or cycling that are based on times, on raw data, hockey is based more on the opinion of the coaches. Such is life, subjective views sometimes benefit us, sometimes they do not, all you can do is try your best. There was a change of coaching team within the Great Britain women’s squad in late 2018, which changed everything for me. On the 1st October 2019, at the age of 32, I gained my first cap for Great Britain, against India, at Bisham Abbey, our full time training venue. Whilst my first cap was not played at some grand stadium, in front of thousands of people, it was the perfect location. I got to see the pride on my families faces as I stepped out on the pitch. That first cap I will never forget, it was not just for me, but also for my family and for everyone who had helped me along the way. 27 years after having first held a stick, 15 years after first playing for Wales and 6 years after my first Great Britain trial I had done it, achieved what I always wanted. Leah Wilkinson, 169 Welsh caps and 1 Great Britain cap. That November, I was able to go on to represent Great Britain in the Olympic Qualifiers, as we secured a position at the Tokyo games. In January 2020, I took a sabbatical from Ewell Castle and started the first official day in my new job; as full-time hockey player.
My Great Britain career of course couldn’t have run smoothly! Shortly after our team trip to Australia and New Zealand in January 2020, Covid-19 rampaged through the world. We had trips to Spain, Malaysia and South Africa all cancelled, one of which was cancelled the evening before our flight. I can’t remember how many times plans were changed and changed again. It was such a difficult time, the Olympics had not yet been postponed so we had to train every day like Tokyo 2020 was going ahead, even though restrictions were becoming tighter and tighter. The hardest part of this period was the worry and fear that the Olympics might be cancelled. When the Olympics was finally postponed in March, I was honestly relieved, relieved that it was not cancelled and also grateful that the team now had another year to prepare after a turbulent few months. Following the announcement and also due to lockdowns and the growing horror of Covid, we were given a few months off and came back together in July. Our return to training was highly regulated and monitored to ensure Covid rules were followed. We trained in bubbles of only 3 or 4 athletes for the first few weeks, were tested regularly and only allowed to drive from home to the pitch, then straight back home. It took around six weeks until we were able to train as a whole squad again, only seeing some of our team as we passed them in the car park before that! When the Olympics had been postponed in March, I don’t think anyone thought that Covid would still in around going into 2021 and had had such the terrible impact it did on so many lives.
The turn of the year saw little improvement regarding being able to play other countries or travel like we normally would before an Olympics. We saw trip after trip cancelled again and training was still highly controlled from a Covid perspective. All this was difficult, but nothing was as bad as the fear that the Olympics might still be cancelled, it wasn’t until I was on the plane that I believed that it might just happen! The stories in the press did not help, with daily talk of the Olympics being cancelled and images of protests throughout Japan fed that fear. In the last couple of months before Tokyo, still hoping that it was going ahead, we prepared as best we could. We were fortunate to be able to play the USA and Germany in some games and even without supporters, these matches felt so special, we hadn’t played an international opponent for over 16 months. We also prepared for the Japanese heat during this time. Due to Covid reasons we couldn’t use the heat chamber, so the sports science staff came up with a plan B. We were put into individual plastic greenhouses, heated by a heater whilst the steam was generated by a wallpaper remover turned upside down, in the middle of the greenhouse was an exercise bike! We exercised for around 90 minutes at temperatures around 40-47 degrees and humidity around 75-90. It was hard! But even now, when people ask how we managed playing in Japan in 44-degree heat, that is why, our acclimatisation training was the best in the world going into the Olympic Games.
My Olympic experience was one I will never forget. I have been to 3 Commonwealth Games which have all been incredible, there is nothing better than multi-sport games. The Olympics is similar but just on a much larger scale. The Japanese people were so kind and friendly and though there had been talk in the press of protests, we only saw the public lining the streets to support and to wave. The facilities were second to none, there were 2 hockey stadiums both of which seated around 10,000 fans. The food hall was over two floors, seating up to around 3000 athletes at a time, serving buffet style food from around the world. All of this was of course tainted by Covid restrictions, no fans in the stadiums, we couldn’t leave the village, we had to wear masks at all times apart from eating, sleeping and playing and there were plastic dividers between all chairs in the food hall. But the Olympic experience was still incredible, and we will forever be the athletes who completed in the Tokyo 2020 (2021) Olympic Games. As a team we put in some gutsy performances but most of all, we found our consistency and being able to win Team GB the Olympic Bronze medal was so special. I take great pride in being able to show my medal to people, for people to hold it, I hope that it will inspire the future and more people will work to achieve their dream, whatever it may be. Never give up on that dream, even when you think it’s gone!
When I was a child, playing with my slinky I would have never thought that the very concept of this simple toy would be so influential in my life, and I certainly did not think I would be writing about one! The ability to bounce back is something that does not come easily to many people and building resilience is difficult because it comes hand in hand with disappointment and emotional distress. You may be reading this thinking, ‘yes, I am resilient’ or ‘no, I am not resilient’. The truth is that yes, some of us are more resilient than others, but we have all been knocked down, defeated, and despondent at some point in our lives; however, we have kept going and here we are today, stronger and more experienced. My story is not about one major event in my life that has led to me becoming a more resilient person; rather it is about lots of little events throughout my life that I have had to bounce back from. Do not get me wrong, sometimes I stumble along the way and still have plenty of negative thoughts, but over time, I have developed the power to bounce back stronger and quicker than before due to my experiences.
There are a couple of further messages which you could perhaps also take away from my story, firstly, ‘be comfortable being uncomfortable’. This is a skill, and if you can develop this, it will help you in so many ways. You will put yourself in situations that you may not have put yourself in before, it will mean you have less regrets and it will certainly build your resilience. Self-learned resilience, as the name implies, is the resilience that you build up in yourself through concerted effort. It is the result of being aware of the opportunities for self-development and the courage to take advantage of them, be courageous. My second message is simple, remember that it is ‘your reaction to adversity, not the adversity itself that determines how your life will develop’. By Leah Wilkinson
OE Golf Day 29th April 2022
Book your place on our 2022 OE Golf Day, which will be held on Friday 29th April 2022 at Kingswood Golf and Country Club in Surrey. Email Colin Griffith at email@example.com to confirm your attendance and inform him of your golf handicap, beginners welcome. If you don't play golf but would like to attend the lunch and/or supper you are more than welcome. Further details including costs will be made available in the new year.
It is with sadness that we report on the news that former Headmaster and later Principal of Ewell Castle School, Ronald (Ron) Fewtrell died in November 2021 after a short illness. Our thoughts and condolences to his family at this time. To read the tribute that Jim Cattermole has written, please visit the Tributes and Obituaries page of the School website.
The following account is taken from Dr C Parson's 'A History of Ewell Castle School'.
Ronald ('Ron') Fewtrell vividly remembers his first impressions of Ewell Castle. Coming from a large, purpose built school, he was surprised, but fortunately not put off, by the Castle's relatively poor and cramped facilities. What struck him most on his first visit, however, was the positive and cheerful attitudes of the staff he met - 'there was a warm feeling' - and it was this impression, together with the sight of the grounds in May, that persuaded him to accept the post of Head.
Ron was born in Aylesbury and educated at the Royal Grammar School in High Wycombe where he was was Head Boy and Captain of both the rugby and cricket 1st teams. In 1964, he went up to Leeds University to read Economics and History and there he continued to play both rugby and cricket, representing the university in the former. After graduating, Ron simultaneously completed Diplomas in both Education and Physical Education. In 1968, he joined the staff of Bablake School in Coventry where he soon received promotion to Head of Economics, becoming an examiner in the subject at GCE A Level. When Bablake merged with King Henry VIII to form Coventry School in 1975, Ron also became Master of the Sixth Form. Throughout his time at Bablake/Coventry, he was Master in charge of cricket and he also coached rugby at both county and school level. In 1982, Ron married Diana, a member of the French Department at Bablake. Shortly after their arrival at Ewell, their first daughter, Rachel, was born.
The School that Ron took over in January 1983 was in a much healthier state than it had been when his predecessor arrived in 1968 and there was nothing in need of urgent attention. However, Ron soon formed the opinion that the two ends of the School - the Lodge and the sixth form - were too small to continue as they were and would need to be built up.
The Junior School, it may be remembered, had been established in 1964 and consisted of three classes covering the 8 to 10 years age range. Of these, two were in the Lodge and the third in a 'temporary' hut in the playground. In 1983-1984, there were altogether 48 pupils at the Lodge. The house itself is in fact fairly large, with fifteen rooms from medium to large- sized. In 1983, some of these rooms were occupied by resident masters but many were empty, having until 1980 provided accommodation for the domestic staff employed when the School had boarders.
Although the Lodge was by this time badly in need of renovation, there was clearly the potential for expansion. In 1984, Ron proposed making the Junior School co-educational, admitting 5 and 6 year old children and creating a pre-school Nursery Department. The post of Head of the Junior School was created and a person appointed. A separate prospectus was issued for the new Nursery Department:
As the formative years are the most important of a young child's life, our aim is to provide a stimulating environment, so that pupils develop lively enquiring minds to help them understand the world in which they live.
The new classrooms and facilities were provided within the year and the enlarged Junior School opened in September 1985. The venture was an immediate success and in the 1986/1987 session, the Lodge housed the equivalent of 103 full time pupils. By September 1990, this figure had grown to 171. The annual reports in the Ewellian give a picture of a community as vigorous and flourishing as the one in Church Street. Activities include theatre visits, field trips, camping, computer and chess clubs, horse riding, voluntary service and visits abroad. However, the concept of nursery education has changed in the nineties. Whereas parents once wanted their children to have the opportunity to play and to express themselves, nowadays they expect a more academic education and an early grounding in the 3Rs. Another change has been that as more mothers take jobs, attendance at the nursery has become full time rather than one or two mornings a week.
Ron also decided to expand the other end of the School, the Sixth Form. In 1982/1983, the combined total of the two forms was only 33. Although the pass rate was as we have seen quite good (77%), only ten subjects were available for study and the sixth form curriculum did not include either biology or any foreign language. When an unsuccessful application was made in Autumn 1984 for membership of The Society of Headmasters of Independent Schools (known as SHMIS), the report of the visitors focussed on the size of the Sixth Form and the narrowness of the curriculum.
Developing the Sixth Form was to prove a longer and harder task than the Junior School, given that many pupils leave school altogether at 16 years or go on to study elsewhere. The first issue Ron addressed was that of the cost to parents. It was felt that the level of the fees in the Sixth Form acted as a deterrent and from September 1984, the fees were frozen at the fifth form level and bursaries introduced both to retain the most able fifth formers and to attract the better pupils from other schools. To make the Sixth Form more attractive to potential pupils, a Common Room was created and, with the help of PTA funds, decorated and furnished.
In September 1985, a Head of Sixth Form was created, with the responsibility for co-ordinating the above initiatives, which were already beginning to bear fruit. In that year, the Castle started to receive girls from the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Epsom. By September 1986, the numbers rose to 64, nearly double the 1983 figure. Thereafter, it fell back but rose again to 63 in 1993.
As the numbers grew, so did the curriculum. In 1989/1990, a total of 17 A Level and 4 AS Level subjects was on offer. In that year, the overall pass rate was 86%, with 100% successes in Art, English, Maths (both Pure and Pure and Applied) and Spanish.
The increase in the size of the Sixth Form and the very good examination results enabled Ron to make a successful application for membership of Society of Headmasters of Independent Schools (SHMIS) in 1987. In 1986, the School had already been elected a member of the Governing Bodies Association (GBA). SHMIS has a smaller membership than the Headmasters' Conference (HMC) and is active in organising meetings of Heads in similar schools which provide an invaluable forum for the exchange of experiences and ideas. The regular inspections SHMIS carries out of member schools ensures that standards are maintained. Membership of SHMIS conveys a message of quality to parents but is also invaluable in terms of staff recruitment.
Once measures to develop both the Junior School and the Sixth Form had been set in train, Ron turned his attention to the facilities at the Senior School and, in particular, those for the sciences. Reg Saunders had appointed an effective team of science teachers who consistently achieved good results. Since 1984, this team had been co-ordinated by a new Head of Science but staff and pupils continued to work in poor conditions; the small chemistry laboratory dated back to the beginning of the School and both Biology and Physics were housed in temporary huts. In March 1985, the Board of Governors approved a two phase development plan which would eventually provide the School with five large laboratories. Phase One, which created the two laboratories in what was formerly a garage space, was completed in late 1986.
The committee which had considered the improvements necessary to the science laboratories had also discussed the building of a Sports Hall at the School. In late 1985, a new Sports Hall Committee was created to look at all aspects of the project. Their deliberations on the siting of the Hall, its facilities, its size and cost and the various negotiations with the local authority lasted nearly two years but planning permission was eventually granted in October 1987. An appeal was launched in October 1988, the School's second, the first having financed the building of the extra storey of classrooms in 1982. This raised about ú165,00 towards the total cost of ú500,000. Building started in the winter of 1989/1990 and the Hall was completed in the following Summer. All the fixtures an equipment were paid for by the PTA (at a cost of ú20,000). It was formally opened by Sebastion Coe in February 1991. Writing in the Ewellian, Ron Fewtrell said:
The lack of any adequate indoor Physical Education facility had been a problem throughout the School's history....This magnificent building is better than any of us closely involved with the scheme anticipated
The Hall is a very large building, containing not only a 30m by 18m playing surface but storage, changing facilities and a viewing gallery and has its own car park. Ron voiced the fear of many that it would be too dominant a feature in the Castle grounds but it blended well into its surroundings and, within a few months, looked as though it had been there many years.
The building of the Sports Hall and provision of the many resources it contained had been a project particularly close to Ron' heart. An active sportsman and coach himself, he had been disappointed with the poor games facilities when he arrived in 1983 and had made them one of his priorities, along with developing the Lodge and the Sixth Form.
For many, the Sports Hall was the major School event of the 1980s but, inside the classrooms themselves, a development took place which had as big an impact on School life as the Hall. The School acquired its first BBC computer at the School in 1981. In 1985, a computer room was established to enable computer studies to be taught at Ordinary (later GCSE) and Advanced Level. This, however, was merely the beginning. As Stuart Bland wrote in the Ewellian, with the introduction of the National Curriculum, 'plans were evolved to bring information technology into all teaching subjects':
The policy is to equip all teaching departments with local networks of Apple Macintosh computers, so that pupils will be able to produce high quality output using professional software and computers with ease
Another development which enriched the curriculum at the Castle was the arrival in 1988 of Fitznell's School of Music. Fitznell's was a long established local school providing music tuition after school hours and on Saturday morning. Early in 1988, it found itself facing a sudden accommodation crisis and approached the Castle for assistance. Fitznell's needs complemented those of the School well and enabled the Castle greatly to extend the range music tuition in a way that was very convenient for pupils. The arrangement by which uses the School's facilities has continued to work very well.
School pass rates at O Level remained consistent at 50+%. However, this figure disguised some exceptional performances. In 1985, Paul Westaway and George Davey-Turner both gained 7 Grade A passes. a feet equalled by Milan Radia in the following year. The introduction of GCSE in 1988 saw the A-C pass rate begin to creep up steadily and in 1993 it was up to 74%. In 1990, nine boys achieved the equivalent of passes in eight subjects; in 1991, it was ten boys and, in 1992, twenty. From 1992, the national press began to publish league tables of schools based on examination results. In a survey published in the Independent in September 1993, Ewell castle was placed 460 in a list of 617 schools.
The pass rate at A Level was always higher though it fluctuated more. In 1991, it was its highest ever at 86%. As with Ordinary Level, however, this figure contains some outstanding performances. In 1985, Simon Stew gained 5 and Karl Newman 6 passes at one sitting. Even more extraordinary was the case of Yoshimitsu Arai. Unable to speak or write English on his arrival in Britain in 1986, four years later he passed 6 A level subjects at two sittings, 5 with A grades. In the Financial Times Guide to Independent Secondary Schools based on A Level results, Ewell appeared 320 in a list of 500 - a creditable achievement for a relatively small school.
However, Ron Fewtrell and fellow Heads are quick to point out the limitations of such lists as guides. The tables are based on information supplied by the schools themselves and so schools that do not respond are automatically excluded. The main criticism, however, is that pass rates on their own tell parents very little about a school. Schools such as Ewell Castle are effective for pupils of average (and below average) ability whose achievement may not be reflected in impressive grades. In assessing such schools, parents want answers to such questions as 'What do pupils gain while they are at the School?' and 'Is potential fully developed ?' The answers to such questions will convey more about what a school achieves with its pupils, what Professor Nuttall calls the 'added value'. To discover what Ewell Castle 'adds', it is not just exam results that need to be looked at but all the other activities that go on in the School as well.
The Castle greatly extended its range of extracurricular activities during the 1980s. The 1986 Ewellian contains reports of music, theatre, chess, bridge, photography, drama and various holidays abroad. In the following year, there are accounts of voluntary service, a science club and a train enthusiasts association and fencing has been added to the long list of sports already pursued at the School. In 1989, the Ewellian includes reports of an air rifle club and skiing holidays and so on. These years saw the Castle providing its pupils with an increasing wealth of opportunity.
The numbers at the School increased dramatically during these years. In the year of Ron's arrival, there were 377 on roll. This figure continued to grow as each year passed and in 1986/1987 took a leap to 478, climbing to a peak of 522 in 1988/1989.
As a consequence, of course, the number of teaching staff also increased substantially from 25 full time in 1983 to 35 full time part time in 1990/1991. Several of the new staff have played a major part in School life. One of Ron's earliest appointments was Norbert Cohen to teach French. Accurately described as 'ebullient' by one colleague, Norbert soon found himself organising trips to France and instituting exchange programmes. However, it was his interest in drama which made his presence felt in the School at large. In 1985, Norbert and Peter Back were involved in Nonsuch High School's production of The Mikado and, in the following year, he was formally appointed Head of French and Drama. He is also a keen amateur photographer.
1984 saw the appointments of Ted Gledhill and Valerie Goode.
Ted became the first Head of Science. Writing in the Ewellian at the end of his first year, Ted felt 'a great deal had been achieved' and was looking forward to the completion of Phase One of the Science development plan:
1986 will see the development of a new Science Laboratory and refurbishment of the existing Chemistry facilities....An interesting and promising future seems ahead.
Like Norbert, Ted also had talent in the performing arts. In 1986, he played Koko in the production of The Mikado and in 1989 his version of 'Wouldn't it be Loverly' in the Wassail 'brought a smile to everyone's faces'. In 1987, Ted had founded the Air Rifle Shooting Club which proved a very popular addition to the range of extracurricular activities on offer.
Valerie Goode was appointed Head of the Junior School. A former pupil of Bourne Hall, Valerie had previously taught at Cheam High School and at Priory School, Banstead. It was she who oversaw the opening of the Nusery Department in 1985 and the huge increase in Junior School numbers during the late 1980s. One of Valerie's hobbies is skiing - she skis 5 to 6 weeks each season - and ski trips have become a feature of life at the Lodge. In 1989, she was elected to membership of the Independent Association of Preparatory Schools (IAPS).
Kim Peto was appointed Head of English in 1985. Kim came to the Castle from Epsom College. Very much an all-rounder, he edited the Ewellian and coached cricket and soccer. In 1993, Kim was promoted to the newly created post of Third Master, with responsibility for the School's marketing strategy. He becomes the fourth member of the School's Senior Management Team
In 1992, Andrew Tibble was Appointed Deputy Head. Andrew has a degree in mathematics from Hull and a Certificate of Education from St Lukes, Exeter. After starting his career at Tonbridge School, he was appointed Head of Mathematics at Forest School in East London. Here he coached a variety of sports and was elected President of the Common Room. In addition to deputising for Ron Fewtrell, he has oversight of Heads of Year, Housemasters, Games Staff and the Site Manager. In the first year of his appointment, Andrew produced a Staff Handbook, setting out procedures on everything from dealing with teacher absences to the use of the School minibuses.
Terry Solari was the School's maintenance man for several years. He arrived in 1982. An ex-soldier, he had a gift for being able to carry out quick repairs and patch things up so that the School could keep going. He was extremely popular with both staff and pupils and, when he died suddenly in 1989, there was widespread shock and sadness. Peter Knock gave voice to this in the Ewellian:
I find myself remembering all the many, many occasions when I enjoyed his kind-heartedness, his helpfulness, his humour, his loyalty and his warm interest in everyone and everything. To imagine Ewell Castle without Terry is very difficult....I am sure that we are, all of us, the better for knowing Terry Solari and the sadder for his passing.
With so much going on in the School during these years, it is difficult select particular pupils for mention and yet some stand out, not least because they were entering areas which were new for the Castle - Alister Rates' appearance in the West End production of Bugsy Malone (1983), Michael Cowland winning the Under 16 Surrey Springboard Diving Championship (1983), Daniel Parker in the shot-put (1989), Tim Buzwell fencing (1990) and Richard Shaikh, Dominic Hill (1988) and James Hilston (All England U14 400 metres champion in 1993) in athletics. Perhaps the most outstanding achievement was that of Matthew Kidd in becoming Under 15 100 and 200 metre breast stroke champion in 1993. He has been selected for a training squad for the 2000 Olympics. With team sports, it sometimes seems invidious to mention individuals but certain names tended to crop up in despatches - Sam Frost, David Towers and Richard Baum in rugby (mid 1980s); Andrew Hewitson (1987) and Darren Dempsey (1989) in cricket; Neil Fewings in soccer (1989); Mark Sheldon in badminton (1990); and, when Ewell Castle joined the squash premier league of Surrey schools, Ron Harley, Ross Gardner and the Redman brothers (late 1980s). In 1992, Paul Schunter, Vincent Petrozzi and Michael Heath won the Surrey Schools Golf Championship.
Ron Fewtrell was himself a successful all round sportsman and remains physically active. Perhaps this why, although prematurely grey, he looks remarkably fit and young for his age. It certainly explains why he pinpointed at a very early stage in his tenure a need to improve sports at Ewell - the range of activities and fixtures, they way they were taught and the facilities. Without his commitment, it is unlikely that we would have the Sports Hall.
Under Ron's leadership, the Castle has continued to grow. To achieve not just greater numbers but better quality he has identified key tasks within the School and developed a staff structure. This involves clearly defined job descriptions and a series of specialist committees. With Andrew Tibble, Ron has introduced a scheme for reviewing the performance of staff.There is a School Development Plan which is kept under review by each of the committees. This covers, among other things, the curriculum, buildings, health and safety, reporting and assessment, administration and resources.
Another of Ron's innovations has been to establish marketing as a key activity for the School. There is a Governors' Marketing Committee and, with the creation of the post of Third Master, a Senior Member of staff with a marketing brief. In the process of developing priorities for improving the School, he has identified what he perceives to be the distinctive characteristics of the Castle in the market in which it operates. He is acutely aware of the nature of the competition and the need for the Castle to broadcast its strengths. Even though entry to the Senior school is by test, the intake continues to be fairly comprehensive in terms of its ability range; the School is not, nor is ever likely to be, an academic 'hothouse'. However, it does remarkably well for its pupils in terms of 'added value' and Ron knows this is the message the School must get across to parents.
Given the above developments, it is not surprising that some staff refer to the School as now being run 'like a business'. Of course, as an independent school, Ewell Castle has always been a business and its managers have always had to cope with market forces and the disciplines of budgets. Perhaps the difference for today's independent schools is that, in the current climate, all their staff have to be aware of these constraints. Another factor which explains the 'like a business' comment is the unprecedented amount of paperwork and documentation necessitated by the myriad rules, regulations and laws that affect schools today. Inevitably, some teachers, particularly the older ones, look back nostalgically to the days when they were under less pressure.
Ron is a man of his times and this means that he has had to become more like a manager than a traditional head. That he is both an efficient and effective manager is demonstrated by the fact that, in the current climate, the Castle is both alive and relatively well.
My first term in my second year studying at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance has already been a completely different experience to the whole of my first year, and I’m only half way through!
Singing in front of people is something that I have missed sincerely, and it’s been amazing getting back into it again. I have already heard so many different and wonderful voices and pieces of music. This term I have been learning music from composers such as George Butterworth, Ralph Vaughn Williams, Vincenzo Bellini and Franz Schubert. Singing in different languages will always be a complex task for me, but I’m really enjoying singing in German at the moment, especially in Schubert’s Aufenthalt from Schwanengesang (Swan Song). The German language is so interesting with its many colours and sounds and is perfectly displayed in this piece as the character is sorrowfully describing his resting place, and the song cycle as whole.
I wish to carry on exploring German lieder for the rest of this year, and onwards, as well as carrying on my previous interests in Art Song and Opera. I hope to be well equipped with a versatile repertoire and wide knowledge of these styles so that I’m ready for whatever the musical world might throw at me post studies, as I’m still not sure what I want to do with my instrument!
By Zac Conibear
Visit to the School by OE Frank Li
It's always nice to meet OEs and show them the latests developments and buildings at the School, especially if they haven't been back for a while. So we were delighted to hear from OE Frank Li (ECS 1972-1976) who moved back to the UK from Hong Kong a little while ago and who wanted to pop back for his first visit in quite some time. During these 'Covid' times, we can only offer visits out of School hours, but do contact us if you would like to visit. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
ECS Senior Prefects
We'd like to introduce you to a new feature for our OE bulletins and introduce you to the current Senior Prefect team, especially as they will become OEs once they leave Ewell Castle next summer. Headed up by Head Girl Lily and Head Boy Samraj, they continue a long tradition of giving our Upper Sixth students leadership opportunities that will stand them in good stead in life and will help develop their confidence. We hope you will have the opportunitiy to meet them at our Summer Reunion next year.
We are excited to announce a summer reunion at The Castle during the afternoon of Saturday 2nd July 2022. All OEs (former pupils and former staff) are invited and there will be musical entertainment and light refreshments as well as a few games of croquet and table tennis and a treasure hunt around the School grounds with prizes. Some of our current Upper Sixth Prefects will be in attendance to provide tours of the School.
This will be our first reunion at The School for a few years and we hope many of you will be pop in and pay us a visit.
School Carol Service Video
During these uncertain times, many of us are unable to visit the places of worship and/or attend traditional Carol Services that during pre-Covid times we might have taken for granted. We are therefore bery pleased to be able to share this year's Senior School Carol Service wtih you all and very much hope that you will enjoy it. To watch and listen to the service which is uploaded to the School YouTube channel, simply click HERE.
We are delighted to give you a sneak peak of our new Old Ewellians Alumni interactive networking and community website that we are launching in February next year foc for all our alumni. The existing OE pages on the School website will continue, however, this exciting new networking, events, information and community website will facilitate engagment and interaction between OEs and with the School, in a way not previoulsy possible.
As an OE you will be able to join (foc) by creating a simple online profile on the site and this will then allow you to join a number of virtual 'clubs' that are relevant and of interest to you e.g. sports clubs, regional clubs, professional clubs or university/college clubs.
As an alumnus of Ewell Castle, we hope this will facilitate your professional networking, provide careers, jobs and metoring advice and opportunities, the possibility of seeing who has signed up to attend a forthcoming OE event or simply look for former ECS friends (as long as they too sign up to the site). You will also be able to upload content and news stories that you think other OEs may be interested in reading about.