A Fond Farewell to a Fine School

Farewell Old Friend: The Ewing School, former school of the creator of this blog, 1987 – 1990.

The story of Ewing School begins in 1913 with Irene Goldsack. She became the teacher-in-charge of the Royal School of the Deaf, a residential infant school for the hard of hearing in Manchester. Today, renamed and relocated, it is now part of the Seashell Trust’s network of special schools.

In 1919, she met up with Alexander Ewing and gained the first lectureship in a lectureship for training teachers. That year saw the birth of the University of Manchester’s Department of Audiology. As a result of their far-reaching work, they were based at the University of Manchester till the mid-1960s. During her time, she also married Alexander Ewing, later becoming Lady Irene Ewing.

This led to the foundation of the Ewing Foundation. Set up by Mr and Mrs Malcolm McAlpine in 1952, following their son’s positive response to the Ewings’ programme, it raised greater awareness of hard of hearing children. The Ewings developed behavioural hearing tests for babies and toddlers, based on the belief early intervention would help. They would later set up parent guidance programmes, provision for partially hard of hearing children and integration programmes. The Ewing Foundation still has a base at the University of Manchester to this day.

The advocation of Sir Alexander Ewing’s oral approach to speech therapy and recent developments would materialise properly in 1967 – 68. 1968 saw the opening of The Ewing School, with Ian Petrie its original headteacher. The school opened as a residential facility, well connected with the rest of the Manchester Corporation boundary. Flats would be built on the corner of Central Road and Palatine Road for the warden, or teacher out on duty for the residential pupils. The headteacher would have his or her own house on the right hand side of the school.

The school was constructed using the CLASP building system, commonplace among contemporary Manchester Education Committee buildings of that period. Instead of bare brick as seen with some schools, it was cladded with pebbledash, sporting an asphalt roof. A private house and a bowling green stood on the site prior to 1967. As respite from the academic work, its pupils would be taken to local parks on the bus by the teachers. This as well as enabling them to let off steam was at odds with then contemporary images of residential schools.

Expansion

By 1970, it started accepting day pupils. The school was extended to accommodate this, with classrooms closer to Palatine Road. The intake increased from 12 to almost four times that. By 1988, it had some 55 pupils.

In 1974, Greater Manchester County Council was formed. Its regional importance [to GMC] would see the school accepting pupils from beyond the Manchester City Council boundaries. As well as Tameside, Oldham, Bolton, Stockport et al, it would sometimes take in pupils from Cheshire and Yorkshire where residential provision was required.

The end of 1970s and start of the 1980s would usher in an era of more specialist provision, tailored directly to the child’s needs. Baroness Warnock’s report from 1979 paved the way for The Statement of Special Educational Needs, part of the 1981 Education Act. Each parent who felt that his or her child would need special provision would be assessed by their local authority, who would look at each case individually prior to making a recommendation.

The start of the new decade would see the Ewing School as a fully fledged special school for pupils from 5 to 19 years of age. This was augmented by the formation of a Reception Group, where children aged 3 to 5 would attend. A new headteacher would take over from Mr Petrie: Douglas Williams. His deputy would be Hilary Butterworth.

Developments affecting Ewing School in the 1980s

The start of the decade would also see greater awareness of what would now be termed autism spectrum disorders. In 1981, Dr. Lorna Wing translated Hans Asperger’s papers on autism into English, and created the term ‘Asperger Syndrome’, to differentiate from the higher functioning persons which Hans Asperger observed from Leo Kanner’s findings (which would be termed ‘classic autism’).

Another breakthrough came in 1983 when Isabelle Rapin and Doris Allan discovered what would be called Semantic Pragmatic Syndrome. Known more commonly as a Pragmatic Language Impairment, the person would have difficulty grasping the meaning of, and appropriate context of any given number of words. In 1989, Dorothy Bishop – then at the University of Manchester – developed a paper entitled Autism, Asperger Syndrome and Semantic Pragmatic Disorder: Where Are The Boundaries?, owing to its comorbidity with other autism spectrum disorders.

By the end of the decade, Ewing School would cover a wider scope of pupils with speech and language disorders. Some pupils would have a speech and language disorder alongside others. For example, some would be hard of hearing, others may be on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum with Pervasive Developmental Disorder or Asperger Syndrome.

Ewing School in the 1980s

The small class sizes and high teacher ratio continued as had been the case since formation. In 1988, there was a total of 55 pupils in four groups. The first group, known as the Reception Group, had seven pupils and three teachers. The next group – termed the First Group – had 14 pupils (including myself) and four teachers. Each child would be allocated a teacher in accordance to their ability. Each subgroup would have a colour: brown, blue, red and yellow – in that order up to highest ability. On starting in January 1987, I was in the second highest group within the First Group, before joining the top group within the First Group in February 1987.

By the Middle Group, the teacher to pupil ratio dropped, with three teachers for a class of 15. Then two teachers for a class of 18 in the Upper Group and more specialist teachers for cookery and woodworking. Each academic lesson was complemented by one-to-one speech therapy which took place twice weekly. From Reception Group to First Group, there was some emphasis on play, whereas a more academic element was introduced in the Middle Group. The Upper Group would also veer towards daily living skills.

Further to the classrooms, there was two speech therapy rooms per group and a third room for story telling. The First Group used its two speech therapy rooms for their original purpose and occasional meetings with each subgroup. The third story telling room was used by all members of the First Group, to round off proceedings. Further to that, there was a playground with a sandpit and storage shed for outdoor play in summer months.

The Middle Group used one speech therapy room for its original purpose, with the second room housing one of the Middle Group’s subgroups. The story telling room assumed a similar purpose as the second speech therapy. There was also male and female toilets. Outdoor activities involved gardening, whereby three grass verges became the Middle Group’s gardening plots. A pond was added in 1989.

Facilities for the Upper Group included a workshop and a kitchen with dining area (for Home Economics lessons). The latter would also be shared by the other three groups for cookery and baking. The Upper Group’s classrooms included one room separated by a glass partition and a second room next to the headteacher’s office. The latter was hitherto used as an audiologist laboratory for oral learning and assessment in accordance to the principles of Sir Alexander Ewing. This was split by a glass partition, akin to a recording studio setting.

Some pupils would augment their oral communication with sign language or other equipment. The system Ewing School opted for was the Paget Gorman Signed Speech method, which offered a more kinesthetic method of augmentative communication. Other equipment used would include The Touch Talker. Pupils would specify their needs by means of pressing a button which sounded out whether he or she would like seconds at the dinner table or the Lego set.

There was also great emphasis on social skills. Once weekly, the whole class would be encouraged to gain social skills in the outside world by means of a short day trip. One class would use the school minibus which would be accompanied by two or three members of staff. Sometimes, one or two pupils would make the same journey in a teacher’s car as the minibus only seated 12 children and two adults at the front. If another class used the minibus (i.e. if the Middle Group used it for their week in Whitby), one class would – accompanied by staff – take the bus for their outing.

All pupils would take their dinner at the same time each day, at 1230 hours. Instead of long tables, there would short tables with a teacher sat at the end. Food would be served in bowls and dished out onto plates by the teacher, more consistent with hotels instead of school canteens. There was three playtimes: morning, dinnertime and afternoon. The latter break wasn’t observed by Middle Group and Upper Group pupils. The dinnertime break followed after dinner at 1300 hours for thirty minutes. Assembly always took place on Fridays before dinner.

At odds with most schools, teachers were addressed by their first names. The exceptions to that rule applied to the headteacher and the deputy headteacher.

The Turbulent Nineties

Ewing School entered its third full decade. Whereas the 1970s and 1980s had been kind to Ewing, the tide was starting to turn. The language at the time favoured inclusion and competition; the former being a positive aspect of the school since 1968. The latter came in the form of newly introduced League Tables and the National Curriculum. In Special Educational Needs provision, Local Education Authorities could choose not to observe the National Curriculum, or modify parts of it to better suit SEN provision. From the start of the National Curriculum in 1989, Ewing School chose the latter till the mid 1990s.

The school celebrated its 21st birthday one Saturday in March 1991. A celebratory cake was cut in the dining hall and photographed for posterity in the Manchester Evening News. The future seemed assured.

By 1993, the reverse happened. The Conservatives returned to power with a 21 seat majority the previous year. There was further reform and reductions in local authority budgets. By 1995, it looked as if Ewing School would close for good. It was proposed that the school would merge with Newbrook near Withington Hospital.

In 1996, these plans didn’t come to fruition. Instead, Birches School would move towards Newbrook’s premises. Ewing School would remain open, albeit with some radical changes. By then, some of the most senior staff retired, including headmaster Douglas Williams. Residential provision ceased, as did pupil admissions from outside the Manchester City Council boundary.

The Noughties: Transition to Day School

Overseeing the transition from school with mixed residential accommodation and daytime attendance was new headteacher Pat Derbyshire. With the residential block redundant, first floor and second floor accommodation was converted into classrooms with a new shallow pitch roof added. An extension was added to the former Middle Group and Upper Group classrooms.

To fund these improvements, the warden’s flat and the headteacher’s house were sold in 2001 and demolished. Part of the First Group’s mini playground followed suit. By 2003, low rise flats were built on the site. The sandpit became a flower bed.

Improvements were also made to the playground with sports equipment including basketball hoops. A school uniform was introduced, consistent with mainstream provision. In this guise, the school continued to make good progress, achieving positive OFSTED results and good feedback from satisfied parents. In a 2009 OFSTED report, it was quoted as:

‘…A good school with some outstanding features… [with] a very strong reputation in the community… appreciated both for its work with its own pupils and for its outreach work… [which] provides good value for money’.

It praised the school’s quality of teaching and ability to best prepare Year 11 pupils for the world of work or further education. The same year saw it achieve a Healthy Schools Award and a Sportsmark Award. There was also praise for its lunchtime clubs and environmental visits to local places.

By 2006, the Ewing School outlived the Newbrook School which closed in March that year. Pupils were moved to Birches School. Nearby, Shawgrove school closed, moving in with its neighbours at Cavendish Road School. Contemporary thinking favoured integration, particularly on pluralistic grounds as well as economy.

Closure

After a period of stability with Pat Derbyshire came the news which filled most parents with dread. Radical plans were drawn by Manchester City Council to review special educational needs provision. Among the plans included were the discontinuation of secondary education at Lancasterian School, and the closure of Ewing School. Instead of one specialist facility at West Didsbury, some pupils would be transferred to special needs provision within mainstream schools. Others, particularly those in greatest need would be transferred to a new facility on the site of Cedar Mount High School in Gorton.

News of the closure met with outrage among parents, making both regional news programmes (North West Tonight and Granada Reports) and BBC One’s Inside Out. The latter compared two approaches to special needs provision in Greater Manchester, comparing Manchester City Council’s with Tameside MBC’s approach. A group was set up by parents known as PACE: Parents Against the Closure of Ewing School. A representative from PACE was interviewed on Inside Out along with Councillor Sheila Newman from Manchester City Council.

PACE’s activities included a Facebook group, a website, and a rally against the closure outside Manchester Town Hall. This also attracted the attention of Manchester Withington MP John Leech, plus local celebrities Angela Griffin and Max Beesley Jr. Its closure was the subject of an Early Day Motion by the Liberal Democrat MP. By April, closure was slated for the 31 August 2012, with a 10,000 name petition being sent to Albert Square. After consultation, the plans were rubber stamped by December, ending a physical link with one of the University of Manchester’s most eminent professors.

In January 2010, the Executive agreed to the following proposals:

  • The expansion of Grange School (which would see pupils on the autism spectrum at Ewing School moving there);
  • The future development of Lancasterian School;
  • The development of six mainstream primary school specialist units and three mainstream high school specialist units for pupils with autism spectrum disorders and/or specific language impairments.

Whereas children with an ASD or SLI were suitably placated, this would leave a few grey areas among those with more subtle needs which would have been suitably placed at Ewing School.

Transition towards the Grange

In May 2010, John Leech kept his seat, but the Labour vote throughout the Manchester City Council boundaries was strengthened. At local level, it was envisaged that closure would have been reversed if the Liberal Democrats took over Manchester City Council. Instead the Labour vote strengthened again.

A suitable site was found for their new Centre of Excellence for Autism Spectrum Disorders. The former Cedar Mount High School on Mount Road would accommodate an expanded Grange School. Grange School would relocate from Dickenson Road to the new site. As plans emerged, it was stated that its forerunner would be more ‘autism friendly’ in design. Each group would have their own entrance. It would see further community use outside of school hours. The number of pupils would double from 70 to 150. This would be created by the incorporation of its Wythenshawe satellite centre, Horizon as well as former Ewing School pupils.

Amid the planning and construction, steps were taken to ease the transition of Ewing School pupils towards their next schools. By January 2012, 18 Ewing School pupils moved to the new Horizon centre at Grange School, with three to Grange itself. Five would move to other mainstream schools, 18 would move to one of the nine specialist units within mainstream primary schools. Two would move to another specialist support school. Two families also requested independent provision.

A further 13 pupils remained at the Ewing School till the end of the 2011 – 12 academic year. Therefore, Ewing School saw out its last day with the same number of pupils it began with in 1968. As Year 11 students, they will make one final visit in August to collect their GCSE certificates, though it will be an emotional one. Not only for their academic prowess but also with the friends they’ve lost in the last three years to other schools in the area.

After that bittersweet day of celebration, the school closed its doors for good. Would Ewing School be demolished and replaced by flats? Would the present day buildings assume an alternative community use? Could someone take over the site and turn it into a Free School? If demolition is the case, will the streets honour its previous use if flats are on the site (Sir Alexander Ewing Court anyone)?

Any of the above could have happened. Besides the more specialist provision, the small size made for excellent parent to teacher relationship, and a sense of community more akin to a village school.

Twilight and transition

The Ewing School buildings were in use for a year after its official closure. During the 2013 – 14 academic year they were used by Birches School as an overflow facility. Fifteen pupils were bussed in from the main school on Nell Lane as detailed in a visit I made on the 07 November 2013.

From 2014 to 2015 it was empty again, waiting for that day when the First Group classroom became Petrie Court and Butterworth Mews. In March 2015, the site changed hands, owned by a partnership between the Diocese of Manchester, St. James and Emmanuel Church on Barlow Moor Road. Its other partners include Didsbury CE Primary School, Christ Church West Didsbury and a few local businesses.

In June 2015, demolition work began on most of the former Ewing School buildings. Left untouched was the 1990s extension, added in front of the Middle Group’s classroom. During the summer holidays, the rest of the site was made good. Thereafter, the car park was remodelled and expanded, as was the playground. New buildings were added in front of the former Middle Group extension and in place of the three-storey residential block.

The school’s first pupils came in September 2015. As the West Didsbury CE Primary School it caters for pupils from Reception to Year 3 – equal to in old Ewing School terms, the Reception Group and part of the First Group. It is part of the same trust that covers Didsbury CE Primary School on Elm Grove and St Wilfrids CE Primary School in Northenden. Today, Ewing School’s successor – in bricks and mortar form – has 240 pupils.

What about Ewing School’s successor in its spiritual form rather than in bricks and mortar form? In December 2011, the Grange School opened on the site of the (original) Cedar Mount High School. The following month saw the relocation of Ewing School pupils. Unlike the 55 pupils at Ewing School’s zenith, it has places for 179 pupils aged four to nineteen years of age. There is space for ‘outdoor education’, similar to the weekly trips undertaken by Ewing School pupils, though this only applies to pupils aged 14 – 19.

Whereas West Didsbury CE Primary School got a Good rating from OFSTED in 2018, Grange School received an Inadequate rating. In 2017 it was placed into special measures after getting a Good rating in 2014. The latter school has had mixed reviews but the most critical reviews have come from ex-Ewing School pupils who were moved there. One ex-pupil cited its “insufficient curriculum and poor teaching methods” and said:

“Students that came from Ewing were let down after being denied GCSEs. At the time, I was too young and oblivious to acknowledge how important education was… I am extremely dissatisfied with the inadequate resources provided to those who could have done GCSEs as promised by Ewing School…

“I attended this school until 2014 and I regret not going to mainstream [school] after the closure of Ewing. I could have been in my second year of university by now, but those opportunities were taken away from me while everyone else gets to achieve.”

This is almost a view shared by John Leech, Liberal Democrat councillor for Didsbury who said on his Twitter feed in 2017 that “the loss of Ewing School is felt today.”

Unlike its successors, the Ewing School enabled its pupils to sit GCSE examinations. Many of which went on to further and higher education, form businesses, and have fulfilling lives.

Is the loss of Ewing School still felt today? I would say ‘yes’. Ewing School’s pupil to teacher ratio and smaller building suited some pupils better than present-day facilities. Secondly, the school helped children with more subtle expressions of autism spectrum conditions as well as language disorders. There was also space for pupils who would fall under the Gifted and Talented categories.

Ewing School succeeded in preparing its pupils for independence and beyond. It helped the pupils that would have slipped through the net in a mainstream setting or would have floundered in a less specialist SEND school setting. With some pupils slipping through the net with present-day provision, there is still a place for a 55 pupil school with a 1:3.5 teacher to pupil ratio. At mainstream level, Academy Trusts have almost abandoned SEND provision to their perceived effects on its OFSTED ratings.

Today, private sector special schools offer the same pupil to teacher ratio as Ewing School did in the late 1980s. Places, besides being limited, come with a significant financial cost. With this background, the case for a new Ewing School is greater than ever. One that is publicly funded and in the public sector.

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An Appreciation of the Ewing School

As soon as I was I spent my four days assessment there in April 1986, I would never forget the journey. A trip in the taxi to anywhere further than Kwik Save to Chez Vall with the big shop was either: 1) overtly extravagant (what was up with the 339, 340, 343, 346 or 400?); or 2) meant I was on my way home from my late Grandma’s house in Chadderton. I loved the joys of listening to Piccadilly Radio on the 40 minute journey, and seeing what was to me new territory.

By January 1987, I was excited at the prospect of leaving Dukinfield to be taught at the Ewing School as a day pupil. By April 1987, south Manchester was more or less my second home: the joys of watching buses through the First Group window looking out to Palatine Road was almost ‘home from home’. I loved being able to address teachers by first names, the neat balance between learning and play and the structure.

Beside improving my social skills, I enjoyed the weekly trips out on the minibus (or on some occasions the 41/43/143 to Manchester). It appealed to the transport loving ratbag in me. It also gave me some sense of environmental awareness which would in later years enable me to appreciate the countryside, walking and gain the ability to travel over long distances independently. Today, I inflict on my relatives some of the trips I made with Ewing School over 30 years ago.

When everyone dreaded the return to school after the summer holidays, I always looked forward to going back to Ewing School. By 1992, I was in the opposite camp, having returned to mainstream education. There was a family atmosphere at Ewing which was lacking at my previous school and my last one. We shared with our teachers and therapists what we did over the weekend, which would encourage spontaneous conversation outside of lessons.

As I have said many times before, I would say that most of my social skills were gained at the Ewing School. The rest was outside West Didsbury after leaving school, and certainly not in Dukinfield. The staff cooperated well with myself and parents (well, my mother to be precise), and I would like to thank them.

In 2012, I hoped that the new facilities would do as good a job as they did at the Ewing School. Seven years on, as I have found from contemporary accounts, I was right to be cynical. Ewing School will be missed, not least due to the supportive atmosphere and excellent pedigree it had. Needless to say, they did it their way and it worked.

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References:

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Before I go:

Feel free to add your memories of attending the Ewing School in West Didsbury. Did you enjoy your time there? Are there any corrections or additions which need to be added to this article? Were you a former member of staff? Again, please comment in the usual fashion.

S.V., 19 July 2012.

Substantially updated on the 02 July 2019.

71 thoughts on “Ewing School: a History and an Appreciation

  1. Excellent account Stuart, thanks. I do remember you ‘going off to foreign parts’ every day for your school. It makes me smile to think that anyone else I know would have HATED the journey – but it was the very makings of you – both the journey and the school of course.
    I think that you were so fortunate to have this education. It makes me very sad to see this sacred place going!! Whilst I do think that there is much better awareness of autistic spectrum disorders etc etc these days in mainstream ed -I know for a fact that it varies wildly. And as you say – it is often those kids on the cusp – who will not receive the attention that they might have done, now that Ewing has closed.
    I will share this with fellow travellers….
    C
    (PS- what dyermean yer never learnd no social skills in dukinfield? Heh heh. Only joking. I know a little of what the Duki tranche of your education was like…)

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    1. Hi Tina,

      Most definitely true of the journey and the school itself. Prior to joining the Ewing School in January 1987, I had travelled some distance around the UK by bus and rail, so 45 minutes in a taxi was nothing compared with 4.5 hours from Manchester Victoria to Glasgow Central six and a half months earlier.

      The journey via Denton and Levenshulme was most interesting due to its industrial nature: Denton’s gasholders, the McVitie’s works in Heaton Chapel, and countless buses passed. The soundtrack of which was the taxi driver’s car radio – often tuned to Piccadilly Radio (rude not to in 1987!). In 1987, travelling more than 1.5 miles to a school was more or less unheard of. Today, 15 miles each way to school (thanks to parental choice and a marketisation of education) is far from unusual.

      Though awareness of autism spectrum disorders have increased since 1990 – and most markedly so since I left school in 1995, there are still some grey areas uncovered, owing to the complex nature of ASDs. Ewing School worked well with such people ‘on the cusp’ who may have had another coexisting disorder along with a speech and language based one. Besides ASDs, persons with depression, dyslexia and persons hard of hearing were covered.

      We will miss the likes of the Ewing School, though I feel someone may think ‘some would be suited to the smaller classes’ Ewing School had several years from now, be it private, public or voluntary, an academy or even a free school.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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  2. PS – wondering…how did you listen to the radio on the bus? You mean the bus driver’s radio or did you have a lovely BOX of a Sony Walkman?

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  3. Fascinated to read this as I was more or less born at Ewing, although no memories of it except artificial ones from old photos of students and staff – especially Jennifer the speech therapist. I ended up specialising in SpLD spectrum / disability professionally, no perhaps living in the school had a significant impact. Has the school now closed? Joel

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    1. Hi Joel,

      Unfortunately Ewing School closed in July of this year with its remaining pupils transferred to other schools in the Manchester City Council area. I am happy to find your time at Ewing School had such a great impact on you – enough for you to work in SpLD, no doubt influenced by your father, also headteacher at the time. Would the Jennifer by chance be Jeni Mobbs, who was one of three people involved in the Middle Group during my time?

      Kind regards,

      Stuart.

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      1. Hi Stuart,

        No I think “my” Jennifer was appointed by my dad when Ewing opened & moved on a couple of years later to another post – dad started working in Liverpool University in about 1971/2. He speaks about Ewing regularly, he loved the school & the pupils he worked with – in many respects it was, even though relatively short, the most rewarding part of his career.

        Joel

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      2. Hello again,

        Ewing School has had that much of an impact on me to a point that I never waste an opportunity to talk about the place, in complimentary terms. I feel I have learnt more from there than at mainstream school.

        Bye for now,

        Stuart.

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      3. Do u know where all old photo and vhs??? Will be shame if throw it away!!

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  4. This was an excellent piece of writing. It was fantastic to hear about the history of Ewing School from such an articulate ex pupil. Thank you

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    1. Hi Laura,

      Thank you for your comments, glad to see you enjoyed the article. I remember seeing a Laura starting out at Ewing School in 1989, and she was in Paula’s class in the First Group. If you’re the Laura I was referring to, I was in the Middle Group at the time in Rita’s class.

      Warmly,

      Stuart.

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  5. Funeral Eulogy for Ian R J Petrie, Ewing’s first Head, fro a few weeks ago

    It’s been a running joke between us for years that I’ve known Ian longer than Helen has! I clearly remember his standing in my kitchen in Manchester, in a house awash with small children, on or about his birthday, remarking on the fact that at 40 he really ought to stop dating dolly-birds in their twenties. A few weeks later, along came Helen…….! Their strong partnership and our firm friendship have been a constant in my life and that of my children ever since, helped by the fact that circumstances brought us to Liverpool at around the same time in the early 70s. Although Ted and I later moved to Wales, our contact has remained solid and important to all of us.

    We’ve heard about his professional life and the extension of his professional knowledge and experience into the wide area of his voluntary work. He has kept more than 50 ‘Thank you’ cards from families of children with special needs, whom he had helped through his advocacy to find places best suited to their particular needs; one mother mentions his ‘cheerfulness, courtesy and dedication’, another simply says he was ‘brilliant’. Among the papers he has kept so meticulously filed are also letters of appreciation from colleagues, including a Head who says ’I’ve learnt a great deal from you about Special education and have valued your knowledge and wisdom, so thank you.’ ‘Wise and impartial guidance and practical help, your humour and freedom from self-interest and willingness to listen’ is a tribute from another colleague which we would all immediately recognise as a true description of Ian.. Similarly, a reference to ‘his willingness to seek out those needing most help in education – to seek out possibilities in others rather than concentrate on deficiencies’ comes from one of the myriad letters Helen has received from those in a position to know and evaluate his work. One truly fascinating item among his papers was the reference written by his then Headteacher at Buglawton Hall, when he was – successfully – applying for the headship of the unit in Manchester which later became Ewing residential school for children with language difficulties. It is dated January 1961 – 52 years ago – and speaks powerfully of Ian’s ability to relate to the most difficult children, ‘so that there has always been a tendency to give him more than his fair share of the aggressive and unruly types’. The testimonial abounds with expressions like ‘efficiency’, ‘organisation’ and ‘skilful handling’, but also ‘sympathetic approach’ and ‘great sense of humour’; even at this comparatively early stage he was ‘a great master of craft of teaching difficult and backward children’ (the language of the time). What is moving in retrospect is that Ian often told Helen that his years at Buglawton and Ewing, involved in the 24–hour care of those ‘aggressive and unruly’ children, or of non-communicating children, from getting them up in the mornings through to bath, bedtime story and beyond, were among the happiest of his working life.

    Work – in many ways his work was Ian. It was what he wanted to do, and what he enjoyed and he found it deeply satisfying. But why?..and what else can we say about him? Well, lots, of course. He enjoyed so many aspects of life, of people and relished all human achievement… in music, for example. His eclectic musical tastes are well represented by the music Helen, Joel and Ruth have chosen for today. His CD collection now is outstanding – his choice of ‘Desert Island Discs’ would have been a glorious, brilliant patchwork! – and the Phil was almost a second home; he and Helen had season tickets for years and indeed in earlier days he had held season tickets for the Halle in Manchester and for the CBSO in Birmingham. He – usually with Helen – travelled often to Manchester, North Wales and further afield, for orchestral, choral and chamber concerts and also for another of Ian’s great loves, drama, whether as theatre, opera or ballet. He was delighted, from when they first met, that his daughter-in-law Gemma is a dancer. She says he was always her preferred date for any dance performance, whatever the genre; she says of a ‘crazy, modern installation’, ‘I will never forget Ian’s quiet glee as a woman performance artist, wearing a fur coat and not much else, in a piece about disability and bodies, singled him out, strode over and held a deer antler in front of him and encouraged him to give it a feel. In that moment everything I loved about Ian was there, mischief, irreverence, imagination, vitality and generosity of spirit’.

    He enormously enjoyed travel, but holidays for Ian were best when they gave the opportunity for imbibing the history and culture of wherever he was, through galleries, museums and buildings, people and the local cuisine. I remember accounts of one family holiday near Frejus in the South of France where Ian spent the day– while the others were at the beach and in the sea – keeping out of the sun and reading (of course!) and really only starting to enjoy the holiday aspect of his day when the hour of the aperitif arrived and he could look forward to an evening of new company and local food and wine…..

    …which leads me to another important aspect of what we have loved about Ian, his generous hospitality and his enjoyment of social occasions, his social
    abilities which helped to make – for example – dinner parties ‘chez Petrie’ – such a joy. He loved good wine (a long-term member of the Wine Society) and although, with stoical regret, he had to give it up in latter years, he loved being able to offer it to his guests. (Incidentally, he made a mean Dundee cake every Christmas and had a few other dishes in his repertoire which, predictably, he cooked EXACTLY according to the book usually Delia.) The most memorable aspect of dinners and similar occasions has always been the conversation, helped along by the wine, but fuelled basically by Ian’s genuine interest in everything and everybody – he wanted to know what we thought, what we enjoyed, what was happening to us; he encouraged us to talk and listened appreciatively with genuine enjoyment. If you had an interest he hadn’t until then shared, it became part of his interests; one wonderful example of this is that when his son-in-law Mark came into his life, Ian started reading the sports pages of the Guardian for the first time ever, in order to be able to share the passionate interest in Liverpool F.C. felt by this new member of the family.

    He was interested always in people……and perhaps most of all, in spite of all I’ve just said about the joys of his adult company, in children

    It would be impossible to assess how many children and young people have been helped to a fuller and better life through Ian. His influence at its widest has to have been through the students he taught and supervised through all his years at Liverpool University, whose dealings with the needs of children later in their care are and have been shaped by Ian’s ideas, principles and methods, as they gladly acknowledge. His own more immediate contact with children, in his days in schools, developed and honed those ideas and methods but he had an innate ability to identify with a child’s situation and needs which has always been apparent across all his contacts – professionally but also with the children of his friends, my own very firmly included. The friends of his own children also responded to this quality in him, and have always welcomed him almost as a contemporary. The expressions of huge sadness, grief and loss at the news of his illness and death have not come only from his contemporaries and colleagues but from people of all ages all over the world.

    Helen and Ian have had a 47-year partnership of amazing strength; they have shared many of the same basic values and a multitude of interests, and they spoke the same language professionally; in their family life Helen says he was perhaps the original ‘New Man’. He always as a matter of course took his share of all domestic responsibilities; (I remember him disappearing quietly during meals to get started on the washing up!) and of course was totally involved with Joel and Ruth from the moment they were born. His devotion to them – and, latterly, to his grandchildren, – was absolute and he observed and cared about their development in minute detail. Joel and Ruth remember a childhood of books, books, books; Ian read to them both for hours, until long after they were fluent readers themselves, creating an appreciation for the importance and value of the written word which has always stayed with More recently, Ian has also been closely involved with the grandchildren. Lyra says she will remember Grandpa reading nursery rhymes to her, and Keir, from well before he could talk clearly would make for the bookcase for a rendition of ‘Spot’. – Spot and Grandpa were synonymous! Also, Lyra, when she was still really tiny, would go straight to the music system as soon as she arrived at the house to put on music to ‘dance with Grandpa’. Will, being a not an altogether solemn little boy, says he will remember how Grandpa crossed his legs; Grandpa was also bossed around in the Lego construction industry, by Will who was by far the greater adept . Ian could apparently take on John Humphreys in Mastermind on the specialist subject of C-beebies and such modern children’s classics as Fireman Sam, role-playing wholeheartedly to the delight of the little ones. .
    I saw at first hand Joel and Ruth growing up, through their school days, rejoicing in their many successes – academic (of course!) but also for example, as long term chorister and clay sculptor (Joel), and all-round sportswoman woman and trombone player (Ruth). Through these years and later through University, to eventual adulthood, marriage and fulfilment in their chosen careers – both of which, interestingly, relate to people with disabilities – they have always had – and knew they had – the whole-hearted, intelligent understanding and practical help and support of a loving father and mother. (For a long time Ian was a one man 24-hour taxi service, at least for Ruth and her friends) As adults, Joel and Ruth have both chosen to stay in Liverpool, so from their earliest days their children have been part of everyday life at Woolton Road, and they know that the children and Ian have had a relationship of value and importance on both sides. The family life that has been created for these children and grandchildren exemplifies all the perceptive, caring, practical qualities so many people have recognised in Ian’s work.

    In fact, of course, it’s not possible to separate the professional, scholarly, working Ian from the rest of his life because the same qualities and values imbued all his activity. A clear, uncynical, intelligent appreciation of what human kind could achieve – as evinced by his love of all aspects of aesthetic creativity and his love of lively social interaction – and a profound sense of a duty of service combined to make him do the best he possibly could to help as many children as he could achieve the best of which they were capable.

    Just about a year ago, Ian and Helen came to see Ted and me on their way home from an impromptu break they had taken in Glyn Ceiriog in order to try to assimilate the news of Ian’s diagnosis of oesophagal cancer. Ian’s manner, as he told us, was unforgettable – absolutely matter-of-fact, as he described the various options that faced them and the likely progress of the disease in each case, given his age on the one hand and his otherwise quite good general health on the other. This approach of , ‘This is how it is and we just have to get on with it,’ is familiar to the family (along with ‘I’m doing the best I can!’) and sums up the way he has dealt with this final year. The treatment option they went for allowed him several months of respite from the worst of the symptoms and he enjoyed them to the full. When he became very ill he continued to be accepting of his condition; he was brave – though that’s not a word he would have thought of applying to himself – in the face of discomfort, loss of dignity and autonomy and – until the management of it was able to be sorted out – considerable pain. Not only this – he was perceptive and appreciative of everything that was done for him, by everybody – his consultant, all the people inthe Marie Curie Hospice and in their home-care team and above all, of course, Helen, Joel and Ruth. He was grateful for the care he had from all of them, and courteous and concerned for their welfare – to the overnight carers,‘-Were they warm enough? Did they want the heating turned up? To Helen, ‘Was she sure she wasn’t getting too tired? He was insisting that she must be sure to take a taxi back from town a week before he died.

    All this care made it possible for him to die – and for some time now he has wanted to die – in the home he loved. He ‘got on with it’… and now we – all of us here and everywhere who have known, respected, admired and loved Ian – have to get on with the job of trying to reconcile the impossibility of accepting that he’s not around anymore with our grief at our knowledge that he isn’t.

    But aren’t we glad – and fortunate – to have known him?

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    1. Hi Joel,

      That is an excellent tribute and appreciation of your late father. On reading your eulogy, I could see how much of a debt Ewing School owes him along with the founder. His love of the outdoors and fine music could well have been felt in Ewing School well in to the 1990s. Whilst reading, I was thinking ‘so that explains the weekly environmental outings and visits from local music groups’. I was reminded of trips to the Peak District, parts of Cheshire and Greater Manchester. It took me back to when local theatre groups would come in (as the Contact Theatre did in 1990 for their ‘Dinner Party’ production).

      I wish I met him in the flesh; you were most fortunate to have had a most cultured dad. A dad who you said was a ‘new man’ years before the press coined that phrase. A dad whose influence, I would say, was felt in Ewing School long after he left.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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      1. Me again lol… sorry to hear abt ur dad pass away few months ago… ur dad was wonderful and good heart to us xx

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    2. Hi joel… i was pupil in ewing school from 1970 to 1982. We love your dad as he treat us lovely like as family… we were upset that your dad leave ewing school to liverpool unversity (i think!). Ella and i still get touch with your parent also went to visit to house for tea.. u and sister were little. I got some photo somewhere i hope find it. It was good memory with ur dad…also mrs mary kay.

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    3. I was one of the original staff members at Ewing when it opened in 1967. At first there were only 12 children, all living in during the week.
      Apart from Mr Petrie there was a deputy head, Mrs Kaye, and three other teachers, myself and Margaret who were in our early twenties and Miss Minett an older, more experienced teacher.
      There was also a nursery nurse as they were called then, named Marjorie.
      Every month we had a conference with all the staff, Dr McCaffreu the Manchester Chief Health Offic and the Director of Education.
      The teaching staff all lived in and took turns taking care of the children in the evenings after dinner, supervising baths etcetera until the night staff came.
      Being youn Margaret and I wanted to be sure they got to run around, get dirty and act like kids and Mr Petrie was happy to have us take them on walks around th neighborhood and to parks where. Could play among the trees.
      He Okayed Welles so th could march through puddles
      Ike e had done as kids.
      I have often ordered hat happens to these original children who Would be aged between 52 and 56 now. I love working with them and still Rembrandt them all well.
      I left in 1969 when my husband got his electronics degree and have spent most of my life in Califrnia where I got s CS degree and works in tech, not teaching.
      Now I think about it I believe Mrs Petrie as pregnant when.we left, Pehaps with you.
      It was my cousin’s son, now at Manchester Uni asking me ho ell I kne Manchesteer that got me Googling Ewing again only to find it was closed.
      We have be mainstreaming out here for twenty years so I wa not that surprised.
      I was so very young when I worked there. Another era.

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  6. Dear Stuart,
    I really enjoyed reading your article. I remember most of the detailed features where you mentioned about Ewing School, as i was also a former student. In fact I went there the same years as you have been and I remember a boy called Stuart, and your surname sounds familier. I think you may be one of my class friends. I only went to first group for i think about 2 and a half years. I remember the Teachers names. They were ( Margery, Aida, Brenda and Paula) There was another teacher before Paula came, her name was Angela, and Paula come in place of her. I don’t remember which color sub-group I was in, but I think I was in Margery’s group. My best friends were Jenifer, Tanya and Sera. I also remember other class friends names ( Pamela, Amy, Tom, Danial, 2 x Mathews, Philip,Victoria). I wonder what happened to everyone I know in that school. It’s been quit a long time ever since. I really enjoyed my experiences at Ewing school. It wasn’t just like a school, it was also like a second home. we used to have a lot of fun activities. such as tea parties, were we had the choice of choosing from a variety of hot drinks such as ( tea, coffee and hot chocolate) and we had lovey selection of tasty snacks. we also used to have cooking sessions and took what we made home to share with our families. Every Friday was our trip day. I loved going to trips. We went to exiting places. Once we went some where like a very large home with two bed ranks in rooms. it was like a camp and we stayed there for two days , and spent our day playing in it’s garden that had swings, It also had a large dining room. and when it was time for us to leave we brought a special orniment or a peice of toy for spcial memory. this trip was a special memory but i strugled to sleep in the bed as it wasn’t my bed and it was different. We also used to do quit a lot of creative activities such as sewing, making models out of junk. Once i remember i made a really good looking ship with the help of our teachers. I remember that I played games with the teacher called Aida, My Favorite game was Ludo, were we played it until we had enough of it. I liked the small playground, because I liked going in the sand-pit. I also liked rolling down the slope where we could go inside a barrel to roll with it. The story-telling room was also known as the quiet area. we used to sit on the red seated areas where it was shaped like a horse shoe. Everyone could see clearly. we used to talk about what we did in the Week End, then we had to write it down in our books and had to draw a picture. I liked the speaking part of it, but I didn’t quite like the writing part that much. We had our special spelling books to help us and the teachers notes of what we mentioned about. We also used to follow a story book series, with the same characters, but different stories, just like the Biff , Chip and floppy books nowadays. We also used to go swimming. I enjoyed swimming days. We also used to do plays where parents came to watch us. I remember we did the sleeping beauty for our play. I , Tanya and Victoria were fairies, Jenifer was sleeping beauty and I think you ( Stuart) was the prince. Philip was the wicked witch. I even have photos of this play but it’s at my parents home.
    We also had a roll play area in the class room and,plaster-Sean was put out almost every day in stead of play-dough.
    I had really good and positive experiences at Ewing school. The only times I hated was those times when they put me on time out, I ended up on missing a play time then : ( , and i used to be embarrassed because other teachers that were passing by used to see me sitting at the corner,and have said “Ooh have you been naughty”, but i bet this happens to most of us in our first years of primary school as we are still learning. I remember sometimes some children even used to miss out on going to the trip if they misbehaved. When on trips the teachers also used to use rains for those children who did not listen and just kept on running away. This was a bit embarrassing because we were older children and not babies but i guess teachers had to do it for their safety , and thankfully i never had to use it.
    When the time came for me to leave this school to go to a mainstream school I felt really sad. I did not enjoy my new school as much as I enjoyed Ewing school. I missed my teachers and friends, They were really special to me.

    Every thing has changed now. Children with special needs go to mainstream schools, But they don’t have much attention and resources as we did in Ewing school. They only have a set amount of time for 1-1 attention and most of the time they spend time out of class, because they can’t follow the curriculum. It’s like they seem to be left out and they do not get the same attention we had. I believe that all children with special needs deserve a school like Ewing school, because then you feel the same as your friends and you don’t have to spend time out of class. I feel there is more inclusion that way.
    Finally I hope you enjoyed my response. I look forward to hearing from you soon again.
    Best wishes,
    Regards,
    Meryem

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  7. Hi Meryem,

    Yes, I am the very same ‘boy called Stuart’. The Stuart Vallantine who was in the First Group with you. 🙂

    You were there at the time I started in January 1987. Marjorie’s colour sub-group was Blue. Ada’s was Red, Brenda’s Brown, and Angela’s was Yellow. All the colours were based on the ‘1-2-3 and Away’ canon of reading books. I was in Ada’s for a month before moving to the top level sub-group (which was Angela’s, then Paula’s).

    Your best friends: they were Jennifer Lusty, Tanya West and Sarah Hall. Sarah joined in January 1989, where Jennifer and Tanya joined the First Group after being in the Reception Group with Ceri, Sylvia and Paula. Pamela also joined in 1989. Daniel, along with Tanya and Jennifer came from the Reception Group. The two Matthews were Matthew Hough and Matthew Wood (from New Springs and Ladybridge – near Wigan and Bolton). There was also two Philips in the First Group: Hall and Holland. I also remember going to Victoria Allday’s house in Bollington along with the rest of the First Group. Tom Gaylor and Amy Millward were both from Stockport (Heaton Chapel) and fervent followers of Stockport County FC.

    I agree with you about Ewing School being ‘like a second home’. Sometimes it felt more like my first one, minus dog, The Young Doctors or Piccadilly Radio in the background, and it seemed like an extended family. I loved the tea parties, so much so that every chocolate cake I’ve had since 1990 has been benchmarked against the one Marjorie had brought in (and almost every one failed to come close!). As for the cooking sessions, they too took place on Fridays (mornings), before the First Group trips out moved to that day. I considered the weekly trips out as a piece de resistance: when I started, they were on Thursdays, before moving to Fridays on September 1988 whilst we were in the First Group.

    The two-day camping trip lasted from the 31 May to the 02 June 1989, and took place at the Ashley Activity Centre and Campsite. It is still in use today. We slept in rooms with two bunk beds in each one sleeping four (more like a railway sleeper carriage than a dormitory); there was a little gift shop with a payphone; the large dining room was also used for activities. On the Thursday, we went to Chester Zoo.

    The afternoon’s play was a good relief from the lessons: I liked the Lego set, and playing the board games with Ada (Snakes and Ladders was quite a hoot when she was involved). I almost forgot about the barrel but remember the circular sandpit and light blue paddling pool. The Quiet Area was also used for the Phonics lessons (Wednesdays) as well as the stories and singing (always Tuesday afternoons). I do remember the ‘News’ part of Monday mornings: I always found it easier to illustrate my weekend before adding the words. With the spelling books, some pupils had the Breakthrough Sentence Builders (either small or large with gatefold pages), and some had dictionaries. I had one from April 1987 – four months into my period at the Ewing School. I remember the Biff, Chip and Kipper books being read to us by Paula (and it amazes me how the Oxford Reading Tree series of books featuring the characters are still in use today).

    In ‘Sleeping Beauty’ (Christmas 1988), I played two parts: the narrator and the woodcutter. Our 1987 play was the nativity, where I was the narrator. It was in that year’s performance where I sang – solo – ‘Little Donkey’. The ‘role play’ area would sometimes be referred to as the ‘Home Corner’, with the plasticine. On one occasion, it was converted to a cave!

    I too remember ‘time outs’ (though it wasn’t referred to as such), which would have meant missing a trip, playtime, or sitting in the Quiet Area (or either Angela’s or Marjorie’s speech therapy rooms). I would often be in either of the two locations if I misbehaved, though I never had the baby reins on a trip out.

    Like yourself, I too felt the same at my next school: friends, teachers and structure. Though the present mainstream system may suit some pupils, I also believe there’s a need for places like the Ewing School. In the public sector first and foremost, as well as fee paying schools.

    As to whether I enjoyed your response, it came as a lovely surprise. I was playing with my Android Phone on the A1(M) after seeing Stalybridge Celtic’s away game with Harrogate Town. On reading your comments, we were passing Wetherby (I was on a supporters’ coach), and I had the broadest of broad grins. For almost five minutes in West Yorkshire, I wanted to be whisked back to 1987, in the direction of West Didsbury of course!

    All the best, take care,

    Stuart.

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  8. Hello again Stuart.
    Wow, how amazing. How do you remember everything in detail, such as the dates and the names of our friends as well as their surnames. I just remember the first names and a few surnames like Jenifer Lusty and Mathew wood. Your surname was familiar to me after I found your page. Do you know what happened to our teachers?, I would like to see them again, but how?, I remember that they weren’t very young. Only Angela and Paula were young. I remember that Angela left because she was getting engaged and wanted to travel around the world. I remember Paula had two different colored eyes, one blue and the other green. She also had two daughters, I remember them coming to our school once. One of Paula’s daughter’s were called Aimy and I think the other one’s name was Elisabeth. Paula’s husband’s name was Paul, I remember her saying it.
    Do you also know what happened to our friends?
    I too remember going to Victoria’s house. It was a lovely party. We had lots of treats ( cake, jelly and ice cream), we also played games. I remember Victoria had lots of toys and games at her home. As a child I looked at this with amazement. It looked like a toy shop in my eyes. It was a lovely memory. I also remember that on trips we sometimes used to walk through the woods, and once we went to somewhere that had lots of mountains and rocks, I was running out of breath and it was very cold my hands were freezing. We also used to go to theaters.
    Sometimes on May festivals, another school used to come to our school to show how they performed their dances with colorful large ribbons attached to the may poles.
    On summer days the school used to sell frozen orange juice in plastic cups for 50p.
    We used to sing songs in the hall, some of them were ( You are my sunshine, Yellow bird up high in banana trees, i wish to buy the doggy at the window, Nelly the elephant, dough a deer a female deer, some where over the rainbows, Rainbow song , and many more). At the end of the day if we were in the hall singing they also use to sing this song: “Jennifer go and put your coat on,Tanya go and put your coat on,meryem go and put your coat on, go and put your coat on quietly”. then sang til the next set of 3 children again.
    Yes I remember you were the Narrator in the sleeping beauty, you were standing on something and reading from a paper. I remember we have a photograph of you doing so.
    What are you doing now? do you have a family?
    I’m working as a supply teaching assistant / nursery nurse and i have two children, a girl (6 years old ) and a boy (3 years old).
    Thank you for your response. It was lovely to hear from you again after so many years.
    I’m looking forward to hear from you again if you have time.
    Take care
    Meryem.

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  9. Hello again Meryem,

    I forgot about Paula having two different coloured eyes, but I do remember her husband being Paul and her children (they also visited us at the Ashley Camp one night). As for our friends, I have been unable to trace Jennifer, Tanya, Victoria, nor the two Matthews. You may remember a lad from Blackley by the name of Nathan Hampson. He later went on to set his own internet business (small scale job, local companies).

    And I do remember Victoria Allday’s house. It was bigger than any house I had visited (apart from Lyme Hall), and the playroom – was like Toys ‘R’ Us. We went in 1988 and 1989; they were generous, friendly, and the party food her mother made was gorgeous. On one occasion, her grandparents called in.

    The walk with ‘lots of mountains and rocks’ would be Tegg’s Nose Country Park, just outside Macclesfield. I remember one visit in October 1987 – and it was freezing! Needless to say, I was shattered when I got back home, and didn’t feel too well the following day. As for the woodland walks, Alderley Edge (July 1987 and October 1988, I think) and Delamere Forest (March 1989) spring to mind.

    With the theatre visits, the Contact Theatre was a semi-regular port of call for their inclusive theatrical productions. In the First Group, we used to see our pantomimes at the Wythenshawe Forum (Cinderella, 1987 and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1988). That would be a 43/44 bus ride away (cue Marjorie clutching onto a long stream of tickets – even more so when GM Buses replaced their manual machines with electronic ones). Between 1988 and 1989, our Manchester trips were made more exciting by the arrival of London buses on the 143 route.

    As for the May Day festivals, the other school who would visit us was the Chorlton-cum-Hardy Church of England Primary School. It was also Marjorie’s school before she moved to the Ewing School in the late-1970s/early 1980s. We would also visit them on some occasions.

    I also remember the singalong sessions, where we would also be joined by the Reception Group in the hall. I forgot about the Yellow Bird song, but remember ‘I Can Sing a Rainbow’, ‘Doe, A Deer’ (from The Sound of Music), ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ (Judy Garland/Eva Cassidy) and ‘Nellie the Elephant’. We also did ‘Dancing and Prancing’ before dinner time – again with the Reception Group, and Sylvia on piano. Jeni Mobbs played piano during the sing alongs and even adapted some contemporary songs (‘Too Many Broken Hearts’ by Jason Donovan was adapted into a Harvest Time song).

    Besides maintaining this blog, I work as Web Developer, enjoy photography in digital and analogue forms, and still do the detailed drawings, which you may remember from the Glory Days of Ewing School. I am also a performance poet, and have had a couple of written works published (one account on ‘Asperger Syndrome and Employment’ and another on one of my local bus routes).

    Also good to see you doing well for yourself. It would also be nice to hear from more ex-Ewing School pupils. Perhaps if enough of us met up, we could re-enact one of the trips out!

    Take care,

    Stuart.

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    1. Hi Rubylou123,

      It was a great school, a School of Legends in my book. I doubt as if I ever brought the school to life singlehandedly. Much of that was down to the sterling work of its staff as well as pupils, and cooperation between teachers and parents. Which explains why my transition to High School (also equally so with my peer’s account detailed above) wasn’t quite as smooth.

      I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve fancied trying to return to my seven year-old self in West Didsbury. This was true of today – also 27 years to the first day [22 April 1986, a Tuesday] of my four-day assessment prior to joining properly in January 1987!

      Warmly,

      Stuart.

      P.S. This occasion has spurred me towards writing more Ewing School-centric poetry! Finished one piece on the 343 to Oldham, then started one on a Hyde-bound journey tonight.

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  10. Hi Stuart,
    Thank you for your response.
    I don’t remember going to Victoria’s house twice. I just remember going there. Her house was quite big and I think it was like a country side house. I also don’t remember going to another school, but I do remember going somewhere like a big hall of a school with lots of children singing songs, while we sat on the hall flour watching them sing. Maybe could be this. I too remember dancing with the reception group, because Tanya used to be in reception before she joined our group, and we used to choose to dance with each other at that time. There we’re hardly any girls apart from me and another girl called Louise i think when I first started Ewing school at the first group and so felt a bit lonely. When Tanya and Jenifer came along our group it felt much better
    I went to Elderly edge last year with my family and it immediately reminded me about the trip we did with Ewing school. I even mentioned about this to my husband, but I didn’t know it was the real place that we in fact went.with Ewing school until you said it.
    There was also a Kate and a Rebekah in the first group but, after a short time they went to the next higher group. I also remember a Michelle and Lily from the higher groups, but some of the higher group pupils used to tease a lot, I did not like them very much. At dinner times I used to sit at the middle table which was Aida’s table. The teachers used to serve the food out on dishes and used to eat with us, just like you mentioned on your article. But I was the only child that was on packed lunch from our group.Back then their wasn’t many choices. their was only one type of meal and pudding and everyone had to eat the same. There wasn’t any vegetarian or halal choices.
    How do you remember all these dates and the name of the school that visited us? Did you keep a diary? It’s so amazing that you know things in too much detail, especially days and dates.
    Do you know what happened to our teachers ( Margery, Aida, Brenda and Paula) ? Are they still alive?
    I also remember a trip with Ewing school, we also went in a Cave and walked inside it. It was a bit scary,and adventurous. We also went to a couple of Museums like the ( Manchester Museum and the plane Museum). We also went to Arndale centre with the bus, and we also went to funfairs. I think we also went to a farm on one occasion.
    I remember your drawings At Ewing school. Your pictures were really good. I used to admire them.
    I think it was a world art day. Once there was an art competition, and the best one was going to be displayed in the Manchester Gallery . We worked as a whole group and made this one big picture of the world map by gluing the correct colored tissue paper on the map, and with Paula’s help we completed it. When we won. Our art was displayed at the Manchester gallery. They took a picture of us with our hands up in the shape of a fist, and they put this photo on the news paper. I don’t know if you were there then. because you came after me. I was there before you came.
    All my memories are starting to flash back now.
    By the way, Do you remember me?
    Yes it would be lovely to hear from other friends, and have a trip altogether to places we went with Ewing school.
    Thank you.
    Regards
    Meryem.

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    1. Hello Again Meryem,

      I do remember Victoria’s house being a big detached house, on the outskirts of Bollington itself, though not quite as rural as Emily Nightingale’s house was in Mottram St. Andrew (a First Group trip in May 1989). I would say that ‘the other school’, where we watched singing was – once again – Chorlton C of E Primary School.

      Perhaps the higher boy to girl ratio may well have been indicative to diagnoses of speech and language disorders as well as autism spectrum conditions. Even now, four times more boys than girls have been diagnosed with autism spectrum conditions or the like. Historically, such conditions have been too subtle for detection among females owing to their social skills.

      The Louise you may be referring to could be Louise Frost. She was in the Upper Group when I joined Ewing School. There was also Yasmin and Sharon from the same class, taught by Teresa, Peter or Karen Muskett. With Tanya, I remember the exquisite hairstyles she used to have each morning. They were brilliant – the one which stood out for me was one shaped like an ice cream top. There was also Karen Warburton (she had long red hair) and Rebecca Willis, who started at Ewing School in September 1986.

      The Upper Group’s tables were nearest to the shower room doors; the First Group’s tables were nearest to the stairwell wall with – as you rightly pointed out – Ada’s in the middle of the First Group’s three tables. Mrs Butterworth’s was in the very centre of the dining room, and had a red Formica top. (The rest all had beige Formica tops). Mrs Warburton, a rather buxom and generous figure, used to be the cook, and the Butterscotch Pudding was out of this world (I even asked for thirds!). Potatoes were often boiled and garnished with mint.

      I still keep in touch with Marjorie, having done so since I left in July 1990. The last I heard of Brenda, she submitted a daft article to ‘Take A Break’ magazine about her Salsa Dancing (I couldn’t believe it when I showed my mother). Paula left Ewing School in the mid-1990s due to ill health (M.E./C.F.S.): she has since worked for Stockport MBC’s Learning Support Service. Ada passed away only recently, about 2011 – 2012.

      The cave we walked inside was the 1987 Alderley Edge trip I have mentioned before. We also visited Poole’s Cavern (Buxton) in July 1987 and Peak Cavern (Castleton) in September 1987. On the same outing, we also walked up and down the hill to and from Peveril Castle. The Poole’s Cavern trip was one of a week’s worth of trips in July 1987, on the Monday of that week. The others were: Ellesmere Port Boat Museum (Tuesday), Edale (Wednesday) and Freshfield beach (Friday). This was instead of spending a week’s holiday, and all outings got us back in time for going home. In 1988, Ainsdale Beach substituted Freshfield on the Friday; on the Tuesday that year, we went to Nether Alderley Mill.

      Regarding funfairs, we always went to the travelling fair at Longford Park, Stretford. 1987’s was a pretty cold day, but the 1988 fair (25 June) saw sunny weather and shirt sleeves. I remember getting sunburn that day.

      I forgot about the World Art Day competition (perhaps it was before I joined in January 1987), but I remember your picture of a clothes shop which you did with Ada. This was for a competition in April 1987: my entry was a 1920s-style cinema – inspired by one in Dukinfield which has long since been demolished.

      And of course, first and foremost, I do remember you throughout my time at Ewing School. As to how I know so much about my time at the Ewing School, I never kept any diaries. I remembered them in vivid detail, probably because they were the greatest three and a half years I ever had (and whilst I was assessed, it turned out that I did have – and still have – a photographic memory).

      Now, where did I put that time machine? (Marty…)

      Warmly,

      Stuart.

      Like

  11. Hello again Stuart,
    Thank you for letting me know about our teachers.
    I am sorry for the loss of Ada, if I found your page a couple of years earlier, when she was still living then I may have been in contact. She was a lovely teacher, I think I may have been in her group for some time, because I used to spend some quality time with her. such as when we played the ludo games and sometimes in the maths sessions when we were doing the sharing sums. She also helped me in doing many things such as sewing, I remember, we did a rather beautiful bag to put our books in. I remember reading my books to Marjorie in her therapy room, and she also read the book “Charlie and the chocolate factory” to a group of us in her room. I remember that I used to get assessed in Paula’s room. She would show me pictures and ask questions. Sometimes she also used to get a couple of us in her room. I forgot about me doing a clothes shop with Ada for a competition, but it sounds familiar.,
    How come your still keeping in touch with Marjorie? does she live near you? where about is she living? and where are you living? if you don’t mind me asking you. If you see Marjorie please give my greetings to her, and tell her how we mentioned about our memories about Ewing school. I wonder if she would recognize me now!. 🙂
    Are you on face book? I would like to add you to my friend list if you don’t mind.
    Take care
    Meryem.

    Like

    1. Hello again Meryem,

      Yes, I remember that with the First Group: one therapy room being Angela’s (later Paula’s) with the second one being Marjorie’s room (for reading rather than speech therapy).

      I do remember making the book cover (I wish I still had it somewhere). It was a glorious kaleidoscope of coloured wool with a soft lining which would accommodate an A5 reading book. If I still had it, it could have been a handy glove for an iPad or some other internet tablet, or a handheld games console.

      Marjorie doesn’t live too far from me; till recently, it was a short walk then a long (45 minute) bus ride away from home [Dukinfield] on the 389 route. In my next letter, I shall pass on your greetings. I am on Facebook too, so you can add me on to your friend list.

      Warmly,

      Stuart.

      Like

    1. Hi Meryem,

      I’ve just sent you my email address. I have deleted the address you earlier stated on your comment so your inbox doesn’t get bombarded by spam or other unsolicited cack.

      Warmly,

      Stuart.

      Like

  12. Hi Stuart,
    I’m just wondering, Why was Ewing school closed? Is it because there wasn’t any more funding for it .
    Thanks
    Meryem.

    Like

    1. Hi Meryem,

      One reason could well have been funding. Another, could have been the culture towards fewer special schools and greater use of mainstream school integration. In spite of this, the Ewing School was – right until the end – commended for their approach to integrating pupils.

      At the time, they felt that some pupils would have been suited to a more mainstream schooling environment (taken on by some schools elsewhere in Manchester City Council boundaries). Some, less suited to the mainstream schooling environment, would move to a new autism centre for excellence near Cedar Mount (as stated herein this article).

      Whether the new arrangements will work will be seen about five or so years from now. I’m a little sceptical.

      Warmly,

      Stuart.

      Like

  13. Hi Stuart,
    I’m supporting a child in reception with autism at the moment at a mainstream school, but it’s not a very easy job. It’s my first experience, and he needs supervision all the time. He always likes having his own way and he is always on the move. I believe that it would be better if he went to a special school, but I don’t know. May be they want children with special needs to access mainstream schools, so there is more equality and inclusion. They also have an individual learning plan specially designed to suit their needs, but here they are separated from the rest of the class, because their learning plan is different from the others so they have 1 to 1 instead, but in my view it would be better if these children also had the chance to work in a group with children who have similar needs because children also learn from each other.
    Thanks.

    Like

  14. Hi stuart
    im the philip holland you remember i attended ewing from october 1983 till july 1988 i joined the first group in september 1985 just been reading yours and meryhems post from earlier and wow how all those memories came flooding back. I remember the dreaded baby reins but never experienced them the worst thing i remember is marjorie giving me a purple clear pvc raincoat to wear on one of thursday outings i remember the class mates including yourself i used to live near nathan in blackley we used to get the same bus to and from school he started in reception class in around 1984 or 85 so many memories may i ad you on facebook? It would be nice to hear from you.

    Like

    1. Hi Philip,

      Good to see you on the blog. I am glad to see the memories of Ewing School – good, and bad as well, came flooding back.

      I do remember you leaving in July 1988, also being the same time when Angela left to travel around the world. She is still involved in SEN today in the North East of England. I knew about the Mothercare baby reins (I had them at home and they were later my sister’s), but I do not remember the clear purple raincoat!

      I remember you and Nathan travelling to and from Ewing School on an escorted minibus which was more akin to a mini coach. If my memory serves me right, it was a converted Mercedes van with coach style seating, a contrast to the Manchester Education Committee minibuses (which would have been a yellow Ford Transit, then the red Freight Rover Sherpa van).

      I am also on Facebook so you can also add me and/or, if you like this blog, give East of the M60 a ‘like’.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

      Like

      1. Hi stuart
        hope you are well
        yes it was the yellow ford minibuses we used to travel on then the dark red minubuses they had a collection of coats and rainwear for the kids do you remember paul griffin? Steven roberts? And a lad called gerald (cant remember his second name) are you in touch with any of the others via facebook? I went to college with paul griffin from sept 1995 to june 96 but havent heard from him since. Would be nice to see anybody who is was in our class way back then i only found your blog accidently when i googled ewing school after only learning last year it had closed did you ever go back after you left?

        Like

  15. Hello again Philip,

    I do remember there being a selection of raincoats and wellington boots in the First Group. They were in a metal meshed crate between the unisex toilets, mobile coat hangers and Marjorie’s room.

    I remember Paul Griffin, he too came from North Manchester (Harpurhey), but I do not remember Gerald nor Steven Roberts. For about two minutes in 1998, I met up with another former Ewing School pupil in Tameside College (Jaime Earnshaw). She left the First Group for the Middle Group the very month I joined, which was January 1987.

    Like yourself I’ve been trying, without success, to find fellow Ewing School pupils on the internet. Yet, as seen here with Meryam and yourself, some have succeeded.

    Warmly,

    Stuart.

    Like

    1. Hi
      I dont remember jaime ernshaw girl or boy?but from the timing wed have been in the first group at the same time as i was in that class from sept 1985 i read in one of your post that ada passed away fairly recently do you know if the other teachers- brenda marjorie worked there until the schools closure or did they retire?

      Like

      1. Hi
        stuart
        what does your profile look like? There are quite a lot of stuart valentines on facebook some without pictures.

        Like

  16. Hi Philip,

    Where you’ve hit a snag is in the spelling of my surname. It is ‘Vallantine’ instead of the more usual ‘Valentine’. Once you’ve found my name with the first spelling of the surname, you should see a navy blue logo with my name written in white 1970s style text.

    Warmly,

    Stuart.

    Like

    1. Hi stuart
      found you on fb i dont remember jamie ernshaw is that the same one as the one one your friends profile?

      Like

      1. Hi stuart
        Do you have any pictures or know where there are any pictures of our class and years at ewing school?

        Like

    1. Hi stuart hope you had a good christmass. ok sorry about the late reply il see if i can get in contact with myriem i see from one of her post that she has some.

      Like

  17. Ewing School was a really good school and I enjoyed it a lot and I will remember all them good times I had which I won’t forget and I miss it a lot

    Like

    1. Hi David,

      Loved the Ewing School several times over! The overall dynamic there compared with my previous school and the one I joined afterwards, the best anywhere. Not just the small classes but also the extended family element.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

      Like

  18. My son Matthew Leitch-Devlin was a pupil at Ewing 1999 – 2003. I taught GCSE maths and science 2002 until it closed. The closure was awful. I do not think the pupils who went to the Grange got a good education. The year 10s were not allowed to finish their GCSE courses. I have the school banner, and all the videos I found which may have been of school plays I gave to Louise Frost to transfer to DVD. David Parker-Conway is keen on a reunion, and I am hoping to organise one soon. I am trying to find out what is happening to the building. The council, who is very short of school places, is reluctant to admit what is happening now, or plans for the future.

    Like

    1. Hi Sally,

      I too wasn’t happy with the way its closure was handled. Though I understand some children would thrive in a devolved SEN setting, some – myself included – thrived in smaller more specialist schools. How the Year 10s were unable to finish their GCSE courses is despicable; they should have been allowed to finish their courses at Ewing.

      I too am interested in the future of the building. In November last year, I met up with Louise [Frost] and Andrew Morton and – we were surprised to find the building still in use – as an overflow SEN unit for Birches. The teachers loved working in the Ewing School building though accepted that some of the facilities were a bit dated for contemporary teaching practice.

      On our visit, we found that the residential block is no longer used owing to issues with asbestos. You may appreciate this article from our visit (if anybody wonders, we did ask first):
      https://mancunian1001.wordpress.com/2014/04/24/driving-away-from-home-my-return-to-ewing-school-07-november-2013/

      As for a reunion, I would LOVE to have one. Regarding venues, one as close to the Ewing School would be desirable. The Railway on Lapwing Lane may be too small; Pizza Express opposite West Didsbury Metrolink station may be a little impersonal. The Metropolitan (corner of Burton Road/Lapwing Lane) could be good size wise though food and drink prices are a little expensive.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

      Like

      1. I was speaking to my friend Maxine Flynn an ex-student who went to Ewing School and she said we should have the building for one because at the end of the day it was our school

        Like

  19. Yess it would be nice to visit the place again ( i was a pupil between oct 1983 and july 1988

    Like

      1. Hi Philip,

        Indeed, I too would be. As per my previous comment on the issue, that the reunion should be as close to the school as possible. Somewhere easy to get to public transport – all the more possible for former pupils from North Manchester, Oldham and Tameside thanks to recent developments with the bus network and the Metrolink.

        Bye for now,

        Stuart.

        Like

  20. There are quite a few places to eat and drink along burton rd just round the corner from the school, is it possible to visit the school do you know? Phil

    Like

  21. i am glad that there’s going to be a Ewing School Reunion sorted and I hope it can all get sorted because I’d really like it if we could have it at the school which would be brilliant and I’d love it if everyone come to it.

    Like

  22. Nope I came to Ewing School in September 2001 and I finished at the school in June 2011 where I was ten years and I was previously at Rodney House from 3 years old to 6 years old.

    Like

  23. Hi stuart
    is it possible to visit Ewing school as i would very much like to see the place inside again?

    Phil

    Like

  24. I would like to have the reunion at Ewing School and I miss it a lot and I wouldn’t want to have it in a pub because it wouldn’t be the same and other Ewing students said so as well

    Like

  25. Hello Stuart, nice to see your blog/site is still active after all these years hope all is well. It’s crazy to think how long school was, but I’m proud to say I miss it not many can say that about school.

    I’m curious to know what happened to Douglas Williams, Mrs Butterworth and a very good teacher called Peter Daily he was like a friend to me, always spoke to truth to me.

    Phil Holland I remember you, you sometimes had a grey uniform if I’m correct, short hair. You didn’t stay long at the school I remember you being a top kid, nice to hear from you.

    Sadly I drove past Ewing last week, and it’s gone. I felt really sad and it was a place I drove past every once in a while for memories.

    I’d like to hear from Matthew Hough, Mark Baxter, Neil?, Jennifer ( I always had a crush on you ), Michelle plus anybody else who has stories or memories.

    I’m still working within computers, only I’m a programmer now doing well for somebody who had learning problems.

    I spoke to David Emmerson about 4 years ago, and I also seen Francis Wilson about 5-6 years ago, he was very quiet I’d love to talk again.

    My experience with Ewing is all positive, I feel sad I don’t have more photos of myself and my friends from back in the day.

    I sometimes watch a movie called “Stand by Me”, it reminds me of that time / school life you never seem to get again.

    Like

  26. Hi Nathan,

    Great to see you on East of the M60; the blog will be celebrating its ninth birthday on the 15 August. By coincidence I found it shared a birthday with a Yorkshire road builder who I have direct ancestry with (John Metcalf, a.k.a Blind Jack of Knaresborough).

    I too am at a loss with Douglas Williams and Mrs Butterworth; not heard from the two post-Ewing, apart from stuff from another ex-Ewing pupil. Peter Daly, I do remember; another person from the Ewing era whom I’m in constant contact with (Philip Bogart) remembers him well.

    Hard to believe my stay at the Ewing School was 3 years and 7 months (and 25 years ago since I left), but they were among the greatest periods in my life. Bar none. Typical with growing up it seems, is the fact that at least one of our schools has to be demolished. (Shame they cannot do that with Eton College but that’s another argument best left for another time).

    Matthew Hough, haven’t heard from post-Ewing School, though hear of his mother’s friend several times more (Sky News’ Kay Burley!). The Neil in question, Neil Butterworth (from Rochdale). Jennifer? That would be Jennifer Lusty who hailed from Newall Green. The only Michelle I recall was Michelle Greenhalgh who used to live in Hattersley (Fields Farm Drive).

    I do remember Francis being quiet but studious. The last I knew of David Emmerson was the fact he worked in a Stockport pub. As for some of the other pupils, I remember Victoria Allday (whose house we visited a couple of times in Bollington for birthday parties); Eleanor Mansfield (1989 – 90 – lovely red hair, always in bunches); Carsten Earle, who probably dwarfs Peter Crouch these days.

    And me? I still work with computers; back in the centre of Manchester after a six year gap there in a professional capacity. This time with less emphasis on the coding though greater emphasis on weblog, content creation and social media.

    It is funny you should mention Stand By Me. Though I have never seen the film starring the late River Phoenix, the title track forms part of my Ewing School Playlist!

    Great to see you again, funny how computing of some description tends to attract people like us in a professional capacity. I too wish I had more photos from the Ewing School era, but there was two problems. One, the price of film (unless you sent them off to Truprint and got a free film); and two: how pampered we are in the digital age when a 35mm, 110, 120, 126 or 127 film has between 8 and 36 exposures.

    Bye for now,

    Stuart.

    Like

  27. Hi nathan
    attended ewing from oct 83 to july 88 did i contact you on facebook? I know ive tried to find a few people from ewing school on facebook i remember you and francis were friends, i dont remember the grey uniform though yes i remember as well we used to travel on the same bus together as you only lived a short distance from me, has the school been demolished?

    Like

  28. Taught there under Pat Derbyshire and Penny Smith 1996 – 2011 and I remain very proud of what we achieved for the pupils through those years. It was a lively and vibrant school that offered a tremendous variety of activities , especially in the fields of outdoor pursuits and sport – we had great links with Alex Williams at Manchester City and Malcolm Brown and his team and took a group to The Calvert Trust Centre every year for example. I remember correspondents David Parker Conway and Maxine Flynn very well and hope they are well – you were both a joy to teach. The announced closure in November 2008 came as a body blow and teaching during the long run down to its eventual closure was hard but the staff were resilient and very professional to it’s sad final days in July 2012. I now teach at a wonderful special school n Leek but Ewing School will always represent a joyous and formative part of my life . All the best to all the staff and students 1970 – 2012

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Hi David,

    Great to see you had a wonderful stint at Ewing School, and a lengthy one at that. Without Ewing School, I probably wouldn’t have had the same passion for travel and outdoor activities (though I prefer walking and photography to abseiling).

    Whilst on a Prince’s Trust Volunteers programme, I too met Alex Williams in person on a tour ’round Maine Road (and the only member who knew him as Joe Corrigan’s successor in goal). Back then, this included a look around the short lived new Kippax Street stand.

    I too was sad about the school’s demise, mainly because of how well it served me over the three and a half years I was there. Not least the role it performed in Greater Manchester for all 42 years of its existence.

    I shall second your greetings to all the staff and students of Ewing School who had the joy to teach or learn there.

    Warmly,

    Stuart.

    Like

  30. I greatly enjoyed reading your posts. Please be assured the West Didsbury CE Primary School now on the Ewing site wants to generate the same affection in its pupils and staff that you have for Ewing. A quarter of the pupils belong to Ewing House so the name lives on. We seek to be a highly inclusive school and are gaining a reputation for the quality of our SEND work and investment in this area. We have created a sensory room in which children can take time out when the stress of learning or interaction becomes overwhelming. We are also committed to outdoor learning with developing provision in the grounds. At the far end of the field we have created a forest school setting for outdoor learning. From a standing start the school is now close to being oversubscribed. Best wishes to you all

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Paul,

      I am glad you loved reading my posts. Also how West Didsbury C of E Primary School aims to keep the legacy of Ewing School alive.

      Whilst I was at Ewing School, it was years before Sensory Rooms were a thing. If I needed time out, my ‘sensory room’ was the story corner in the First Group classroom. Or one of the Speech Therapy Rooms (usually Angela’s room instead of Marjorie’s, which was sometimes used for small group storytelling sessions). Due to the small size and the microphone on the table, I used to think I was Steve Penk or Colin Cook behind the mike at Piccadilly Plaza.

      It is great to hear that your school is close to oversubscribed. To everyone at West Didsbury CE, keep up the good work!

      Warmly,

      Stuart.

      Like

  31. Hi Dave
    I hope you’re keeping well and thank you😊.

    I hope you like the new school in Leek that you are working at now.

    Ewing School were the best years of my life and Loreto College was great as well.

    I’m keeping very well thank you Dave and Maxine is as well.

    I hope we can keep in touch if it’s okay with you Dave and I am sorry for asking.

    Like

  32. Hi Stuart

    It’s me Nathan, how you hope all is well. I’m still into computers I’m actually an application developer now doing good no money in computer repairs no more so I moved into development I’m an IT Manager for a very successful company now.

    Did you ever speak to Peter Daily or have any details for him I’d love to speak to him again. I’ve met David Emmerson about 10 years ago, also Francis. It’s a shame we never all got together like a reunion.

    Like

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