50 Years Not Out
Posted on 24th September 2018 at 15:02
Sandy Rowsell (Patten] and Toni Carruthers (Plumb) have been coming back to Old Students’ Day every year for fifty years! What an achievement! We asked them to share their story.
Toni and I became friends as soon as we met at Bedford CPE and on graduating from college in July 1967 we were both looking forward to teaching in our first posts. We were both very fortunate to have very good placements in excellent Grammar schools. Juniors of course, for the first few years, and then over the years we both progressed to become Heads of Dept. However, we were both living in very different Counties and schools in those days had a lot of Sports Fixtures at the week end so getting together was quite difficult. We had already made a commitment to OSD when we left Bedford CPE and vowed that we would meet up every OSD for as long as we were physically able to do so. When we attended the first few OS Days we were still trying to pick up ideas from the excellent student demonstrations and staff and guest speaker lectures, but we constantly reminded ourselves of various amusing incidents which took place with much loved lecturers like Holly Graham , Miss Nowell-Smith, Chris Heath and of course Thelma Denton, who we always look forward to catching up with. During our student days as budding gymnasts, we were made very much aware of the importance of ‘’pointed toes, shoulders back and heads high students’’ and I must confess that we were rather like judges as we watched the lovely gym displays put on by much younger and more agile current students.
Not all had ‘pointed toes’ however and imagine our shock when in more recent years, male students were included in the displays as well! The first few OS Days passed and we both picked up ideas and information from the displays and lectures on offer and they definitely helped us to keep abreast of new developments. After a few years we both married the boyfriends we had when we left school. Toni is still with John but I am divorced from Bob. Family commitments grew very rapidly, but our own children were very considerate when they became parents themselves, as we managed not to miss any OS Days due to awaiting the arrival of another grandchild.
We did have one or two very close calls though. Over the years during our long teaching careers, we have both been lucky enough to meet and work with several Old Bedford PE Students and we have both been so impressed by them and so proud of their teaching skills. They are definitely still head and shoulders above students from other colleges. We were indeed very fortunate with the Lecturers who taught us whilst we were students and we still hold them in high regard and affection. We hope that we have both given back just a bit of what the College gave us. We have both done a long stint of examining for Edexcel and other Examination Boards and introduced both GCE and A level Physical Education to my own students, which in a very highly academic school was quite a battle! Toni spent many years working with Special Needs Students and is still working as an Examination Invigilator in her original school Toni and I have both had a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction from our careers and we have influenced several of our own students to take up careers in Physical Education and/or Physiotherapy and other related careers.
We are both very involved with our grandchildren, some of whom have a great aptitude for sport. It is wonderful to watch them but it is sometimes difficult to keep one’s mouth shut when they are being coached by other PE staff. Not always up to the high standard we were made to expect. We feel that the essence of BCPE was being taught ‘BY THE BEST TO BE THE BEST.’ We were given the skills, confidence and ‘’staying power’ to lead and diversify, like Bedford has had to do over the changing years. During our teaching careers we both had to adapt to considerable cuts to timetable allocation for P.E , vast changes in Curriculum content, the loss of chunks of playing fields and sometimes excessive attention to ‘Health and Safety’ which discouraged pupils taking any form of ‘risk’.
An ability very necessary in this very different world. Some things go full circle but through watching students, particularly in gymnastic displays, we can still acknowledge improved equipment, the presence of males in gymnastics and dance where their physical strength provides more facility for lifting and supporting. We both welcomed the development of less rigid ‘gender stereotyping’ in Physical Education generally. We go back each year to show respect, gratitude and affection to the memory of our mentors, to watch a new generation take up the challenge, to observe new ways and to compare them with the old. Also, catching up with old friends is always very important but we continue to feel sad that so few of our year group have returned to OSD each year. 2 memorable OSD’s were our 25th anniversary when a large number of old faces appeared and the Memorial Service for Chris Heath when many of . our year and Lecturers turned up to pay their respects.
Our friendship with each other and our commitment to OSD is very genuine and we intend to keep to our pledge made in July 1967 – to turn up every year whilst we are still capable.
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