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News > Staff > Teacher Feature: Chris Fitzpatrick (1980-2016)

Teacher Feature: Chris Fitzpatrick (1980-2016)

We asked Fitzy about his memories of teaching at Hymers College
30 Jan 2022
Chris Fitzpatrick (Fitzy), Sports teacher for both Senior and Junior School
Chris Fitzpatrick (Fitzy), Sports teacher for both Senior and Junior School

How long were you at Hymers for?

36 years. September 1980 – July 2016

What were the key changes you noticed since starting?

Obviously, the school becoming co-educational in 1989 was the major change to an all-boys’ school as it was when I arrived, albeit with a handful of girls in the 6th form.

It was also very formal – not only were the pupils known and addressed by their surnames, but members of staff were also referred to by their surnames by senior management!

Much building has taken place in that time, the sports hall was still in construction in Sept 1980 (we managed with only the old gym!). The new Biology labs followed by the CDT and Art block. The transformation of ‘E’ Block into the Modern Languages department together with the refurbishment of the Chemistry and Physics labs. The theatre was built on the side of the Sports Hall and allowed space for the new staffroom (back in Sept 1980 the “Masters’ Common Room” as it was known, was where IT1 now is). The acquisition of adjacent land meant a new Junior School, extra playing fields and an astro turf pitch laid. The swimming pool complex with PE department offices, classroom and fitness room together with new changing rooms transformed the teaching of physical education – there were only two of us in the department in 1980! Then a new Music Centre was built and latterly the refurbishment and tasteful development of the old gym and changing rooms into the Gore Room and LRC.

Ex-pupils and staff who have not visited or returned for years will not recognise the place, apart from the fantastic view of the school from the pavilion, that hasn’t changed and neither has the pavilion!

One other thing that hasn’t changed though is the atmosphere in the school. The attitude of pupils towards their studies, sport and other extra-curricular activities (assisted by their very supportive parents) made it a wonderful place to work. This, together with a phenomenal and hard-working staff ensured harmony and success. It was like being part of a big family, I was lucky to be there in a remarkable era in the school’s history.

Have you some fond memories from many of the school tours you have organised over the years?

I was very lucky to have travelled around the world on sports tours and school trips and was fortunate to have been accompanied on them by some amazing staff who are also my very good friends.

Early ‘tours’ involved rugby and cricket trips to exotic locations such as Coventry and Grantham, then we got a little more adventurous and went as far as Edinburgh and Glasgow! The 1st XV squad of 88/89 will remember doing ‘Dead-ants’ in Glasgow city centre – thought they were in trouble when stopped by the police, only to be warned to get off the streets because Celtic were losing at home in the European Cup and the fans would be pouring out very soon!

There were countless ski trips to Europe (and a couple to USA) where we helped scores of Hymers’ pupils learn to ski. Many of these trips were undertaken before the days of Health and Safety and risk assessments – how we didn’t lose some pupils (and staff!) will always remain a mystery. I think we just got lucky.

Rugby, cricket and hockey trips then went a little further. Rugby to Canada and Australia, hockey to Canada and South Africa and cricket to Barbados and St Lucia. Undoubtedly the highlight for me was the 1996 rugby tour to Australia, with two squads the 1st XV and U16’s – 44 boys and 4 staff for three and a half weeks.

The last few years of my career at Hymers were spent in the Junior School and we introduced the little ones to the benefits of sports tours, with an annual visit to the north east.

Touring is a fantastic experience, sampling different cities, countries and cultures and a spin-off is that pupils and staff get to learn more about each other, sometimes for the better!

One thing doesn’t change though – remember!  … ‘What goes on tour – stays on tour!’

Hymers changes have been vast over the years, how did the introduction of girls in 1989 impact the games department?

A terrible admission to make, but I was one of two members of staff who voted against the introduction of girls – how wrong I was! I mistakenly thought that it would affect the strength of boys’ sport because the number of boys in the school would be less. However, the boys and staff worked harder to maintain their competitiveness in fixtures, and I would argue that the standard of boys’ sport actually improved (maybe they were just showing off!).

The girls were a fantastic addition to the school (for a host of reasons) and it did not take long for them to be training hard, putting out the same number of teams as the boys, and very quickly achieve success on an impressive fixture list.

It did mean that we had to improve and expand the facilities (as mentioned earlier) and dramatically increase the number of staff in the department.

It is great to have you back with us and see you at recent alumni events, we know there are a lot of alumni pleased to chat with you… how many teams have you taught over your career?

Wow! It would be a few, although I’m sure that some would say that I didn’t teach them anything!

Rugby and cricket teams in the Senior School for 31 years together with athletics and badminton. Then 5 years in the Junior School, with rugby, football, cricket, athletics and swimming teams across all three age groups – Yes, quite a few!

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