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News > Staff > Teacher Feature: Richard Summers (1989-2022)

Teacher Feature: Richard Summers (1989-2022)

We heard from former Biology Teacher, Richard Summers about his memories of Hymers, including the introduction of girls to the school
1 Dec 2022
Major Richard Summers, with his daughter Alex
Major Richard Summers, with his daughter Alex

How many years did you teach at Hymers College?

I started teaching at Hymers in 1989 (before I retired in the Summer 2022), so have taught there for 33 years! I started at the same time as Peter Roberts and Steve Walmsley. Peter and I were appointed as "Assistant Masters of Biology" - no mention of teacher there!

How have things changed since you first started?

I was appointed by the then Headmaster Brian Bass. Up until that point, Hymers had been a boys school in years 1 to 5 (7 to 11 in modern terms) with a few girls in the Sixth Form. At the end of the interview process, he took me aside for a cup of tea and asked a very telling question:

"So Richard, you have taught girls?"



I was joining a school that from the top down had little or no experience of teaching girls! I remember well the meetings, led by Mary Chorlton (the newly appointed "Senior Mistress") discussing how we should deal with the "issue" - even down to how we should address them - the norm was to refer to the boys by their surname and people felt that girls wouldn't like that, so to be fair, the entire student body were to be referred to by the forename. This was possibly the first step in the civilising effect of girls on the College!

I began teaching Biology across the full age range in September of '89 and was given 6C as my form (it would be 12C now). As a keen rugby player, I was also scooped up by the Games Department to run one of the teams. I found myself working with 'Billy' Exley as his assistant with the under 13 teams. In practice this meant he ran the training side of things and I did the Saturdays as he was still playing. My first Saturday I found myself refereeing the 4th team match. lt was an energetic and somewhat ill-tempered match and I found myself having to send a Hymers player (who was in my form) off for throwing a punch - you know who you are! Needless to say there was an inquest on the Monday and a punishment was handed out. Fortunately, he bore no grudges and many years later actually gave my youngest daughter her first job after university!

After a couple of years, the school realised that the curriculum lacked the essential PHSE area for the rounded education of its students and Mary Chorlton and I designed and delivered the subject until her retirement. I have always prided myself on having taught almost every student of Hymers College at some point in their time in the school at least an aspect of PSHE.

As a Biology teacher, I have always been expected to play a part in the field trips. Over the years, I estimate that I have taken groups to the Cranedale Field Centre in excess of 80 times; to Filey Brigg at least 90 times and Bempton Cliffs more than 60 times. It has always been lovely to see students out of the classroom and l have always believed that a great deal more is learned by doing than by writing about it.

Two other aspects I have to mention are the Army Cadet Force and the Duke of Edinburgh’s award.

When l joined Hymers College I was already a serving soldier in what was then known as the Territorial Army. In 1990 there was a root and branch restructuring of the Army called 'Options for Change' in the light of the ending of the Cold War (Oh, if we knew then what we know now…). This, sadly, disbanded my unit based out of DST Leconfield. I was approached by a young student, James Horspool, who asked if I would be interested in resurrecting the cadet corps at Hymers. After a good deal of research (and with the goodwill of the Headmaster John Morris), I raised an Army Cadet Force Detachment at Hymers. This has now been running for 30 years and it has been my privilege to have trained some wonderful young people and been their Detachment Commander.

The Duke of Edinburgh's Award has also been a great part of my life over the years. I actually began with the Award before arriving at Hymers but once here, spent many years as Dave Thompson's number two. Taking young people to the mountains is fantastic! Showing them that they can cope in sometimes extreme conditions and watching them grow as people is probably the single greatest reward an adult/teacher can aspire to. I have to thank all of the colleagues who over the years have joined me in this and facilitated.

What are your favourite memories of teaching at Hymers?

Individual memories are hard to separate, there have been so very many; but watching that spark of understanding in a student's eye is always a high point and is the answer to the question "why do you do it?

Do you have any favourite tour/trip stories?

Iceland 1991 was the greatest of all the expeditions I have organised. Back then, there weren't the tour companies that now proliferate. We had to book our flights, transport and accommodation by phone or letter; we shipped all of stores, food and equipment by sea and had to negotiate the vagaries of Icelandic Customs. We climbed into a four-wheel drive minibus with trailer and headed for a grid reference I had chosen from the maps I had managed to secure. The site for the expedition was just below the Langjokull Glacier along a dirt track at least 20 km from the nearest phone! My memory is that of the look on my colleagues' faces as we debussed onto a lunar landscape of pumice rubble and ice, with a glacial melt-stream flowing just down the slope. They tried very hard to get me to relocate back to Reykjavik but the driver disconnected the trailer and, with a promise to return in ten days, disappeared into the mist! They were aghast - but had a wonderful time experiencing genuine expedition conditions. Thanks to Dave Thompson, Alex Sutton and John Gravelle.

If you hadn't been a teacher, what would you have done instead?

The shortest answer! I would have served as a regular Officer in the lnfantry - so largely the same really!

What have you done since you left Hymers College?

I am keeping my options open as far as I can - the Church plays a great role in my life now and I am a minister, so that will undoubtedly continue. I am planning to ride a motorcycle as much as l can - and hot off the press, my latest project is rebuilding a classic bike and take part in beach racing!

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