Bea Ewart obituary

Other lives: Primary school teacher who laid great emphasis on the value of craft and play

My friend Bea (Beatrice) Ewart, who has died aged 86, was a primary school teacher who believed that craft and play would expand small minds into big imaginations. Constantly walking around with bits of cardboard, paste sticks and pieces of cloth, she never wasted any material she could find, for she knew it would be of great delight to her pupils.

Born in Edinburgh, Bea was the daughter of Arthur Simpson, a grocer, and his wife, Joanna (nee Grant). After leaving school she did a two-year training course at the Moray House School of Education and Sport in Edinburgh in the mid-1950s. In her first year as a teacher she met Gene Ewart, a Jamaican who was doing his national service at Edinburgh Castle. After getting married in 1957 they moved to York, where Bea worked at Carr infants school in Acomb.

I met Gene at the York Educational Settlement in 1961 and he introduced me to his family. That three-year period was exceptionally busy for Bea, as she was teaching, coping with two young children and supporting her husband, who, inspired by Bea, had entered teacher training college in Leeds.

After further teaching jobs in Middlesbrough and Nottingham, Bea and the family moved to Norwich, where she taught at Bignold infants school. There she was especially popular with parents because she made sure that all her pupils became early readers.

In retirement Bea became an adult literacy teacher at Norfolk Training Services, and taught English as a foreign language at summer schools. She also spent time as a volunteer at the Family Service Office in Norwich, and was an active supporter of the South African charity Breadline Africa, regularly sending teaching materials and workbooks to support children in Cape Town.

In her spare time Bea was a keen poet, and would share her poems with fellow members of the British Federation of Women Graduates. In 2000 her poems and Gene’s script provided the basis for a beautifully illustrated booklet, with Anne Edwards, Wild About Hethersett, which explored the biodiversity around the Norfolk village of Hethersett, where they lived. Bea followed that up with The Hethersett War Memorials 1914–1920, which she co-authored with Bob Andrews, and which was published in 2008.

She is survived by Gene and their two sons, Andrew and Michael.

James Begley

The GuardianTramp

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