Former Eastbourne teacher looks back at 50 years in the classroom

Graham and Kay Marsden at their home in Eastbourne - Mr Marsden is celebrating 50 years in education (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-181202-101339008
Graham and Kay Marsden at their home in Eastbourne - Mr Marsden is celebrating 50 years in education (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-181202-101339008

It’s 1968 and as the Beatles animated film Yellow Submarine was playing in cinemas, Dad’s Army was being shown on the small screen and five and ten pence pieces were being introduced in the run-up to decimalisation.

In Eastbourne in the same year, Trust House Ltd bought the pier for £170,000 and as women from the Dagenham Ford Factory were making equal pay history when the TUC held its annual conference in the town, a new head of department joined the teaching staff at the Boys’ Grammar School in Kings Drive.

SUS-181202-104850001

SUS-181202-104850001

That appointment marked the start of a long and illustrious career for Graham Marsden, who this year will celebrate 50 years in education in Eastbourne.

Whether it be his long term role as deputy-head at Cavendish School or his current work as vice-chairman of the Sussex Downs Corporation, Mr Marsden has made his mark locally.

Born and brought up in Kent, Mr Marsden attended the boys’ grammar school in Sittingbourne.

After a two-year National Service spell, he went to universities in London and Loughborough and started teaching at Harlow in 1961.

SUS-181202-104903001

SUS-181202-104903001

Two years later he moved to the private sector as a head of department at an independent school.

He and his wife Kay – who he met when they were both teenagers in a church choir – also supervised a boarding house at the boys’ school.

It was the birth of his son James that prompted a move south and when a head of department post came up at the Boys’ Grammar School in Kings Drive, the family moved to Eastbourne in 1968.

In 1977 East Sussex reorganised its schools which saw the arrival of comprehensive schools and the boys’ grammar and Girls’ High School in Eldon Road merged to become a co-educational school.

Mr Marsden was appointed the senior male member of staff at the High School to oversee the merger.

“It was fascinating period,” he recalls.

At the time the new school was praised for being much better, more enjoyable and more exciting than either of its two single-sex predecessors.

That period also marked the end of the Eleven Plus examinations and more importantly the birth of Cavendish on the Eldon Road site.

Mr Marsden was appointed deputy-head with Arthur Cornell as the headteacher.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my teaching career which contained many high points,” he said.

“However, the most satisfying period was during the early eighties as the new Cavendish was being established.

“It was a time of significant preparation, attention to detail and massive change, from which grew a school that was over-subscribed annually and delivered excellent results for its pupils.

“The dedicated staff took tremendous pride in creating a school of high performance.

“All in all, it was a challenging and very busy time but well worthwhile the effort involved.”

In between his teaching, Mr Marsden completed a degree at Brighton University and a masters at Sussex University on implementing changes in education.

He also pursued his ambition to get involved in local politics and under the guidance of Conservative stalwart Grace Fletcher, was elected to Eastbourne Borough Council in 1991.

In the following years Mr Marsden was twice the leader of the council and was chosen by colleagues to be the town’s mayor, something he is fiercely proud of as well as having been made an honorary alderman of Eastbourne.

That passion for politics continues and while not on the council any longer, he is currently president of the Conservatives in Upperton ward.

He is also a Rotarian, president of Eastbourne Allotments and Garden Society, president of the Eastbourne branch of the Royal Air Forces Association and a regular worshipper with Kay at St Mary’s Parish Church.

His other great love of course is his family and he is a devoted husband, father and “grandpa”.

In March this year Mr Marsden will step down as vice-chairman of the Sussex Downs Corporation after a number of years.

He sees it as a good time as Sussex Downs will merge with Sussex Coast College in Hastings.

“Although I have been teaching since 1961, this year marks 50 years of being involved in education in Eastbourne and I am delighted to have been given that opportunity,” said Mr Marsden.