Mr Doe and Mrs Evans by Ellie Simmonds

29th August 2014 at 01:00
The four-time Paralympic gold medallist was treated just like any other pupil at school. But when her achievements in swimming became too exceptional to ignore, her teachers celebrated

I was 11 when my mum and I moved from our home in Aldridge, Walsall, to work with my coach Billy Pye in Swansea. We would go home to Aldridge each weekend, travelling for three hours every Saturday and Sunday. I was nervous about making new friends in Swansea but I settled into Olchfa School straight away.

Mr Doe was my form tutor in Years 7-11. He was great because he'd always let us off work. We would meet every morning at registration and sometimes we'd have PSHE or watch videos. But at that time in the morning, we preferred to chat with our friends and Mr Doe would let us.

My day would be school until 3pm, training from 3.30pm to 5.30pm and then homework. I liked to be organised so I could fit everything in. School was somewhere that I could be a normal teenager; it was a place to get away from swimming. I didn't feel different in any way, and although I was the only pupil with achondroplasia, I was treated exactly the same as everyone else.

I didn't talk about swimming much at school. I used to speak in assembly once a year but that was it. I'm not special: I'm just a normal person who has succeeded at something.

I was 13 when I went to the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing. When I came back, Mr Doe held a surprise party for me in class. We had food and he had made a card that had photos of all my form mates on it; everyone signed it and it was just lovely because I hadn't expected it.

Another brilliant teacher was Mrs Evans. She taught my favourite subject, food technology, in Years 10 and 11. I used to look forward to that class. My friend Chloe and I talked a lot, maybe too much, but Mrs Evans was very easy-going.

I love cooking and baking. We learned to cook spaghetti bolognese with Mrs Evans, as well as brownies and cupcakes. Her classes were good fun. Someone always used salt instead of sugar or left something in the oven for too long.

We learned all about food hygiene: the life skills that you need later on. I live in Loughborough now, away from my parents, so I'm making use of those skills.

I got a B in GCSE food technology and I was pleased with that. I managed to get all my GCSEs - even maths, although it was a struggle. I had a tutor at home to help me and I knew that if I passed I wouldn't have to do maths again, so that was my motivation.

My friends are all at university now. Hopefully after the 2016 Games in Rio, I'll go to uni, too. At the moment I'm doing one A-level a year at Loughborough College. It's nice to have something outside of swimming. Later on, I would like to open my own bakery.

I haven't seen any of my teachers since I left school but I'd like to go back and have a reunion. Everyone was relaxed and they treated me like a normal pupil. It was a great school.

Ellie Simmonds was talking to Kate Bohdanowicz. Her debut children's book, Ellie's Magical Bakery: Best Cake for a Best Friend is out now, published by Red Fox. Ellie's Magical Bakery: Perfect Pie for a Perfect Pet will be published on 4 September

In the swim

Ellie Simmonds

Born 11 November 1994, Walsall, West Midlands

Education Aldridge School, Walsall; Olchfa School, Swansea; Loughborough College

Career World record-breaking swimmer, four-time Paralympic gold medallist and children's author. Appointed OBE in 2013

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today