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News > Obituaries > Obituary - Steve Tidball

Obituary - Steve Tidball

It is with regret that the Club announces the death of Steve J Tidball, Former Head of Economics and Business (1993-2012)
15 Sep 2020

TIDBALL, Steve J. Passed away 14th September 2020

Steve was the School's former Head of the Economics and Business Department (1993-2012) and will be sadly missed by his friends and family.

We are conscious that many people from this time at school may not be in contact with us and we would be very grateful if you could pass on this information to those that you know.

As is usual practice, we would like to place an obituary for him in the next OI Journal and would be very grateful if anyone felt they could come forward to write one. Alternatively, if you know of any stories or memories, please pass them on so we could put them together for the publication. Address any contributions to me through or in the comments below.

With best wishes

Iain Chesterman
OI Chairman


Ben Ponniah OI (1995-2002) writes:

I was taught Economics by Mr Tidball between 2000 and 2002. He was one of the best teachers I ever had - firm, fair, knowledgeable and passionate about his subject. I went on to read Economics at university and to be a don of the subject at Winchester College, a prestigious public school. I returned to Ipswich School in 2008 to teach a double lesson, with Steve observing - he gave me some very valuable insights, which helped me, as a trainee teacher, enormously - a generous man. His main phrase, which I am sure many others will relay, was: "Hard work comes first." This simple lifelong lesson is perhaps the most important one for anyone. 

A very fond memory involved our Economics set going to the pub at the end of our time at Ipswich School. The pub did karaoke and we all sang "My Way" by Frank Sinatra. Steve made sure I led the singing with the microphone, as I was a music scholar at Ipswich School. I got very emotional during the performance (a tear might have been shed, but I tried to hide it). What a wonderful way for our Economics set to end our time at Ipswich School. RIP, Sir. You have touched so many lives.


Ross Taylor OI (2007-2009) writes:

I am really sad to hear this news. I was taught Economics by Steven from 2007 to 2009. The quality of his teaching was one of the reasons I pursued Economics as a degree. He was passionate about getting good results for his students, but he also managed to make his lessons fun and original. I still remember his love for the Rocky movies and Plymouth Argyle FC. I also remember how we students were trialled with his 'paper basket' challenge (with 'Eye of the Tiger' playing in the background). Although I only knew Steven for two years, he had a really big impact on my own journey, so I am really thankful for his teaching and advice. I send my sincere condolences to his family and friends.


Thomas Fletcher OI writes:

Very sad to hear about Steve.
He clearly had a real love for the subject and was the reason many of my cohort (and I'm sure many others) continued our study of Economics at university.

I have always wondered what happened to the "Essay or Glory" board when he retired.

Thoughts with his family at this time.


Rob McClean (OI 1997-03) writes:

Just had word that my old economics teacher died a few months ago. Steve Tidball was an amazing teacher. No nonsense and a tough taskmaster but he got results. I owe him for the fortunate life I lead today. Essay or glory, always hard to resist the temptation.

David Lord OI (1989-1996) writes:

This is sad news, such a great teacher. I certainly wouldn’t have achieved my B in Economics A-level without his positive influence! Great sense of humour but with a passion for his subject that made his lessons such fun. 


Mike Card OI (1993-2000) writes:

Essay or Glory was the greatest game ever...

During his class you could opt for essay or glory. This meant you could throw an A4 bit of paper at his bin from your seat. Get it in and you got your name on a yellow bit of paper and a mini FA cup to go on your desk. Miss and you had to write a full Economics essay. Neil Parry (OI) is only a CFA and Fund Manager because he missed so much”

For my part, he was a great teacher who spent time to coach me to do and achieve more both in and out of School.


Lewis Catlow OI (1998-2011) writes:

Steve taught me Economics in the old Prep building from 2009-2011. He took no prisoners in his class, the pace that he taught the content was fierce – he ensured everyone stepped up their game in the room.
Steve had the best poker face going. It was worth checking the Plymouth Argyle result before stepping in on a Monday, so you were prepared!
So many in the class smashed the Economics exams in that period, and that’s down to Steve. He did not stand for sub-par work. He spoke about the (then) ongoing Global Financial Crisis in a way that us 16 year olds could understand. He made his subject exciting. I remember my parents’ confusion when I was choosing to watch Newsnight over Sky Sports News when I got home – Steve stirred something in us…
No doubt you’ve had a heap of messages about ‘essay or glory’. The game was simple. Throw something towards the bin – good accuracy gets you glory, but if you miss, you’re in for a late night explaining the difference between the FCA and PRA in 1,000 words. In my case, it was a risk often not worth taking. This was an example of Mr Tidball’s humour – he would let you decide your own fate – it was up to you if your ego needed to push for the ‘glory’. It was always a highlight to see one of the tall poppies crash with a bad throw.
Steve – alongside Mr Marion and Mr Boyle – gave me confidence that I could pursue a career with a Business/Economics angle. I wouldn’t have had 4 good years studying Banking and Finance at Loughborough without the A grade he helped me achieve. I have since pivoted towards advertising (now at a media agency in Australia), and I owe a lot to the Business Boys for their help.
Steve lived near me in Kesgrave, and I’d occasionally see him out and about – but without prior knowledge of Argyle’s recent fortunes, it wasn’t worth risking the awkward ‘hello sir’ on the weekend.
Please send my condolences to Steve’s friends and family back home. A no-nonsense guy with a unique teaching style, that inspired so many of us.


Rob Scutt OI (1988-1995) writes:

Mr Tidball was unique, something only those that were taught by him would understand. After choosing Economics at A-level and meeting him for the first time with his very straight posture, dry sense of humour and scrawly handwriting; I soon realised he knew his stuff and how to teach a subject to kids who at that point had no prior knowledge of Economics. Whether it was a quiz before lunch with a correct answer seeing you running out the door, or his ability to transfer theory into world politics, there were never too many dull moments in his class. This of course carried over to his other passion, football, where many a good battle at Notcutts was had between teachers and  the Sixth Form, resulting very often in some interesting banter during lesson time. My sincerest thoughts go out to his family and friends who he leaves behind.


Colin Bamford writes:

I first met Steve when I became OCR's chief examiner in Economics. Steve had the difficult task of revising my draft question papers, something that he did in a fastidious way. He was also involved in developing a new syllabus when A-levels went modular. I really welcomed his input. He had a knack of keeping quiet in meetings and then making a telling point when most of us were struggling for inspiration.

Steve was a first-class economist. He had a broad and deep understanding of both micro and macro concepts. We often had lively discussions over lunch in Cambridge.

I also remember his love for Plymouth Argyle. I am a Huddersfield Town fan so you can imagine the conversation when we discussed the respective rises and falls of our two teams.


Tim Kiddell OI (1989 - 1998) & Tim Wyndham OI (1991 -1998) writes:

Mr Tidball was a first class economist who also had an unprecedented ability to motivate young men and women to dedicate themselves to the subject. He enabled so many of us to reach the next step with the best possible preparation. His teaching of economics and of principles to live by continues decades after his last contact with pupils.

Many boys' first encounter with Mr Tidball’s was a fierce one: a loud, deep bellow to stop running in the corridor, to not fling school bags in corridors or any other infringement of orderly behaviour. Why should high standards wait until the Sixth form? Twenty four years on, we can still remember the trepidation of the first economics class: had curiosity for a new subject got the better of us? Would his bark be worse than his bite? As it turned out the answer was no and yes. 

Mr Tidball set high expectations. Of himself and of his students. Our first class with him involved him writing on the board a table of the just departed Upper Sixths results. He promised us that he would provide us intensive support in the Lower Sixth, and provide us more freedom to take control in the Upper Sixth. Stay on his path, and success would follow. We were hooked. 

Mr Tidball’s understanding of the value of psychology in economics education predated the integration of psychology into mainstream economic thought. On the one hand, he wanted to instill a self-imposed discipline. Hard work comes first. The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary. These terms were plastered around the classroom long before it became fashionable in elite sports teams. These aphorisms were not mere window dressing. They have stayed with us for more than two decades. On the other hand, Mr Tidball also understood the power of competition. No, not that game (yet). His possibly impromptu and certainly regular exit quizzes ensured students had their definitions nailed down. One of us still remembers beating the other by remembering what the abbreviation GFCF stood for. 

Essay or glory was inspired. Most reading this will know the game, many will have played, some will have won. One paper ball, one bin, one roll of honour. We wonder how many essays were written (and marked) from those whose wrist limpened or whose aim wandered. How many received their highest mark for such an essay?

The respect for Mr Tidball’s knowledge of economics is not constrained to his pupils. As a senior examiner, his forensic ability to identify potential issues with questions was widely acknowledged, as was his ability to ensure a constructive discussion. His aim was to ensure that examinations, and their results, were fair to all students. He was a welcome addition to any examination meeting both inside and outside the formalities. He will be widely missed in examination circles. His understanding of economics was such that on retirement from Sixth form teaching, Mr Tidball held a number of positions at higher education institutions at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. We were lucky to have such a teacher. 

Mr Tidball offered pupils so much more than simply being an excellent teacher of economics. The trip to a two-day Ashridge Sixth Form Management Conference included many highlights, but the video of a mock interview built strong foundations for milk round interviews a few years later, the adventure filled trip back from a nearby pub remains in the memory. He identified competitions for the most able. He ran the Sports Leadership option, without which, one of us would not have been able to leave for New Zealand on A-Level results day. His report writing went further than economics, with well-considered and impactful comments on personal development too.

So, yes, Mr Tidball had high expectations and a growl. He also cared deeply about his pupils’ progress. He ensured pupils had the tools to meet his demands. He began with highly detailed essay plans so that even the most unskilled essay writer, as one of us was, could soon become an accomplished writer, of economics essays at least. His sense of humour was as sharp as his eye for an incorrect label or imprecise definition.

A privilege of attending Ipswich school was that there were no shortage of teachers who could profoundly impact students. For us, Mr Tidball stood above even this fine crowd. This is no slight on Messers Gregory, Sinclair, Butterworth or the many others who were worthy. 

We feel lucky to have had him as a teacher. We feel a deep and personal regret that we re-established contact too late to sit with him through an Ipswich-Plymouth game. We take heart that he knew how much of an impact he had on our lives, and from his stated joy in hearing from so many other Old Ipswichian Economists during lockdown. We miss the discussions never had on, well, everything about the 21st century. Mr Tidball’s impact will live long.

It was Gross Fixed Capital Formation, by the way. We think he would find this funny. And satisfying.


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