Eric Bates – A Comino Obituary


A long standing associate of the Comino Foundation, Eric died this month (December 2022). He is remembered with great affection and respect by those of us who have been involved with the Foundation for many years and worked with him since the 1980s through to the new millenium. The Foundation benefited greatly from Eric’s wisdom and good judgement even to the extent that some of the people he identified and encouraged the Foundation to support are still involved on an active basis or ‘in the wings’. I am one of those, as a chance encounter in 1986 led to him coming to visit me at King Alfred’s College in Winchester and the arrangement for the department of Design and Technology which I had recently taken over, to host a DTI research fellow for a number of years. That was (now Professor) José Chambers. Later, in appreciation of his support, the College agreed to award Eric an Honorary Doctorship and it was with great satisfaction that I gave the oration at his presentation ceremony in Winchester Cathedral in 1993.

Eric became a Comino Trustee in 1986 and on retiring from the DTI in 1987 became the Foundation’s Education Fellow until stepping back in 2002 and fully retiring in 2004. By that time I had moved on and largely lost touch with Comino for over a decade before returning as a Trustee in 2010.
David Perry, Chair of Trustees

Another of those still active in Comino who benefitted from Eric’s wisdom is Pat Walters who has steered the continuing development of Comino-supported activities in Manchester area schools for over 25 years. In 2020 Pat wrote the following to mark Eric’s birthday.


Dr Eric Bates CBE BSc PhD HonDSc celebrates his 93rd birthday this year. Eric grew up in Sheffield, the son of a miner, and the only one in his village to pass for grammar school. He progressed to studying Chemistry at Manchester University, with his first job at ICI, moving quickly through the ranks to PA to Chairman of ICI. This took him to many countries and eventually into a government post concentrating on the vital importance of education in producing more scientists and engineers. We thank Eric for many of our present schemes, albeit in a different guise: Young Engineer for Britain, WISE Buses, Women in Engineering, Micros for Schools.

He was invited to join the Comino Foundation by Dimitri Comino, himself a keen supporter of the British manufacturing industry. Dimitri had established Dexion Ltd., a company that made slotted angle metal units for the construction industry, and, when he sold the company, with the proceeds established our Comino charity. He then persuaded the RSA to take the lead role in what turned out to be “Industry Year 1986”. Eric at the time was working for the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and following his retirement, he devoted more of his time towards promoting the aims of the Comino Foundation.

It was Industry Year when I met Eric. I had managed to persuade my headteacher to suspend the whole school timetable for a week for all students and teachers to link with the world of work. A massive training schedule was planned for local employers and teachers, motivated by students’ enthusiasm for learning the curriculum within a real world context.

The rest, they say, is history – Eric would say to me “Just do it”. And that’s the motto as Gill Haughton, [then] Headteacher at Abraham Moss School says, “Crack on girl and ignore the noise”.

Happy Birthday Eric!
Pat Walters – Strategic Manager, NW Comino Consortium

And in 2022, hearing of Eric’s death Pat wrote ‘It’s because of Eric’s trust in me that I am where I am now’.

José Chambers writes . . . . . . .
I shall always remember Eric as a colleague, a friend and someone with an indefatigable desire to improve the chances of others. Indeed, he had a significant impact on the course of my life, in that he opened doors for me into new working environments and hence into new ways of thinking about what might be possible, both for me personally and for those with whom I live and work.

Years later in 1989, Eric, speaking in The Great Hall of the RSA, explained his vision of ‘Education for Achievement.’ Most young people he suggested:
‘are capable of achieving significantly more in life than they do achieve’
‘can be encouraged to develop a way of thinking, an approach, which will help them to do this.’

Encouraging others to achieve is just what Eric did. There are many who will, throughout their lives, look back on his influence and support and thank him for helping them achieve more than they would ever have believed possible had it not been for him. We celebrate his life, knowing that Eric will be much missed.

Mike Tomlinson HIM, one-time Trustee of the Foundation and ex Chief Inspector of Schools says:
I first met Eric not long after his appointment as I was the HMI link with the Manpower Services Commission of the DTI and in particular Eric`s team. He made me welcome and shared willingly any information or policy decision. His quiet but determined approach, and his person management skills were soon very apparent. Over time he came to value my inputs to discussions and decisions and this became more apparent when the policy moved to support teacher training and INSET, as it was clear we did not have the teachers with the skills and knowledge needed to make a success of the new initiatives. Eric involved me fully in the discussions about implementation and subsequently I was part of the team making decisions on what projects to support. I greatly valued his considered approach and his sheer enthusiasm for the work, which he was convinced would change the curriculum in schools for the better. I was a Trustee of Comino when the decision was made to invite Eric to assume a role with the charity. He accepted without a second thought. He was always available for advice and kept fully up-to-date with all that Comino was involved with. He was a pleasure to work with and I greatly appreciated his friendship. He made a significant contribution to the advancement of “technical” curriculum thinking and should be remembered for this. He will be missed but what a life he has had.

Further details of Eric’s role in the Comino Foundation can be found here.