VIEW members with long memories may remember Eamonn Fetton, who has died at
the age of 68. Eamonn worked for RNIB for over 20 years and was a key figure in
shifting its educational focus from running special schools to supporting mainstream
inclusion. During the 1990s and early 2000s he played a major role in the wider
landscape of VI education.
Eamonn developed cataracts as a child and was sent from his home in Ireland to St
Vincents School in Liverpool. From there he went to Royal National College in
Hereford and later trained as a teacher. He joined RNIB as a training officer in the
late 1980s and was quickly promoted to head up RNIB’s new Education Support
Services. Eamonn was passionate about inclusion and developed a network of RNIB
education centres covering the whole of the UK, providing training for professionals
and support for families. He introduced the RNIB Inclusion Support Scheme, giving
grants to local authorities to encourage the inclusion of blind children in mainstream
schools, and also set up the VI MQ course at the Institute of Education in London
which trained a significant number of QTVIs over the next 20 years. He was a great
believer in assistive technology and promoted its use to facilitate inclusion.
In the late 1990s Eamonn was promoted to become RNIB Director of Education and
Employment, with a remit to combine and rationalise these two important areas of its
work. While this brought him more staff and bigger budgets it also created new
challenges and he struggled to fulfil his ambitions. Eamonn’s management style
could be abrasive and he gradually fell out of favour with RNIB’s senior leadership.
Eventually in 2008 he resigned and moved to the Isle of Wight to pursue his interest
in property development, renovating an old hotel to let as holiday apartments. Sadly,
this venture was cut short when he fell ill with a degenerative brain condition and he
died in July this year.
For those who knew him, Eamonn was a force to be reckoned with. He was hard
working, passionate and very skilful at arguing his case. While he was very loyal to
his friends, he could be difficult to work with and he was regarded with suspicion by
some for the scale of his ambitions. Overall, however, he played a very significant
part in promoting inclusion and under his leadership RNIB provided a level of support
for schools, services and families that now feels like a distant dream. He deserves to
be remembered with pride and respect for his achievements, which underpin much
of the specialist VI support that we know today.