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Principal's Blog - 1st February 2020

3 February 2020
Principal's Blog - 1st February 2020

Amazing Ridgeway Performance

In November a parent from our school, Toni Smith who is the Chief Operating Officer for “Primis Mortgage Network” based in Chippenham, mentioned that it had always been a dream of theirs to feature a children’s choir at their Annual Gala Awards evening held at The VOX in Birmingham. She was fully aware that she could book a choir through a professional Performing Arts agency but as a regular audience member at our Ridgeway School Musicals, she felt that we were exactly what she was looking for. Worried about lack of time and the constraints of already full school days, we nevertheless rose to the challenge, believing it to be an excellent opportunity for our fabulous students, and shoehorned in a weekly lunchtime rehearsal.

So on Thursday 30th Jan myself, Mrs. Jankinson, Mr. Faghihi and 60 of our CPA students boarded a Coach to Birmingham to feature on the same bill as Sir Chris Hoy and Lulu! We arrived feeling more than a little nervous, got a 20-minute sound check and walk through on the stage, surrounded by a professional technical team and then we were rushed into hiding (as we were a surprise for later.) It was a very comfortable hiding place, where we were fed, watered, and looked after extremely well!

To close the afternoon proceedings, our students took to the stage for a 20-minute set in front of 700 people and deservedly received a double, totally spontaneous, standing ovation! They were truly amazing. This morning I received a lovely thank you email from Toni Smith this is some of what she said:

“The feedback from the delegates, without exception, was amazing; one of them said ‘of all the things Primis has ever done, the choir was the best ever’ and I have to agree. Your students filled the room with emotion and inspiration of what youthful talent looks like. It was unforgettable for us all and left Richard, Jon and I feeling very proud.”

Sharon Hodge, Faculty Leader of CPA

Primary MFL Day

31st January saw the second of two Primary School MFL days where over 200 Year 5 pupils from local schools came to Ridgeway to learn French, German, Portuguese and Spanish. They read and interpreted the fairy tale Goldilocks and the Three Bears written in the different languages. Finally, an art gallery was created from junk models which were then described in each of the foreign languages.

The teachers at Ridgeway do a lot of work with primary schools in the local area, with our teachers going out to teach either French or German once a week at Chiseldon, Rodbourne, Croft, Tregoze and Moredon primaries. This typically leads to students coming to our school feeling very positive and excited about the prospect of learning a new language.

Holocaust Survivor Live Webcast

On the 24th of January at 10am Year 9 students were taken to the gym to watch a live webcast with Holocaust Survivor Susan Pollack. Susan shared her harrowing experiences with the aim to encourage young people to challenge prejudice and discrimination with the key message that it is always important to always speak out against both encouraging communities where there is social cohesion, tolerance and mutual understanding.

Susan’s Story

Susan was born Zsuzsanna Blau on 9th September 1930 in Felsögöd, Hungary. She had one brother, Laci, and lived with her mother and father.

Susan became aware of antisemitism in her hometown from a young age. In 1938, her uncle was murdered his attacker was sentenced to just two years’ imprisonment and served much less time than that. From 1938, Susan’s brother Laci was also affected by anti semitic laws. He had hoped to study at university, but a law restricted the number of Jewish students who could enter higher education.

Following the outbreak of the Second World War anti-Jewish graffiti appeared on the streets and antisemitic propaganda was broadcast on the radio. Physical attacks on Jews also became more common, and Laci was badly beaten at a Boy Scout meeting. The situation deteriorated further following the German invasion of Hungary in March 1944. Jews had to wear a yellow Star of David. Eventually a letter was issued by the council for all Jewish fathers to attend a meeting. Susan’s father was among those men who went to the meeting, but when they arrived they were herded into waiting lorries and taken to a concentration camp. Susan never saw her father again.

Under the supervision of SS officer Adolf Eichmann, the Nazis and their Hungarian collaborators organised the deportation of Hungarian Jews: within less than two months from mid-May 1944, almost all Jews were deported, mostly to Auschwitz-Birkenau. When Susan and her family were ordered to leave their home, they still hoped they would be allowed to resettle elsewhere. Susan took a portable sewing machine with her. Susan, Laci and their mother were all sent to a ghetto in Vác and from there to an internment camp. In late May 1944, Susan and her family were sent by cattle truck to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Men and women were separated immediately, and Susan was further separated from her mother who was sent to join a group of elderly prisoners. She soon learned that her mother had been sent directly to the gas chambers. Susan was selected to work and remained in the camp for around 10 weeks before being sent to Guben in Germany to work as a slave labourer in an armaments factory. With the Allies advancing, the prisoners were forced on a death march to Bergen-Belsen. On 15th April 1945 Susan was liberated by the British army. After she was hospitalised for tuberculosis, typhoid and severe malnutrition, she was sent to Sweden to recover.

After liberation, Susan found that Laci was the only member of her family to have survived. More than 50 of Susan’s relatives had been killed during the Holocaust. Laci continued to live in their parents’ house, but Susan wasn’t able to return to Hungary for 20 years after the end of the war. During his time at Auschwitz-Birkenau Laci had been forced to work in the Sonderkommando, moving bodies from the gas chamber to the ovens. He suffered with mental health problems caused by this experience until his death in 1995. After the war, Susan moved to Canada, where she met and married a fellow survivor.

Susan has three children and six grandchildren. She now lives in London and regularly shares her story.

Why do we do this?

At Ridgeway the Holocaust is taught in both History and Religious Education in order for students to understand the nature of genocide and what was lost as a result of Hitler coming into power, especially for the Jewish community. Students in Religious Education focus on the story of another survivor Leon Greenman, who last saw his wife Elsa and his two and half year-old son Barney taken in the back of a van off the platform at Auschwitz. The students who take Year 9 Religious Education create projects for Wider Learning in order to commemorate the loss of not just the lives in the Holocaust but also the life that the survivors should have had. The projects are always overwhelming in the sense that the students really show how the schemes of work are impacting them and what they are taught in their lessons will not leave them. If you have a Year 9 student, who takes RE, just ask them, ‘can you tell me about Leon and the red velvet capes’.

Year 7 Local Place Study Investigation – The Ellendune Centre

Mathilda Miles and Jacob Ferries from 7S/Gg1, have recounted the Year 7 Geography Investigation for their local place study.

Mathilda Miles (7B2) – “In Year 7 Geography, we have been learning about perceptions and concepts of places. Therefore, to increase our understanding of this topic, each Year 7 class took a trip to the Ellendune Centre in Wroughton. We were able to observe the area around the Ellendune, as well as the area itself. We took into account its appearance, how much it thrives in the local area and the overall atmosphere of this location. We then discussed our findings and how we could improve this in the future to make it more accurate. From this experience, we were all able to develop our understanding of what a sense of place is and we are always pleased to be given opportunities to boost our learning.”

Jacob Ferries (7K2) – “After a quick walk to the Ellendune Centre, the class dispersed hurriedly to complete the questionnaires as conveniently far away from the teachers as possible! The questions themselves were fairly simple. The format suggested ranking the features of the area in anticipation for the questions that based themselves around what forms of regeneration and rebranding could be put in place for the local area – this was particularly beneficial for students who didn’t live in Wroughton as it gave them a chance to look around evaluate the area, in some cases, completely change their perception of the area due to resourceful thinking, analytical judging and an opportunity to put their Geographical skills into a practical situation. The trip overall was a huge success and was a useful, information hour that put our skills to the test!”

Thank you to all students for their exceptional behaviour and engagement and to the class teachers who assisted in the smooth running of the trip. It was particularly useful for students to visually see the changes they would propose and how a sense of place works in action.

Buzz Gym Swindon

The Year 12 BTEC Sport students had a great trip to Buzz Gym in Swindon. As part of their course students need to research and understand the running on Business in the sports industry.

The students enjoyed a tour of the facilities and a Q & A session with Val the manager. It was a great experience and will hugely help in their exam.


We just wanted to share the good news that Robert Hawkins in Year 13 won three gold medals in a Swindon Badminton competition over the weekend. Please do congratulate him when/if you see him. Badminton is very important to him and he works incredibly hard not to let it interfere with his studies. Well done Robert.

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