Ridgewood School, Doncaster, set to expand as it marks 50 years teaching

Ridgewood School Executive Leaders, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP SchoolFocus-Ridgewood MC 3
Ridgewood School Executive Leaders, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP SchoolFocus-Ridgewood MC 3

The final stretch of the M1 motorway between Rotherham and Leeds had just been completed. Protests again the Vietman war were taking place, and just a couple of months earlier, the last steam train service had been ended by British Railways.

That was 1968. Meanwhile, in Doncaster, youngsters headed to a brand new school in Scawsby as it opened its doors for the first time.

Ridgewood School's Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award participants. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP SchoolFocus-Ridgewood MC 2

Ridgewood School's Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award participants. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP SchoolFocus-Ridgewood MC 2

Fifty years on, and Ridgewood School is looking at celebrating its half century anniversary in October.

But the current headteacher, Maggie Dunn, says the school is very different to the building which opened back then.

It has more than double the number of pupils it had when it first opened, and the numbers are set to rise even further under plans to increase the size of the sixth form.

Mrs Dunn said: "We will be doing a number of things to commemorate the 50th anniversary. But the school is more than twice the size now that it was then, and we have a sixth form. I think people's expectations of what education should be and what we provide has changed massively, and we're trying to do a great deal with the money that we've got these days."

The Schools Musicians, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP SchoolFocus-Ridgewood MC 1

The Schools Musicians, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP SchoolFocus-Ridgewood MC 1

At present, there are over 1,400 pupils at Ridgewood, In 1968 the figure was in the region of 600.

A large portion of the rise has come as the result of the opening of the school's first sixth form, in 2011. Mrs Dunn has seen it rise from 150 pupils when she first arrived at the school four years ago to 260 next year. Ofsted rated the sixth form as excellent at its last visit.

The sixth form's growth has come at a time when many smaller sixth forms in the borough have been closing. As a former science and technology college, it has good science facilities.

Mrs Dunn said: "A lot of pupils come in for science and maths from other schools, and many of them go on on to the top universities. Because we were a specialist school we have a lot of good staff in that area, and excellent facilities for technology.

"The sixth form is outstanding and its doing really well, and it continues to grow, and we're expanding the course offer. Because of our geographical location, I think we have become a hub for A-level provision in this part of the borough, and we are working collaboratively with other schools.

"We have plans to grow it further and and a new director of sixth form is coming in September."

Changes have been made at the school over the last few years. Although it was classed as good by Ofsted in 2015, its previous inspection had rated it as requiring improvement.

Measures taken included moves to improve behaviour.

A new, more formal uniform was introduced, bringing in a blazer and a collar and tie. The school has also brought in a new system of rewards for youngsters to encourage good attitudes from pupils.

"We are trying to set aspirations high, and to reward positive attitudes that will lead to really strong results," said Mrs Dunn. "It is about giving privileges to pupils as rewards, regardless of ability. Those who show good attitude get a badge, that gets them to the front of the lunch queue, and access to a sort of VIP room. It may be a small thing, but its not all about chocolate and Alton Towers trips.

"They have the chance to win the badge every seven weeks. We believe a hard working attitude and participation is as important as anything else."

The school also brought in prefects, and a pupils council, with members nominated by other children and voted for by staff and pupils.

The year nine prefects help out at year seven induction weeks.

And a house system has been brought in to encourage pupils from different year groups to work together and mix.The house names are drawn from the list of former winners of the St Leger, with each of the words having links to leadership. The are Imperatrix, Voltigeur, Ambidexter or Margrave.

Heads of houses are drawn from the sixth form, with a deputy head from year 11. They were taken to the fee paying Pockington School to see how the system works there.

"We are trying to take the best of the old traditions," added Mrs Dunn. "I think the pupils like to feel that they belong, and I think a sense of community is important in Doncaster.

"You are part of that community but you also have to give back to the community, and that is why we put a lot of importance on extra-curricular activities. We have 180 children doing the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, and 40 doing the gold award. We have 91 doing the National Citizen Service. That's more than any other school in Doncaster."