A parent’s memory of Mr Riddiough, a great and inspirational headteacher whose innovative ideas will live on:
Willowdown is a new school, it is modern, it looks clean and it is accessible. It is however just a building and lovely though it is, it is the people within it that make it the place that it is.
Now when I first came to look around Willowdown with my daughter our opinion of mainstream schools was fairly low, my daughter lacked self-confidence and felt demoralised and that no-one really understood her, my son had crashed out of the education system altogether. And yet there is something that happened as we walked around and listened to the ethos of this new school. The more you see, the more you learn, the more you feel yourself breathe a sigh of relief and you think yes this could work I think they do actually understand. Three years on my opinion hasn’t changed, this is a special place absolutely making a difference every day. Now both of my children are accessing full-time education and most importantly they are both happy and are both doing well.
Without a doubt Mr Riddiough was a visionary; he had the idea that education should be truly inclusive and accessible for all. That education can take many forms; it should be flexible and adaptable to suit the needs of all of the children regardless of their ability, background and level and to see their education as an individual journey. He also had the idea that school should be a welcoming place and that education should be enjoyable as well as informative.
He set about forming and leading a team that would help him make that happen. A lot will talk about making a difference; Mr Riddiough was a man who definitely did make a difference.
As a result Willowdown is rather special, it’s aimed at everyone and adaptions are quickly made so that it can be. It is a mainstream Primary and yet it is unique. The teachers really know the children, they want to be here and they do actually care. It’s not just a job for teachers who are treading water until their time is done it is a vocation following an ethos to which they all subscribe.
This outside space is a further addition to that, an area that can be flexible and tailored to those that are using it. It is an extension to the main building, allowing the children a different environment in which to learn. It will enhance and enrich their education further and yet it is still within the safe environment of the school as a whole.
It is an addition and in turn also a legacy following the principles and values of a man who wanted to change mainstream education for the better and I believe that he would have wholly approved.
EM (Parent of a Year 5 pupil)