Head: A new lease of life for Ridgewaye School

Lee Colyer

For more than 25 years, much of the former Ridgewaye School has remained derelict, apart from the odd room set aside for the football club.

But two weeks ago, as reported in the Times last month, it was given a new lease of life by the Two Bridges School in Tonbridge, which has been given the site for a year.

Two Bridges is a referral unit, which caters for year ten and 11 pupils who may otherwise struggle to cope with mainstream education.

Headmistress Sue Beauchamp told the Times of the challenges faced by staff and pupils in ensuring their time spent at Two Bridges prepares them for a life outside school.

She said: “We try and personalise every child’s education with no more than five pupils per class.

“The timetables are very flexible to ensure each child can specialise in what they are good at. But it is a logistical challenge.”

There is no school uniform yet, but Mrs Beauchamp said a simple one could be on its way as many of the children have expressed a wish for one.

Three of the students, Ellie, Amber and Ella, gave the Times a guided tour of the unit.

They were keen to show off their new building, although Amber did confess she had ‘preferred being in Tonbridge,’ while Ellie said it was a good school, ‘at times.’

But they appeared to be very fond of their teachers, saying they are taught ‘very well’.

Mrs Beauchamp, who has 25 years of educational experience behind her, said the referral programme is a great way of helping youngsters reach their potential.

She said: “I taught pupils with behavioural problems or special needs but in mainstream schools, it felt a bit like fighting against the system.

“But here we can ensure we take into account their complex home issues and self-esteem.

“We try to treat the pupils as mainstream as possible as we understand it’s hard for them to look at other children attending mainstream schools and knowing they can’t.”

Stability is essential for the students, but the current arrangement means the school will have to be moved again by the end of next summer to make way for the ongoing Southborough hub development.

Mrs Beauchamp said: “We were only told we were moving a couple of weeks before the end of last term and then only had days to move in.

“I am already in the process of considering other sites but I hope we get a bit more notice next time. It’s like ground hog day all over again.”

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