Message from the Headmaster
Dear Old Ridgeans
It is a special pleasure to be able to ‘put pen to paper’ in my capacity as Headmaster with a brief message that will serve to introduce the first of what, from now on, will be termly Old Ridgean Newsletters.
Our Centenary year and all that it has offered our current Ridge family in the form of celebration, remembrance and thanksgiving has, importantly, also provided for many of our old boys an opportunity to reconnect with their prep school alma mater. Some of this has taken the form of random visits from old boys who have just been passing through whilst others have come about as a result of scheduled functions which have drawn the support of a good number of past pupils. Whatever the circumstances, it has been wonderful to welcome so many of you Old Ridgeans back to this remarkable little school.
Joe Kotwal, who heads up our Marketing Department, has, during the past four years, been on a personal crusade to reignite the Old Boys Association. The fruits of his labours were evidenced when, on the evening of the 26th July, close to 300 old boys returned to make merry as they made the most of a memorable and enjoyable and very special Centenary Old Boys Dinner.
Such a turnout, and the many memories as shared on the evening, speaks volumes for all that this school has meant to so many who, on looking back, recognize what a privilege it was for them to have been afforded the opportunity to have attended such a celebrated school during their primary years. Other Old Boys Reunions in London and Cape Town have likewise served to rekindle that ‘sense of belonging’ amongst the old boy fraternity. All of which bodes well for the future as we work to grow our Old Boys Association in ways that will serve to give it continued momentum and a permanency of life that will underpin it for future generations into the next 100 years.
Our Centenary has been touched on a few times in preceding paragraphs and so it would be wrong of me not to say a little more on the subject in a broader context.
Thinking about and planning for this 100 year birthday celebration started some three years ago when Angie Chapman (a current parent) was asked to head up the Centenary Committee. This proved to be an inspired appointment. She and her team have been remarkable.
The Ridge family has been treated to a celebration that has provided something for everyone. History, heritage and tradition have been sensitively look after, there has been plenty of fun learning adventures that have kept the Spirit of Centenary alive and the boys coming back for more, and every effort has been made to intentionally include, under a banner of Celebrating with a Purpose, a broader community engagement.
There have been many highlights during a busy year but a few that have been particularly memorable are:
- The Centenary Launch morning that included a Ridge School family parade through the streets of Westcliff;
- Every boy was issued with a Right Stuff Passport in early February. These have been used to record the number of minutes of service each has been involved in during the year;
- A specially arranged and beautifully orchestrated Mothers’ Lunch afternoon was hosted here at The Ridge on the 18th May;
- The Right Stuff Action Day when all Ridge boys, their parents and many members of staff devoted a Saturday to acts of service in support of local NPOs and charities;
- We hosted our first ever Rugby Festival in late June. With twelve participating schools – some from as far away as the Eastern Cape and KZN, it certainly drew the crowds and proved to be a stunning success;
- Janet Fox / van der Poel’s remarkable A Westcliff Story was staged in mid July. With every Ridge boys having the opportunity to be under lights up on stage, this highly acclaimed masterpiece kept audiences spellbound for six sold out performances;
- The ‘blast from the past’ Old Boys Dinner brought many of you back to your old stomping grounds. It also provided for a very unique opportunity to welcome and honour four Ridge headmasters from yesteryear … John Nicolson, Grant Nupen, Alan Wyborn and Paul Channon;
- Saturday 27th July could not have been more perfect as we celebrated our Centenary Founders’ Day with so many past and present members of The Ridge School family;
- A Top Secret Birthday Surprise two hour, fun-in-the-sun for all Ridge boys was set aside by the Centenary Planning Committee on Monday 7th October. It went down a real treat;
- The week ending 18th October has been set aside for a Visual Arts Exhibition that will serve to display the wonder of a full range of Ridge boys’ art that has been produced through the year.
Thank you to so many old boys who have made a special effort to reconnect with The Ridge during the past months. I would be delighted to welcome back others who have not been able to join in the Centenary celebrations but who, nonetheless, have a yearning to return for a nostalgic stroll down memory lane.
Message from the Chairman of the Board of Governors
As my five year tenure as Chairman draws to a close in March 2020 there have been a few stand out observations that I may not have anticipated before I had the opportunity to get more involved with this incredible school.
Firstly, running a boys’ only prep school is a lot more complex than I had anticipated. In this light I must commend Richard Stanley, his executive and the academic and non- academic staff. They have, as a collective, embraced the mantra of “from Good to Great” and thus have tirelessly worked on trying to raise the bar. There is no doubt that we, as a school, can improve in certain areas and naturally you never reach the finish line when you are always trying to get better, but my goodness has this team tried their hearts out to be the best that they can be! For this we, as a board, are extremely appreciative.
Secondly, ensuring that a school like The Ridge remains in a sound financial position is challenging as issues such as immigration and semi-gration, affordability, not having a high-school and sometimes young boys needing greater learning support than our lighthouse team can provide all play a part in reducing our school’s numbers. In this light we are so grateful that the demand for places at The Ridge remains intact. In addition the great work that Liz Wallis, Mandy Herold and Joe Kotwal do in filling spaces that become available is incredibly impressive. We therefore remain full at over 500 boys but we certainly do not take this for granted in this extremely tough and competitive environment.
Thirdly, the affordability issue in these tough economic times is becoming a greater issue than ever before. I put up a graphic at the Old Boys cocktail party in Johannesburg which I believe illustrates this point well. This graph is my own personal experience having been a parent of three boys at the school since 2007. When my eldest son started in Grade 0 I clearly recall balking at the fact that it cost R42,810 for a boy in Grade 7. If this amount was to be extrapolated out by inflation since then the equivalent fee in today’s money is R83,710. The fact is that a Grade 7 boy costs some R127,820 in 2019 (or R284,044 before tax). By definition this affordability gap is shrinking the amount of families that can afford to send their son(s) to a great school like The Ridge. As a result we have launched a ring-fenced Trust focused on raising capital for fee assistance to enable the school to financially assist worthy families. High schools have been pro-active and successful in this regard. Prep Schools not so much. We, at The Ridge, want to change this!
Fourthly, It is a lot more difficult to raise funds for a Prep school than it appears to be for a senior school. I acknowledge that I am absolute passionate about The Ridge but I do find this fact difficult to understand as not only are great memories created in a loving and caring environment but life long friendships are born at Prep school. A boy spends almost double the amount of time at junior school as he does at his college. Why then is it that there is not the same level of magnetism or loyalty towards a prep school when compared to the support allocated to a senior school?
Fifthly, the number of Ridge Old Boys who send their sons to the school is disappointingly low. There is no doubt that issues such as the number of Old Boys that no longer live in Johannesburg or, for that matter, South Africa makes a significant impact. Even in Johannesburg affordability of housing around the school’s typical catchment area makes it difficult for young families to plant their roots in and around Westcliff. The school fees, too, are an inhibiting factor. Having said all of this the fact that we only have 30 boys that are sons of old boys is concerning.
Now that the Centenary year is drawing to a close does not mean that we are going to back off from widening our Old Boy network. Quite the contrary, we want to take all the great work that Joe and Darshan have done and build on it to ensure that The Ridge remains top of mind as a place of great memories, as a place where you were genuinely “known and grown”, as a place that you learnt to fly.
James Clucas (1981)
OLD BOYS ASSEMBLY CLASS OF 2014
The Ridge welcomed back the Class of 2014 before they sit for their final exams. After an enriching service and a delicious tea our Old Boys wandered around the school campus to relive their happy days spent here at The Ridge
OLD BOYS CAPE TOWN REUNION
An enjoyable evening was spent reconnecting with old boys at the Cape Town Reunion. It is clear from the video below that The Ridge still holds a special place in their hearts.
OLD BOYS CENTENARY DINNER
In early 2016 I was tasked to begin working on the Old Boys database. We needed to consolidate three different databases, containing different fields of information into one workable platform. The reason was clear and explicit – contact as many Old Boys as possible and begin the groundwork to fill the Nicolson Hall for the Old Boys Centenary Reunion Dinner in 2019. What followed were many hours of tinkering and tweaking until the database looked like something we could use. My thanks to Darshan Mistry on all the work hours he put into getting it to a state of readiness. The fruits of our labour were enjoyed on 26 July 2019 when over 260 Old Boys and former Headmasters and staff arrived at The Ridge for the dinner.
The evening began with a tour led by the Grade 7s. Many of our Old Boys hadn’t been back to The Ridge since they departed, many over a decade ago and some for as long as 50 years.
Current boys, staff and parents are fully aware of the amazing changes to the campus but not our Old Boys. The Junior Prep building had them astounded as they could only recall chalkboards and wooden desk with ink wells and pencil grooves. The OSIC was the second stop of the tour and again their responses were that of amazement at the thought of programming robots and filming movies in front of a ‘green screen’.
Following the tour, pre-drinks were enjoyed in the Paul Channon Anniversary Quad as we waited for the arrival of the entire party. After our guests found their seats, Richard Stanley officially welcomed our guests of honour: four of the past twelve Headmasters – Paul Channon, Alan Wyborn, Grant Nupen and John Nicolson. This was followed by a speech by James Clucas (1981) and current Chairman of The Ridge School Board of Governors. Peter Langschmidt entertained the crowd with 5 auction items and Pete Henderson regaled memories from his time at The Ridge. The evening was a resounding success as Old Boys from as far back as 1939 to as recent as 2018 mingled and connected socially. The funds raised on the evening were in aid of The Ridge Trust Fee Assistance Programme.
By 1 a.m. the last of the group had left and a quick clean-up was required to ensure the hall and quad were presentable for Founders’ Day Tea. My thanks to the dedication and meticulous planning of Bonnie Smithers and Melissa Musset in presenting an amazing venue, delicious dinner and fully stocked bar. The evening was further supported by several other mums – Clare MacKenzie, Jackie Collier, Karina Van Heerden and Caroline Wyborn. Lastly, thank you to Sarah Carmichael for the décor and Jenny Herman for the table memorabilia.
Planning has already begun for the Cape Town Reunion taking place on 2 October for many Old Boys who were not able to make the trip up to Johannesburg. The 2020 UK reunion will take place, as usual, in early March at The RAF Club.
Before the festivities took place on Rose and Cheales fields, we were privileged to attend our traditional Founders’ Day service on Hersov field. We were honoured to have Paul Edey as our guest speaker at this significant occasion. As we have become accustomed, we were regaled with fond anecdotes and special historical moments from the history of our school. His speech unquestionably captured the spirit we all feel in this centenary year.
UPGRADE TO SCHOOL FACILITIES
The Lighthouse continues to reflect the image portrayed in the name. Our multidisciplinary team provide a platform for the sharing of specialised educational knowledge, skills and resources. Our focus is always on the child first and building on his strengths rather than the challenges and vulnerabilities in his learning.
Our team work very closely together sharing innovative ideas, thoughts and concerns. In order to sustain this team cohesion, trust and open lines of communication are essential.
Our goal is threefold, to enable staff to develop a more holistic view of the boys whilst catering for their specific academic needs through individual therapy as well as consolidating their skills and extending their confidence. Most importantly, it allows optimal opportunity for pupil-centred communication between teachers, therapists and parents. This links the Lighthouse with the school’s teaching and learning environment on a daily basis.
We have continued to work on co-teaching activities within the classroom as well as working with the designated groups for English and Mathematics in the Lighthouse.
The purpose and nature of assessment is always a key area of discussion particularly with the heightened levels of anxiety within our society. Key Questions are what forms of assessment are necessary, how often they should be implemented and which processes should be employed. We are often reminded that the root word for assessment is assidere which literally means to ‘sit beside’. Assessment is not a spreadsheet or a list of marks – it’s a conversation! As Robert Meehan stated “the most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration, our growth is limited to our perspectives”.
On a personal level, we are privileged with the Ridge support to attend various courses, grow our experience and knowledge as well as sharing thoughts and ideas with other schools at the Learning Support Cluster Groups.
Jan Mallen, Agnes Jooste, Claire Lord and Candice Fletcher
OUR NEW JUNIOR PREP BUILDING
OLD BOY NEWS
Congratulations to Tato Lesoma (2012) who is the current goalkeeper for Supersport United. Pictured above Tato holds the 2019 MTN Trophy after his team’s victory over Highland Park earlier this year. Tato also represented the SA U20 team in 2017 on their tour to England to play in a try-nations tournament with Brazil.
Ridge Old Boys at St Andrew’s College after their Valedictory Service – all part of the class of 2014.
Murray Schnell and Christian Clausen (2014) both represented the First XV Rugby team at Hilton College this year.
SCHOOL NUMBERS (USE JAMES PRESENTATION)
THE RIDGE CENTENARY CLUB
THE RIDGE TRUST
FUTURE PLANS FOR THE RIDGE
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