Holocaust Beacon School
Holocaust Beacon Schools serve as dynamic hubs co-ordinating a network of local schools, helping them to develop confidence, proficiency and excellence in Holocaust teaching and learning. We are committed to the view that the Holocaust is a critically important part of young people’s education. We therefore demonstrate a commitment to the importance of Holocaust education as well as a keenness to embrace creativity and innovation into our curriculum. The Cottesloe School, in partnership with UCL London, has achieved this status and is therefore recognised for its contribution to this field of teaching.
As a Beacon School for Holocaust Education, we recognise the importance of students being able to bear witness to the events of the Holocaust. In order for them to do this, we strive to provide opportunities for students to learn about this first hand. We therefore plan a number of events in January each year, to coincide with Holocaust Memorial day.
Mrs Redman organises for students in Years 9 and 10, who take Ethics and/or History, to be given the opportunity to watch a webcast from the Holocaust Education Trust. In this year’s webcast, Tracey Ann Oberman (Friday Night Dinner) interviewed Susan Pollack MBE who was a survivor of Auschwitz and other camps. She told of her early life in Hungary, and how anti-Semitic laws were gradually passed to limit her freedom. Despite this, she didn’t know what fate would lie before her when she was sent for ‘resettlement’ and even brought her sewing machine with her, as she thought it could be useful. One of the words that she used to describe Auschwitz was 'terror', she felt this as soon as the cattle cart opened. That terror stayed with her throughout her time there, and when she was sent for slave labour to make munitions, and onwards to Bergen Belsen. One of the things that struck us, was that she said that she had forgotten what kindness was during this time. Due to this she urged students to ‘stand together’ whenever they saw others being treated unkindly, even if this was to report it to an adult. This is reflected in The Cottesloe School's Healthy Relationships ethos of; Respect, Equality, and Responsibility. Some of the students were obviously very moved by the experience, and we are grateful for their undivided attention during the webcast. It is unfortunately the case that these opportunities will be fewer and fewer, as survivors get older, so it is so important that students get to experience this.
Miss Cowley leads assemblies on the week of Holocaust Memorial Day. Twenty-twenty marks the 75th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, so this year’s talk was mostly centred around this. In it, she took the time to talk to students about what happened there to the Jewish people, but also reminded us that the Nazi party didn’t just target Jews. Auschwitz was also used to imprison, or murder other minority groups such as Roma Gypsies and Homosexuals. Following on from what Susan Pollack told us, Miss Cowley stressed the importance of standing together to help others, the theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day.
We recognise the importance of witnessing sites of interest to the Holocuast and run trips every year to give students the opportunity to do so. This academic year we visited Poland where we picked up on the theme of being 'upstanders'. We took 50 students to Krakow to get an insight into Jewish life before the war, and to visit Auschwitz. David, our tour guide, gave examples of those who stood up for the Jews and were recognised by the Holocaust Remembrance Centre, Yad Vashem, for doing so. He led a small service at the end of the trip, using the famous words of Pastor Martin Niemoller, reminding us that if we don’t speak out for others there will be no-one left to speak out for us. We know from student feedback that this was a very emotional trip, and one that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Thank you to parents/carers and students for helping to make this such a moving experience.