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Highbury school thanks billionaire for donation

Judith Neilson, ranked the 37th richest woman in Australia by Forbes magazine, met students at Samuel Rhodes Secondary School

31 May, 2019 — By Emily Finch

Billionaire benefactor Judith Neilson with headteacher Julie Keylock and site manager Ray Acraman

STUDENTS at a special needs school have thanked the Australian billionaire who stepped in to help save their new sixth-form building.

Judith Neilson, ranked the 37th richest woman in Australia by Forbes magazine, met students on Friday at Samuel Rhodes Secondary School, in Highbury New Park, for a tour of the new building, due to be completed by September.

She provided a £50,000 donation to the school after a chance meeting with headteacher Julie Keylock during a chimpanzee trekking holiday last year.

The school’s head boy and head girl presented Ms Neilson with a large “Thank You” card signed by students.

Head girl Tabrak Alkrayiem said “It was very nice” to have Ms Neilson at the school. “She didn’t have to donate but she did and it was so generous of her,” she said.

Head boy David Biaby said the donation was “great for students”, adding: “We’re really looking forward to the new sixth form.”

Pupils will share the centre with students from Highbury Grove School next door. Highbury Grove’s switch to academy status meant building work was delayed, and the original grant
for the building fell through.

Ms Neilson said she was prompted to donate because her sister had worked at a similar special needs school in South Africa.

“I’m so impressed with this school,” she said. “They’re so lively. They all look like they are not mucking around. I’ve just been with my grandchildren, who do muck around.”

The new sixth-form building will be home to a model flat, which will be used to teach pupils how to cook meals and safely use the bathroom.

Ms Keylock, who also manages Samuel Rhodes Primary School in Hornsey Road, is petitioning the Town Hall to move her primary school to a more suitable building as some pupils struggle to get to the top floor of its five-storey Victorian building.

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