The RP Weekly: 2 April 2021
The weekly digital newsletter from Rydal Penrhos School.
The RP Weekly
2 April 2021
Reading for Wellbeing boxes donated to NHS staff
The final day of spring term at Rydal Penrhos was not only a fundraising occasion, but Prep School pupils put the finishing touches to a special community project to thank NHS staff for all their hard work over the last year.
It has been a monumental effort from hospital workers in recent months thanks to a significant strain put on them during the coronavirus pandemic. Everyone associated with the NHS deserves all the credit in the world for their exceptional efforts and pupils at Rydal Penrhos wanted to do something special for them as not only a method of thanks, but also to heighten awareness of the importance of reading as a wellbeing activity.
The Prep School council had the idea of giving reading boxes to NHS staff rooms, which saw pupils and their families donate enough books and magazines to fill ten boxes.
These also included some chocolates and hand sanitizer, which has become a popular and necessary accessory during COVID-19. Each box was fogged and packed into air-tight bags and were taken to places of work by current Rydal Penrhos parents who work for the NHS.
Mrs Lucy Davies, Head of Rydal Penrhos Prep School, said: “We hope that the reading for wellbeing boxes will act as a small reminder of how valued all of our NHS workers are.”
The boxes were sent out on Thursday 25 March, which was the final day of term and coincided with the Prep School’s NHS Dress-Up Day to raise funds for Brain Tumour Research in memory of Tim Harding, a much-loved member of the Rydal Penrhos family and the husband of Senior School Head Sally-Ann Harding, who sadly passed away recently.
Hundreds of pounds were raised from both the Prep and Senior sites through online donations, with pupils donning their best attire to come dressed as doctors, nurses, paramedics, security guards, psychiatrists, radiographers, dentists, porters, midwives, air ambulance crew, consultants, delivery drivers, pharmacists, chefs and vaccinators to mark the occasion.
At the start of the week, the Prep School also commemorated one-year since the first COVID-19 lockdown by placing yellow hearts on the school gates to remember all those lost to the virus and reflect on how the last 12 months has changed the lives of pupils young and old.
Academy members return to the course
Just one of the many things halted due to COVID-19 has been sporting activity.
However, there was some good news for the school’s golfers, with courses throughout Wales getting the green light to re-open once again thanks to the Welsh Government‘s decision to ease restrictions.
This has enabled those Rydal Penrhos Golf Academy pupils who are club members to get back out onto the course after months of frustration, which represents a substantial boost not only to their development on the course, but getting active in their field of interest is known to improve mental health and wellbeing in children and adults alike.
Rydal Penrhos’ golf provision has gone from strength-to-strength since its inception. The school has a designated short game area on site, which also benefits from driving nets for aspiring stars to get some additional practice.
This has brought a significant amount of national and even international success in recent years, with many pupils gaining competition triumphs against some of the best young golfers in the country and securing Welsh youth call-ups as a result.
One such individual is Charley Simpson, who is a Year 11 pupil at Rydal Penrhos and is widely regarded as one of the country’s brightest young prospects. He is a member of the Wales U16 squad, is a Welsh champion, and helped the school team defend their ISGA Northern Matchplay title last year before COVID-19 prevented them from participating in the national championships.
Charley recently signed a deal with Pro Dream USA, which helps young golfers from across the world connect with the best universities in the United States, supporting them throughout the strenuous process to fulfil academic and sporting potential.
Adrian Lewis is another talented golfer at the school who has seen his handicap plummet thanks to his exceptional development both during coaching sessions at Rydal Penrhos and in his own time, with Head Boy Richard Wolfendale recently holding the position of junior captain at North Wales Golf Club in Llandudno thanks to his eye-catching progress.
Pupils and staff lend support to Earth Hour
The topic of climate change is something that Rydal Penrhos Prep School pupils are always keen to consider at any given opportunity.
Rydal Penrhos was keen to get involved once again in Earth Hour, which is a global awareness event held on Saturday 27 March, created by the World Wildlife Fund to “celebrate our amazing planet”.
Those taking part were invited to switch off from their screens and connect with nature, which is perfect for improving wellbeing and mental health.
Pupils and their families switched off their lights in unison at 8.30pm for one hour, with others shutting down electronic devices for the same length of time at any point during the day to find an alternative activity, such as reading, doing artwork or playing a board game.
During lesson time in the lead-up to the event, pupils spent time learning about the importance of Earth Hour and taking part in different activities such as using their senses to experience nature in the forest, making collages with natural materials and writing poems based on nature.
Mrs. Woodthorpe, said: “In the last 50 years we’ve seen our world reach various tipping points, with many species on the brink of collapse, average global temperatures rising, and our forests burning.
“During the pandemic, many of us realised nature was vital for our wellbeing. The good news is, by working together we can rapidly change things for the better. 2021 is the start of an important decade for climate and nature action.
“Global leaders from across the world will come together and make decisions that will have an impact on our future and could mean by 2030 nature and wildlife will be recovering all around us.
“We could have green jobs and cleaner air for the next generation and could be well on the way to the greener, fairer future that we need.”
Huge seal of approval for staff
The last year will go down as one of the more disruptive in recent memory. Rydal Penrhos was forced to adapt quickly in the midst of COVID-19 concerns, which saw staff and pupils adjust to a new normal with remote learning that brought the very best out of everyone associated with the school.
Hopefully, with coronavirus cases decreasing and Wales now moving out of lockdown, the worst might well be behind us and pupils can return for the summer term safe in the knowledge they won’t be forced to develop key skills and boost academic development from the comfort of their own homes for the foreseeable future.
This is obviously a fluid situation that Rydal Penrhos is monitoring closely. The school’s COVID-19 response team has put every necessary precaution in place during the gradual transition of year groups back on-site in recent weeks, with a safe and happy environment to thrive in guaranteed when everybody returns from the Easter break.
Gaining feedback from parents to enable improvements to provision is something that is the cornerstone behind Rydal Penrhos’ success. The school values feedback as it provides real insight from the people that matter most.
The school recently asked parents about how things have gone from a learning and support perspective during the second educational lockdown over the spring term. This was met with an incredibly positive response and is a testament to the exceptional dedication of teaching and support staff during such an uncertain time.
When asked the question “Are you satisfied with remote learning arrangements?”, a total of 91 per cent of parents selected the top-two answers, with 59% stating they were very satisfied.
A total of 92 per cent of those who took the survey agreed that pupils should have their cameras switched on at the start of each lesson and only switch them off when asked to do so by their teacher. This was a new implementation during the term to improve focus and add an essential social aspect to learning with a view to improving wellbeing.
When asked “How clear has the communication been from school during the current remote learning period?”, 91 per cent of parents checked one of the top-two answers, with 58% of the responses indicating that communication had been very clear.
Under three per cent stated that it has been difficult to contact individual members of teaching staff when the need has arisen.
Rydal Penrhos asked its parent group “how satisfied are you with the support your child has received from the school?”. Again, 91 percent answered the top two answers within the survey and 63% chose the top answer of very satisfied.
Twelve per cent of current parents took advantage of the school’s keyworker childcare and learning provision during the latest lockdown period. Thanks to the incredible commitment of staff, 93 per cent declared they were very satisfied with the provision and 100% answers the top-two available.
It has not been easy for anyone over the last year. But the way each member of the Rydal Penrhos community has come together to ensure a minimal loss of learning and goals remaining unaltered has been inspiring.
Thank you to all our parents for not only their feedback, but also for assisting their children during online learning and ensuring their academic and creative progression continued.
Summer term dates bring hope!
The last 12 months have seen almost every single major event on the Rydal Penrhos calendar put on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Occasions such as Senior School Speech Day, the Christmas Concert and drama productions were either cancelled entirely or held in a virtual format, which was in accordance with social distancing guidelines and with everybody’s safety in mind.
However, with coronavirus cases now at their lowest in quite some time and vaccine rollouts continuing, the Welsh Government’s decision to relax measures sees a brighter future on the horizon. There is now plenty to look forward to and Rydal Penrhos Prep School detailed some upcoming dates for the calendar during the summer term that are sure to bring plenty of excitement.
The school plans to run inter-house sports competitions throughout the term which are yet to be decided, but will likely include cricket and rounders as part of what is always a fun-filled series of events for valuable house points.
Sports Day will also be taking place in accordance with recent guidelines to outdoor sport issued by First Minister Mark Drakeford, with aspiring athletes competing against each other on Tuesday 15 June.
Prep School pupils will take centre stage in the morning, before it’s the turn of senior pupils to showcase their athletic prowess in the afternoon.
Another notable date for the calendar is the annual Prep School production on Wednesday 30 June. Speech Day is scheduled for Tuesday 6 July with the entire Prep and Pre-School community getting deserved recognition for their exceptional dedication during what’s been a difficult academic year of adjustment.
Pre-School and Pre-Prep’s combined Speech Day will take place in the morning, with the Prep occasion set for the afternoon.
These plans are obviously subject to change in the current climate, with the possibility of sailing, skiing and school trips for Years 3-6 also in the pipeline if permissions allow.
Lucy Davies, Head of Rydal Penrhos Prep School, explains more:
“We have plans to restart our curriculum sailing for Years 3-6 as soon as we can next term and continue with skiing after school as soon as the centre is allowed to reopen to schools.
“We have planned bookings for the residential visits for Years 3-6 but, of course, will only move forwards with these when allowed. We also have various class trips planned should the guidance allow.”
The school is adhering to every possible precaution to ensure a safe and happy environment for pupils to thrive. Hopefully, there will be no further complications and the Rydal Penrhos community can enjoy a busy term of academic progress and events before heading off on their summer break.
Guitar grading success for Gregory
Despite the obvious complications regarding the coronavirus pandemic in recent months, Rydal Penrhos pupils young and old have remained incredibly determined to maintain not only academic progress, but also to improve throughout other areas of interest away from a typical classroom environment as part of the school’s diverse curriculum.
One such area that has really thrived is the Music department, which continues to benefit from the expert leadership of Pete Williams, a gifted performer himself who possesses a passion and enthusiasm for teaching that has brought a considerable amount of success to the provision in recent years.
In addition to their structured timetable, many pupils are also learning with specialist tutors to further enhance their respective skills on their instrument or instruments of choice. This has been another big boost for their development and has also brought some outstanding grading achievements in the process.
Gregory Mathews, who is a Year 7 pupil at Rydal Penrhos, was the latest to secure a notable feat in his London College of Music Examination, which is administered by the University of West London.
The pupil produced a sterling performance during his Acoustic Guitar – Grade 2 (Recorded) Assessment, gaining a distinction after impressing online judges thoroughly with his technique and fluidity.
This achievement is even more extraordinary when you consider Gregory only had a few online lessons prior to the grading due to lockdown restrictions, with the pupil spending a considerable amount of time working on his own that made a massive difference.
Gregory is a relative newcomer to the Rydal Penrhos family having joined at the start of the academic year, fitting in seamlessly with his peers both on-site and during the school’s outstanding remote learning provision during the second educational lockdown.
He has already begun working towards further grading success in the future and everyone at Rydal Penrhos congratulates Gregory on a superb result in his latest assessment.
Dates for the diary in 2021
With the Welsh Government’s lockdown measures easing with every passing week, it won’t be long before some normality resumes after a year of incredible disruption. Rydal Penrhos has been preparing for this eventuality despite an ever-changing time, with the Senior School now able to provisionally announce some exciting dates for the diary over the next few months.
These are obviously subject to change and if COVID-19 guidelines allow. But with coronavirus cases falling across the country and vaccine rollouts progressing at an encouraging rate, things are now looking up after months of upheaval to education and day-to-day life.
One event that is always one of the highlights of the calendar is Sports Day. This will be taking place on Tuesday 15 June as pupils look to display their athletic prowess in pursuit of some valuable house points.
Speech Day has been provisionally booked for Friday 10 September 2021 providing there are no further COVID-19 complications at the time, with the school’s musical talent set to be showcased at the Senior School Concert on the provisional date of Friday 2 July.
The summer term will see enrichment activities resume under strict guidelines, which features Year 9 football on Monday afternoons and a wealth of other opportunities for pupils in their specific fields of interest.
Swimming will be back on the curriculum – again working within government guidelines – which is a major boost to Rydal Penrhos’ provision and one that benefits pupils young and old immensely.
Outdoor Education and the school’s Combined Cadet Force are two other notable re-additions to the summer term schedule, with the Rydal Penrhos Golf Academy planning to get back into the swing of things with a fixture against Oswestry School if the government’s travel roadmap plans remain unaltered in the coming weeks.
Plans are also being made for Sailing to return once restrictions allow, with the hope of Cricket training resuming in an outdoor setting following the Easter break another huge plus.
Year 8 complete Build a Basha challenge
Although learning methods changed dramatically for Rydal Penrhos pupils during the second educational lockdown, it did not stop progression from continuing in an impressive fashion both during online lessons and during the school’s extra-curricular provision that proves so beneficial to overall development.
This was truly evident from the Combined Cadet Force initiative, which has gone from strength-to-strength since reforming in 2019 thanks to the sterling work of programme leaders Capt. Alun Brown and Sgt. Phil Hilton.
A hoard of new recruits joined the provision earlier in the academic year after it was introduced to Year 8 pupils, with the CCF providing training in a socially distanced environment during the lockdown period with online tutorials and special challenges designed to enhance key skills from the comfort of their own homes.
Of course, thinking on your feet is the hallmark of any good cadet. So, in addition to the online sessions being put on by CCF staff at the school, those involved are also benefitting from extra virtual sessions led by leading figures within the Armed Forces.
One such task involving Year 8 came in the form of their recent ‘Build a Basha’ task, which is a waterproof canvas or plastic sheet with eyelets or loops on the perimeter.
They are used in camping, outdoor, or military situations to act as a shelter, in the form of an impromptu tent or groundsheet, with the Basha usually supported with rope or even bungee cords attached to trees.
Using materials found around the home, each pupil put together a video detailing the design and constriction step-by-step from the comfort of their own back gardens before sending it to Capt. Brown and Sgt. Hilton, who were most impressed with the standard of commitment from Year 8.
The CCF aims to promote the qualities of responsibility, self-reliance, resourcefulness and a sense of service to the community.
Joining the CCF provides an opportunity to take part in Army activities and events, all of which will focus on building confident, responsible and independent thinking young people.
Whole School benefitting from recent improvements
"Reading is fundamental to learning and we are continuing with our focus on reading throughout all of the year groups at Rydal Penrhos."
Mrs Lucy Davies - Head of Prep
Reading has taken on a new lease of life across all areas of Rydal Penrhos in recent months. This is down in no small part to its importance not only for academic development, but sitting down with a good book can also improve creativity and wellbeing with so much uncertainty surrounding the current climate and COVID-19.
The school has made some substantial improvements to reading accessibility at both the Prep and Senior sites, which has seen the Watkinson Library - named after much-loved former Headmaster Peter Watkinson – for the primary use for those in Key Stage 3 and 4, a Sixth Form reading section within the Ferguson Centre and plenty of exciting developments for the youngest members of the Rydal Penrhos community.
The Prep School recently updated its reading scheme - the Oxford Reading Tree - in order to ensure that pupils have all the recent titles and resources to call upon to boost progression in and out of the classroom.
Pupils were also able to bring some books home during the holidays from the Prep School library, with those involved with the school's Accelerated Reader scheme accessing reading resources online over the three-week break.
The Accelerated Reader has quizzes on more than 200,000 books, ensuring pupils never run out of choices and are allowed to develop at their own pace reading either at school or from the comfort of their own homes.
Staff will also play a huge part in the programme, gaining an insight into pupils’ quiz results and using this information to monitor progress and personalise lesson plans to fit with just how individuals and the group, in general, are getting on.
Mrs Lucy Davies, Head of Rydal Penrhos Prep School, said: "Reading is fundamental to learning and we are continuing with our focus on reading throughout all of the year groups at Rydal Penrhos.
"We are appealing for any donations of fiction and non-fiction books, which parents no longer use, for our school library. We will be consulting the pupils, via the school council, as to which titles they would like us to buy next."
The recent reading drive throughout the school received a substantial amount of support from the Rydal Penrhos Society, with the alumni group making a generous £5,000 donation for books at both sites that have already been delivered.
Good literacy levels and confidence in reading and comprehension are strongly connected to high attainment in school, a fact that does not go unrecognised by the excellent teaching staff at Rydal Penrhos, who are always looking at new innovative ways to achieve this.
Fascinating discovery with royal connections
Recently, a discovery has been made in the Rydal Penrhos School Archives: a number of official letters addressed to Miss Isabelle Hutchinson Clarke, from – amongst others – the President of the French Republic, General Charles de Gaulle, and Queen Elizabeth II.
On the 19th November, 1954, Miss Clarke received the title of ‘Officier d’Academie’ for “the dedication [she] had shown throughout [her] career in teaching French.”
The Officier d’Academie is the second grade of the Ordre de Palmes Academiques (The Order of Academic Palms), an order of knighthood exclusively awarded to teachers, professors and educational figures.
In 1955, Miss Clarke received the Queen’s royal permission to wear this decoration at public ceremonies.
Miss Clarke also received a signed ‘Diplôme de remerciements’ (Diploma of thanks) from General de Gaulle in January 1946, shortly after the end of the Second World War.
Isabelle was awarded this diploma for “the generous help she has given to the volunteers of the free French forces".
Information about the life of Isabelle Clarke is scarce, so that we are left with many questions.
- What kind of help did she give in the War?
- Did she ever live in France?
- And why, exactly, was she awarded one of the most venerable Civil Honours that the French Government has to bestow?
We cannot answer these questions with any certainty.
We know that Miss Clarke was living in Hertfordshire when she received the Ordre de Palmes Academiques.
It is also likely that, at some point in the 1930s, she taught at the Bridlington High School for Girls in the East Riding of Yorkshire.
But these facts alone would not explain why Isabelle received her knighthood.
However, there is some evidence that our Miss Clarke was a known figure in the literary circles of Paris, both before and after the Second World War:
An “Isabelle H. Clarke” edited an anthology of poems (French Poems of To-Day) in the 1920’s and two books of children’s stories in the 1930s.
Furthermore, the famous French surrealist Andre Breton, and five-time Nobel Prize nominee Pierre Jean Jouve, both corresponded with an “Isabelle Hutchison Clarke” in the mid-1940s.
It is likely that this Isabelle Clarke lived in Paris during the interwar years.
The minimum age of conferment for the Ordre is 35, though many of its recipients have been much older.
If our Isabelle Clarke was in her sixties – or even in her fifties! – in 1954, then that might well mean that she is the same Isabelle Clarke that edited the anthology and corresponded with Breton.
So at Rydal Penrhos, we now have a double image of Isabelle Clarke: she is a French teacher, who lived in Yorkshire and then in Hoddesdon, a dormitory town within the London commuter belt – a woman whose enthusiasm for teaching French was enough to win international recognition.
And she is also an editor, who lived in Paris for time, and was in contact with some of the most famous French writers of the 20th Century.
A remarkable life, in either case.
2021-2022 Term Dates
- Thursday 2 September: Staff Inset
- Friday 3 September: Staff Inset
- Monday 6 September: Start of Term
- Monday 18 October – Friday 29 October: Half Term
- Monday 1 November: Term resumes
- Friday 17 December: Term Ends
- Tuesday 4 January 2022: Staff Inset
- Wednesday 5 January 2022: Term Begins
- Friday 18 February – Friday 25 February: Half Term
- Friday 18 February 2022: Staff Inset
- Monday 28 February: Term resumes
- Friday 1 April: Term Ends
- (Easter 15 & 18 April)
- Monday 25 April 2022: Staff Inset
- Tuesday 26 April: Term Begins
- Monday 2 May: Bank Holiday
- Monday 30 May – Friday 3 June: Half Term
- Monday 6 June: Term resumes
- Thursday 7 July: Term Ends
- Friday 8 July: Staff Inset
Prep School Holiday Club - Week 1
Rydal Penrhos School is seeking to appoint a Chaplain with effect from September 2021, or as soon as possible thereafter. The Chaplaincy is central to the life of Rydal Penrhos School and the Chaplain’s role is of commensurately high profile.
This is an exciting opportunity to join a thriving independent day school with 350 pupils and over 100 staff to lead the School’s worship and make a significant contribution to the school’s pastoral and wider life.
The successful candidate will likely be a Methodist Minister or a minister of another denomination in sympathy with Methodist teaching and doctrine, or a suitably experienced lay person who is an accredited preacher or leader of worship.
The successful candidate will likely be a Methodist Minister or a minister of another denomination in sympathy with Methodist teaching and doctrine, or a suitably experienced lay person who is an accredited preacher or leader of worship.
This is a part-time post of two to three days per week (equivalent to 50%).
The Methodist Church is engaged in education as part of its Christian mission in the world. As one of its schools, Rydal Penrhos seeks to extend the Methodist ethos and character and contribute to diversity in education.
FULL DETAILS AND HOW TO APPLY CAN BE FOUND HERE