The RP Weekly: 22 January 2021
The weekly digital newsletter from Rydal Penrhos School.
The RP Weekly
22 January 2021
Chaplain to depart after 12 years
Rydal Penrhos is sad to announce that the school’s Chaplain, Reverend Nick Sissons, will be leaving after 12 years at the end of the academic year.
This popular figure has been a huge part of Rydal Penrhos life since his appointment but has now decided it is the right time to make a return to the Church Ministry, giving himself a sufficient period in which to engage with a worshipping community.
Rev’d Sissons will become the new Superintendent Minister for the Bangor and Holyhead circuit and join the chaplaincy team at Bangor University.
John Waszek, Executive Principal of Rydal Penrhos, said: “Nick has been a tremendous source of support for the whole school community since he arrived with his wife Amanda and their two sons.
“He has provided the spiritual leadership much needed and yet so often missing in schools and the wider society. The most recent carol service, in the most difficult of circumstances, was an inspiring reflection of his Christian principles and Nick’s personal talents at getting us to lift our heads from the daily grind.
“He has also been a marvellous colleague to all staff and is going to be sorely missed.”
Nick came to North Wales in 2001 from East Sussex and worked in two local churches in Llandudno and Conwy until 2009 when he joined the school as Chaplain, taking over from Keith Tewkesbury.
However, Nick’s boys had both become pupils at the school as soon as they were old enough (Jack in 2001 and William in 2003) and his wife Amanda did some long-term supply cover in the Prep.
Nick had no formal teaching experience when he came to Rydal Penrhos but in his second year as Chaplain he took the Graduate Teaching Programme at Bangor University and gained his Qualified Teacher Status.
In his time at the school, Nick has taught Religious Studies lessons in some shape or form to every year group apart from Pre-School and Reception.
Rev’d Sissons, said: “One of the things I have greatly enjoyed about my timetable is being able to move, for example, from a lesson on the Verifiability of Religious Language with Year 13 straight to a pretend baptism with the Year 1s.
“I have never tired of enjoying this breadth of age range.”
His teaching also transitioned over to Latin, which was mostly to German boarding pupils but also to some Rydal Penrhos parents and as a qualification to Year 11.
When his own son Jack got an A* in the subject, Rev’d Sissons duly jumped in the swimming pool as promised fully clothed – he was on holiday abroad at the time – although the school pool has a proud history of being jumped into by staff fully clothed also.
Rev’d Sissons has also played a leading role in the school’s strong charity links with Uganda, which has resulted in four missions to the country working with and helping to boost income for community projects in under-privileged areas.
“Coming across a leopard out strolling in the morning, being presented with a live rooster as a thank you gift and watching the local people dance and ululate in gratitude for some extra funds the school was able to put into rebuilding a house were some of my many memorable moments,” he added.
Chapel has of course played a huge part of his ministry at the school and Rev’d Sissons has worked with some exceptional Directors of Music, without whom he says he could not have done much at all.
His unrivalled commitment to ensuring Chapel continues in a virtual format during the two educational lockdowns are a testament to his passion for the school and its community, with the initiative proving highly beneficial for staff and pupils alike.
“The very best memories of chapel will be those big occasions in St John’s, especially the singing of Calon Lan at the Leavers’ services when it became a raucous but joyful vocal singing match between the Chaplain in the pulpit and the departing upper Sixth Form sitting on the front row right beneath me,” said Rev’d Sissons.
But of course, it’s the people that matter according to Nick and he says he has enjoyed both the support and friendship of many members of staff across the years and also taken great satisfaction from the growing bond with pupils that he has watched grow up from little children to young adults.
The last few years have brought around some substantial changes at Rydal Penrhos – which have been heightened by COVID-19 – but Rev’d Sissons is proud that the school “has kept going and always tried to provide the very best education for its pupils within a caring and supportive environment whilst remaining true to the original ideals of its Methodist founders“.
Reverend Sissons, we will miss you.
Week 2 of Winter Lockdown
One of the many disappointing things about being plunged into remote learning again is that we had only just finished putting a new display up in the Rydal Penrhos Prep School library.
This display had taken much of last term to plan and gather information and art work together.
It is an amalgamation of the pupils’ thoughts about the first lockdown and promotion of their individuality; the strengths of a community and how we need every individual. The pupils, young and old, were asked to represent the strongest image of the first lockdown on a small square of paper.
We didn’t influence them but they did influence each other and discussed in earnest what they thought was the iconic image of the lockdown. So here are the top ten images in ascending order, perhaps you can guess them first!
- 10. Boris Johnson (!)
- 9. Toilet paper (!!)
- 8. Stay safe
- 7. Keep your distance signs
- 6. People talking through a window
- 5. The earth in various guises eg wearing a face covering, hands together
- 4. The NHS logo
- 3. A coronavirus cell
- 2. A person in a face covering
And the number one image is, of course….
1. A rainbow
Well done children, you pretty well summed up the lockdown from your perspective. The pupils also painted large pictures of themselves in the style of a famous artist.
We are incredibly proud of our school community and this display shows that children definitely do take a lot in from the world around them. We look forward to the time when everyone can see the full display in real life rather than through a lens!
I wonder what you would have as your top ten images from the lockdown?
Mrs Lucy Davies - Head of Prep
Providing the personal touch
“I really think you should be aware of how great these are. We’ve never had anything like this from any private school. They are so helpful, useful and valuable. It’s genius, thank you.”
Starting a new school can be a nervous time for both pupils and their families. At Rydal Penrhos, we aim to make this somewhat daunting transition as smooth as it can possibly be.
This is evident from the first warm welcome for a socially distanced tour until they begin their journey with our school community. Rydal Penrhos’ admissions team are in constant dialogue with prospective families throughout the enrollment process, making them feel at ease and assisting them with anything they need.
Another element that has proven highly useful to incoming pupils and family members is Rydal Penrhos’ digital welcome packs, which are produced on the incredible Turtl platform and provide all the necessary information needed for a smooth transition into the school.
“Where Every Pupil Counts” is not just a catchy slogan for the school website and marketing material.
It’s something staff look to install every single day even in the most challenging of circumstances surrounding current lockdown measures due to COVID-19.
These welcome packs are personalised to the individual, with their email information, Show my Homework details, school timetable, classroom map and key contacts all available at the touch of a button for senior school pupils to utilise at their leisure.
A separate pack is also produced for senior school parents giving them essential details, and Prep School families also receive a digital welcome booklet that can also be downloaded into a PDF for a printed version if needed.
It’s the little things that make a big difference.
And it is all part of the service here at Rydal Penrhos.
This is the sort of care that goes a long way to ensuring each child or young person at Rydal Penrhos gets the very most out of their education. Staff go above and beyond the call of duty on a daily basis to help our pupils reach their potential, something that has brought a considerable amount of examination success in recent years.
A strong commitment to helping pupils reach and exceed their initial goals is further reflected in terms of ‘value-added’ – which relates to attaining grades better than expected – with the school’s A Level pupils attaining a score of 0.5, which means for every ten subjects taken, five of them came out with higher grades than forecast.
It might not seem like much.
But opting for a personal welcome pack instead of a generic one for all has made a substantial difference.
"Business as usual" for youngsters
Staff are continuing to work in close proximity with our Pre-School children and they are not noticing any difference during their fun and enjoyably exciting day of learning.
Although the majority of Rydal Penrhos pupils are still participating in remote online learning in accordance with the lockdown measures implemented by the Welsh Government to prevent the spread of COVID-19, one particular department is able to adopt a “business as usual” approach in the most difficult of times.
The youngest members of the Rydal Penrhos community at Pre-School are still permitted to attend as if the coronavirus didn’t exist, which is a substantial boost to their early development as they look to progress through their education.
Pre-School staff have done an exceptional job of taking every necessary precaution to meet the highest educational and safety standards, which is something that has been prevalent throughout Rydal Penrhos during the pandemic.
Pupils are continuing to wear school uniform every day to keep some semblance of normality, and their timetable is relatively unaltered despite a lack of Coastal School and Swimming on the schedule due to the current climate.
Rydal Penrhos’ hours of operation have been shortened slightly from 8.30am-5.30pm to reduce the risk of any complications, with packed lunches also being brought in by children with catering also not permitted. This has taken a great deal of planning from the school, which is already bringing some fantastic results within the enthusiastic group that are obviously and gratefully oblivious to the COVID-19 situation across the globe.
Mrs Davies, said: “We have fully risk assessed our school environment in line with the upsurge in national COVID cases.
“We doubled the amount of cleaning, fogging and hygiene equipment and all staff are wearing visors inside, facemasks outside and will social distance from each other."
Highlights during COVID-19
It has been an unprecedented time of change for everyone at Rydal Penrhos in recent months. The coronavirus pandemic continues to not only have a significant impact on the way we live and learn, but also the way we focus on fitness and wellbeing under current Welsh Government restrictions.
Staff have worked tirelessly to promote the benefits of maintaining physical health both during the Autumn term whilst in school and now during the second educational lockdown.
Each pupil in Years 7-12 was able to continue with their usual Physical Education provision during their time on-site, which was made possible by following every necessary precaution and everybody abiding by the COVID-19 rules effectively.
This included Cricket nets in the Sports Hall, Hockey coaching, health-related fitness sessions to enhance overall conditioning and cross-country around Rydal Penrhos’ picturesque campus.
Former professional rugby player Rob O’Donnell also put pupils through their paces during his visits to Rydal Penrhos, working on improving conditioning and vital ball skills that will stand our aspiring players in good stead when they are permitted to resume competitive fixtures in the future.
The school also benefits from having a short game golf area within its grounds, which enables youngsters to boost chipping, putting, bunker play and driving (in nets) under the watchful eye of programme coordinator Ian Richardson and other experienced staff.
This is a relatively new provision at Rydal Penrhos – with Llandudno professional Amy Boulden opening the facility in 2015.
Year 11 also got the chance to develop their footballing ability with Darren Baker, who has enjoyed a standout playing career across the region and is currently coaching at the Bangor City Academy that is run in partnership with Inter Milan.
In addition to the usual Physical Education provision, pupils took part in a wide range of sporting activities during their extra-curricular time, including football, badminton, fives, and swimming, with the pool permitted to re-open after meeting all the necessary requirements.
Despite the second educational lockdown making things even more difficult, staff have adjusted exceptionally well to the latest changes to boost the school’s overall provision from a health and wellbeing perspective.
This includes a daily online session that pupils and staff can participate in via Microsoft Teams, and teacher Nicky Head detailed some exciting plans both in the coming weeks during whilst lockdown is still in effect and once pupils are able to make their return to Rydal Penrhos.
She said: “This term, we were hoping to cover rugby, swimming, netball, badminton and table tennis as part of our provision.
“Once pupils return, we are also aiming to hold our inter-house cross-country, netball, hockey and touch rugby competitions if it is safe to do so.
“We have introduced a whole school health and wellbeing team, where we are holding live sessions after school to hopefully encourage everyone to stay physically active during the lockdown.
“We will also look to introduce some whole school challenges over the extended lockdown period.”
Gwyn bakes cakes for hospital workers
A Rydal Penrhos Senior School pupil has been keeping hospital workers fuelled during the recent coronavirus pandemic spike as part of his volunteering for a popular national scheme.
Gwyn Davies, who is a Year 10 pupil at the school, is currently in the process of pursuing his Duke of Edinburgh Silver Award. With current COVID-19 restrictions making things difficult for pupils to complete tasks and expeditions in their usual format, they have been coming up with new and innovative ways to make a difference across the community from the safety of their own home.
During time away from his online learning Gwyn has used a portion of his volunteering module to bake cakes for workers at Liverpool Women’s Hospital, which have been incredibly well-received by staff.
The school received a message of thanks from Carly – who is a shift co-ordinator at the hospital – who wanted to pass on gratitude on behalf of staff for the selfless gesture from Gwyn that meant a great deal.
Dr Jim Lewis, Duke of Edinburgh programme coordinator at Rydal Penrhos, and Executive Principal John Waszek were both thrilled with the news surrounding Gwyn’s cake-baking, which is the latest in a series of community-based efforts that pupils have achieved over the last year throughout COVID-19.
This has included fundraising for worthy causes in the region and beyond, making PPE for critical keyworker facilities during the first lockdown and special charity days during the autumn term whilst on-site.
Well done Gwyn keep up the good work! We are proud of you.
"It was so thoughtful and most appreciated. It’s so important for positive stories in these times and for young people in general to get the recognition they rightfully deserve.”
Carly from Liverpool Women's Hospital
High Court judge delivers message
Rydal Penrhos has worked hard to ensure that pupils and staff attain some normality despite COVID-19 health concerns and various lockdown measures implemented by the Welsh Government over the last 10 months.
Plans may have shifted from their usual day-to-day education and school experience, but the structure to thrive is still there and benefitting children young and old.
One example is the school’s Chapels and Assemblies, which are put together in a virtual format and led by the school’s Chaplain, the Reverend Nick Sissons, together with various contributions from teaching staff, pupils, and some special guests.
For the latest edition of Senior Chapel on Friday 22 February, Rev’d Sissons managed to secure a special message from The Honourable Sir Michael Fordham, who was appointed as a High Court Judge by the Judicial Appointments Commission in December 2019.
Mr Fordham attended Spalding Grammar School from 1976 until 1983, where his father John was Headmaster for 15 years, before moving onto Hertford College, Oxford to read Law.
After graduating with a first-class degree and achieving a Hockey Blue, Mr Fordham stayed on for graduate law degrees at Oxford, and also spent time at the University of Virginia in the US.
Mr Fordham became a barrister in 1990, arguing more than 50 cases at the UK Supreme Court and House of Lords, including the prorogation (dissolving) of Parliament case that was ruled illegal by the Supreme Court in September this year.
He has represented the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in leading asylum cases and won several awards, including Human Rights Lawyer of the Year and Public Law QC of the Year.
This culminated in Mr Fordham being appointed as Queen’s Counsel in 2006 and accepted a Deputy High Court Judge position in 2013.
Mr Fordham also has ties with Broad Street Methodist Church, which is connected to Rydal Penrhos and one of its founding fathers, John Wesley.
On behalf of everyone at Rydal Penrhos, we would like to thank Mr Fordham for giving up his time and featuring in our Celebration Chapel.
Weekly advice and update
This week, there are 3 areas to highlight.
Firstly, the importance of reading in order to improve academic performance. This is just a 5 minute OU presentation:
Then there is a link to all kinds of resources that help parents access materials, including free e-books, author interviews, poetry fun etc
Finally, parents may have seen that Oak National Academy, is working with the National Literacy Trust to focus on a different author each week, with access to a novel.
Every week a popular children's author or illustrator will provide you with free books, exclusive videos and their top three recommended reads. Having access to a school library is really important for children. School libraries nurture a love of reading that can enrich children’s literacy skills, academic achievements and mental wellbeing.
Our Virtual School Library will complement existing school libraries and will ensure that children have access to the magical world of stories all year round, whether they are learning at school or at home. It can be accessed by visiting: https://library.thenational.academy/
The tutors are also supporting the initiative by dedicating Tuesday morning to book-based discussions.
This week, KS3 were shown the Oak National Library.
KS4 focused on their GCSE Eng Lit novels – Christmas Carol & the Strange Case of Dr Jeckyll & Mr Hyde.
KS5 are talking about their favourite books, based on the theme ‘desert island books’.
Stars of the Week
A number of Rydal Penrhos Prep School pupils have been rewarded for their exceptional commitment both at school and during their online learning.
As part of the school’s achievement scheme, pupils across all age groups were selected for accolades in recognition of their efforts throughout the week, which has seen all age groups tackle the ever-changing learning methods due to COVID-19 with their customary enthusiasm and incredible attitude over the third week of the second educational lockdown.
Teaching staff have gone above and beyond the call of duty to provide a virtual timetable that is similar to what pupils experienced pre-pandemic, and they are always on hand to lend support and guidance during the most unprecedented times.
Keyworker children and Pre-Schoolers are still on-site going about their daily routines, which is critical to their initial development in the hope restrictions are relaxed sooner rather than later.
Here are our Prep School Stars of the Week for 22 January:
- Reception: Henry and Bobby – for fabulous science work finding out about metals – making a metal recycled robot and taking photos on their iPads of metal objects around the home
- Year 1: Eleanor – for writing a fabulous ‘silly story’.
- Year 2: Zach – super-duper maths.
- Year 3: Hannah – great empathetic writing about King John.
- Year 4: Oscar – great IT skills in maths.
- Year 5: Lexi-May – super STEM project designs.
- Year 6: Amelie – a mature and creative start to her geography work on coasts.
- Artists of the Week: Beatrice and Alexandra in Year 4 – very carefully produced flower paintings.
Full Gallery: https://rydalpenrhos.com/rydal-penrhos-prep-school-stars-week-22-january/
MS invites pupils to attend online sessions
Rydal Penrhos Senior School pupils have been invited by Darren Millar, Member of the Senedd for Clwyd West, to attend a series of online sessions to further aid their development during online learning.
Mr Millar, who visited Rydal Penrhos at the start of the academic year to speak about the Senedd with Year 12 pupils, praised the school’s exceptional examination results and also commended Executive Principal John Waszek on recent developments to improve educational standards across all year groups.
The MS has organised a series of talks throughout the spring, which will involve speakers giving a short, engaging presentation followed by an opportunity, where appropriate, for a question and answer session.
Mr Millar, said: “It is my hope that these will give an opportunity for community engagement and different activities for residents of all ages.”
The first of these talks will take place on Friday 29 January from 7-8pm, which is free and will be broadcast on Zoom.
It will feature a representative from Network Rail, who will be providing those in attendance with a short talk on the Conwy Valley Railway Line, detailing the improvement project which was officially completed last year.
The line runs from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Llandudno re-opened on 28 September after Network Rail’s £2.2 million financial outlay to better protect the railway from extreme weather and flooding has been completed.
It was washed away because of flooding twice in the past two years, which has meant lengthy closures for passengers and local communities during extensive repairs.
“The Conwy Valley Line project was a massive infrastructure investment in a very beautiful part of the world,” added Mr Millar.
“This talk may inspire some young aspiring engineers or perhaps encourage some to look at engineering opportunities.”
Anyone who wishes to attend the talk can register their interest by emailing Barbara.firstname.lastname@example.org so that details of the Zoom meeting can be sent.
Any pupils looking to join the school from September 2021 in Year 7, 8, 9 and 10 and 12 can attend the Assessment Day, which has been re-scheduled for Saturday 6 March from 9am from the initial date of Saturday 6 February.
The school is offering two free day places for Year 7, 10 and 12 entry in 2021, these are means-tested and are open to academically able pupils who are presently state educated in North Wales and whose family income is less that £35,000 per annum. For full details please see our website.
All applications must be in by Friday 19 February.
To book your place email email@example.com, call 01492 530155 or use our online form here: https://rydalpenrhos.com/admissions/scholarships-bursaries/