The RP Weekly: 29 January 2021
The weekly digital newsletter from Rydal Penrhos School.
The RP Weekly
29 January 2021
Key Stage 4
Mr Sanders praises pupils' adaptability
This is an ever-changing and uncertain time for all our pupils at Rydal Penrhos. The second educational lockdown has forced the large majority back into online learning and left those about to sit or working towards examinations facing the most unprecedented of situations.
Our staff at Rydal Penrhos know it is not easy. That’s why they have gone above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that fears are alleviated and every possible advice and support is available for pupils and their families throughout the process.
This has been especially evident within Key Stage 4 – the lead-up to GCSE examinations. Education Minister Kirsty Williams recently revealed her exam alternative that will comprise of non-examination assessments, internal assessments and, assessments that are externally set and marked due to current COVID-19 restrictions, which is another spanner in the works to those looking to gain vital qualifications in the coming weeks.
Paul Sanders, Head of Key Stage 4 at Rydal Penrhos, has been hugely impressed with the way each pupil within the Year 10-11 age bracket has coped and adapted not only to their online learning, but also the changes to how they’ll be assessed from a grade perspective.
He said: “For a group of young people who have already seen much disruption to their academic studies over the past 12 months, their resilience and maturity has been impressive.
“To have to try to plan, prepare and then undertake assessments in the current climate is a challenge and I am constantly impressed and proud of the manner in which our GCSE pupils, and indeed all those across the school community, have simply rolled up their sleeves and gotten on with it.
“The whole school community has come together to ensure that any learning loss is minimised and that all of our pupils achieve the outcomes their efforts deserve.”
Mr Sanders also signalled out the Year 10 cohort for their exceptional dedication over the last few months and since the start of the latest coronavirus lockdown. Such maturity and work ethic is sure to stand them in good stead both throughout the remainder of their education and in later life, with Rydal Penrhos’ outstanding online provision enabling them to continue aiming for their respective goals.
“Staff have been impressed by their attitude and I am proud to come into work every day and help to support their education,” added Mr Sanders.
“If anything, this pandemic has brought our school community together despite the physical barriers of social distancing and bubbles.”
With the latest period of online learning now in full swing, staff – Mr Sanders included – adjust and build new IT skills in the process, the Key Stage 4 head is eager for pupils to continue to engage with online sessions as well as they have been in recent months, communicate effectively when necessary and persevere until they can once again return to Rydal Penrhos.
He said: “Sitting alone in a bedroom, lounge or home office is never easy, especially when during adolescence, young people see their peer group as the most important people around them.
“To anyone who might be finding it difficult over the next few weeks, I would encourage them to speak to parents, tutors or teachers and to heed the advice of Nido Qubein, an American Lebanese-Jordanian businessman and motivational speaker: ‘Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start’.”
Week 3 from Winter Lockdown
Another exhausting week of remote learning draws to a close but spirits are high amongst our Rydal Penrhos pupils. This photograph shows that pupils have adapted well to the remote classroom; it also shows how lucky we are to live in North Wales and have such spectacular views from our windows…fabulous for ‘day-dreaming’!
Last week it was fascinating to look at the top 10 images that represent the pandemic according to our prep school pupils. This week I thought it would be interesting to gauge their opinions about words and phrases that have become part of their lives over the past 10 months.
The results are below, again in ascending order. I wonder if they would match your top ten:
10. PPE – not many could tell me exactly what it stood for but most knew it was ‘stuff that doctors wear’
9. Teams – a whole new meaning…not sports teams anymore, but online lessons
8. pandemic – over 7s could explain, under 7s knew it was ‘a bad thing’
7. sanitise – inextricably linked to the bottles next to ‘every single door’, even pre-schoolers knew what it meant!
6. bubble – no longer for popping, now for ‘staying in’
5. social distancing – over 7s knew it was 2m, under 7s had no idea…one thought it was where his Grandma lived!
4. coronavirus/covid – all knew it was something which makes us sick, some with more scientific knowledge than others. An argument took place about whether the ‘aerosols’ are red or green! I think this depends on which TV channel you are watching. My statement that they were, in fact, invisible was greeted with suitable distain!
3. lockdown – Collins dictionary reported a 6000% increase in its written use during 2020 so no wonder our pupils are chatting with this word more often
2. mute – all pupils from reception upwards were very keen to tell me that they hear this word multiple times a day now, especially ‘you’re on mute’!
1. enhaychess – all of the pupils, even pre-schoolers, said they heard this word every day. When I asked what it meant the older pupils could happily, and accurately, tell me. However there was a lot of discussion in the pre-school. They eventually told me that it’s ‘a big animal that we have to protect’. I did try to explain but I actually quite like their image.
Out of the mouths of babes…isn’t that the phrase?!
Mrs Lucy Davies - Head of Rydal Penrhos Prep School.
Exciting developments announced!
Although the majority of Rydal Penrhos pupils are undertaking another period of remote learning due to the second educational lockdown, Pre-School children continue to receive the benefit of coming in on a daily basis to boost their early development.
This continuity is welcome both for the children themselves and their families. It has not been an easy time for anybody, but Pre-School staff at Rydal Penrhos have worked exceptionally hard to ensure that their usual activities remain the same, with Swimming and Coastal School along the picturesque Colwyn Bay shoreline the only things missing from their day-to-day activities.
The Pre-School is also working under new management, with Letitia Spencer appointed to the role during the autumn term.
Mrs Spencer has been busy acclimatising to her new surroundings and getting to know the characteristics of each Pre-School child, with some exciting developments now in place to keep parents informed and handy hints to assist with the further building of vital early skills at home.
She said: “I am very excited to be a part of Rydal Penrhos and to have the opportunity to work with all of the fantastic children at Pre-School.
“In our Pre-School, the children learn through play and we give them many exciting experiences and opportunities which will help with their development.
“Rydal Penrhos has a strong and successful ethos of working alongside parents and I hope that this can continue long into the future.”
Using Microsoft Teams, which has been an essential online tool over the last 12 months across Pre-School, Prep and Senior sites at Rydal Penrhos throughout the current COVID-19 pandemic, staff will be posting stories to enjoy at home, additional learning resources and events that are easily accessible from a computer, tablet or phone.
Pre-School are also using “Evidence Me” software, which was launched earlier this month for observational purposes.
This is the base for staff to send parents photos, videos and activities that their children have been involved in throughout their busy day at Rydal Penrhos, which is a great way to see how they are getting on.
Families can also share photos of activities they have been doing at home.
Children also benefit from a weekly lesson with Louise Devilleforte, who teaches Reception and this transitional session ensures that they will have a familiar face when they move up to formally start their education in September after building their early foundation within the Pre-School environment.
Rydal Penrhos has always been proud of its ability to listen to its parent body.
Each half term, Prep School head Lucy Davies holds a class reps meeting to provide updates and listen to specific feedback.
Senior School pupils enjoy wide-ranging activities
One of the most prestigious areas of Rydal Penrhos is within its Performing Arts provision. This plays a vital role in the overall development of pupils young and old, building confidence and composure in addition to enhancing wellbeing in a structured setting.
Things have looked a little different from an educational standpoint during the autumn term and into the New Year thanks to the current COVID-19 restrictions implemented by the Welsh Government. However, this has not stopped teaching staff from adjusting to the current climate and ensuring that each pupil at Rydal Penrhos suffers as little loss of learning as possible during such a difficult time.
Drama pupils are another fine example of this, with those under the Key Stage 3 bracket and above benefitting considerably from a vast and varied series of activities that inspired creativity and brought out the very best in them all.
Year 8 explored Melodrama throughout the autumn term, which culminated in all of them performing a short, scripted piece that went down extremely well with the limited people in attendance due to social distancing measures.
They also had plenty of fun working with Trestle Masks, learning the skills of a masked actor and finding out more about what it takes to make a successful career in this particular discipline.
Year 9 spent time exploring the GCSE text DNA by Dennis Kelly, resulting in a performance of the script. This showed a maturity beyond their years and will stand those who want to take Drama in Key Stage 4 in extremely good stead over the next two years.
The ever-popular Year 7 Drama Club generated some tremendous momentum before the second educational lockdown, which is held during Rydal Penrhos’ designated extra-curricular time at the end of the day and featured drama games, building key skills and creating short improvisations.
In addition to these activities, pupils have been given special access to live and pre-recorded theatre, with Year 7 watching an online pantomime, Year 8 taking in a virtual production by Vamos Theatre and the examination classes in Key Stage 4 and 5 watching numerous National Theatre productions as well as from the Barn Theatre, Splendid Theatre Company and Frantic Assembly.
The current lockdown has forced pupils and teachers to approach their learning in a different way, which involves exploring thought-provoking topics at Key Stage 3:
- Greek Theatre (exploring choral speech, creating masks)
- Commedia Dell Arte (exploring its history and key characters)
- Verbatim Theatre (script writing and devising a short performance)
GCSE and A Level candidates will continue to explore texts such as An Inspector Calls, A View from the Bridge, A Taste of Honey, Woyzeck and An Accidental Death of an Anarchist, which will ensure all required knowledge has been acquired in readiness for their eagerly anticipated return to face-to-face learning.
Charlotte Holmes Adventure Box creators visit
Before our wonderful Rydal Penrhos community broke up for the Christmas break, Year 7 pupils were treated to a special visit from a former teacher and creator of a popular children’s mystery and adventure series.
The youngest members of Senior School worked with English and Drama teacher Fiona Earle to explore the “Charlotte Holmes Adventure Box” over a seven-week period, which culminated in the visit of the author Ben Richards and his colleague Will Cousins to bring the adventure to its conclusion.
In the story, the adventure ends with a village fete and so of course we had to as well. Despite coronavirus, teacher Fiona Earle had devised “fete style” competitions for the pupils to take part in.
These included creating the strangest big vegetable, cake decorating and potato head design. Also, following the ideas in the activity box, the group held an “Unlucky” dip, followed by a luckier one; a tombola with Xmas treats to win; and then finally a free raffle, with a chance to win Charlotte’s items from the story.
The two guests then spent nearly an hour discussing their creation, answering plenty of questions from Year 7 and hearing their thoughts about the adventure mystery.
They discovered fascinating information about the way in which the story was developed and found out about the secret “swizzle” and how to create Mr Punch’s voice.
There was also a special treat for pupils ahead of the next edition of Charlotte’s Adventure Box, which is set to be released in the spring.
Mr Richards and Mr Cousins invited pupils to create an exciting story – full of action – about Charlotte and the people of Batley Hall and the winner of the story writing competition will have their name included in the next adventure!
This was all organised as a reward for the Year 7 group, who tackled this particular part of their learning with customary enthusiasm and determination.
Grade 8 triumph for Harry!
A talented musician and Sixth Form pupil at Rydal Penrhos has been awarded an exceptional examination grading in Piano to cap off an incredible series of achievements.
Harry Grocott, who is a Year 13 pupil at the school, sat his Grade 8 Piano assessment from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music before the Christmas break. His hard work and dedication to practice secured him a superb final mark, with Harry managing to pass with Merit.
The achievement was made even more impressive by the current learning challenges surrounding COVID-19, which forced Harry to conduct some sessions virtually to ensure he remained on target for the exam.
In recognition of a sensational achievement, Harry was given a special gift from his Music teacher Barry Seaman, with whom he began learning from the age of seven.
The Prefect was presented with a beautiful book on Bach that had in turn been handed down to his Music teacher by the person who taught him.
This was a testament to Harry’s conduct and willingness to improve his piano playing skills during their decade together.
Harry is also extremely strong academically and is looking to study Civil Engineering once he begins the next stage of his journey within higher education later this year
He has already received several offers and is considering Durham as his university destination at present.
This is somewhere a large number of Rydal Penrhos’ 2020 leavers went as their first-choice destination after securing the school’s best-ever A Level results last summer.
Staff giving Joe Wicks a run for his money
Being stuck at home isn’t easy. We are now almost a year into the coronavirus pandemic restrictions and although the end might be in sight with vaccine distribution now in full flow, things can get understandably a little frustrating at times for all concerned.
Our incredible teaching staff at Rydal Penrhos are all-too-aware of this. They have been in constant dialogue with pupils and parents alike throughout an unprecedented period of disruption, offering assistance, support and guidance in whatever way they can to make things easier in their own way.
One key area that often gets overlooked during the various lockdowns is the importance of physical health and wellbeing. Rydal Penrhos has made a keen effort to ensure this remains at the forefront of everybody’s minds across all year groups, with Prep School staff taking inspiration from a fitness phenomenon to further aid the children under their care.
During the second educational lockdown that began following the Christmas break, teachers have been delivering a live 30-minute fitness session during the school day that has proved hugely popular with pupils young and old at the Prep School.
The idea came after getting involved in the Joe Wicks workouts during the first lockdown period last spring – which became a national sensation – and they’ve now opted to take on the mantle of delivering their own sessions that pupils can enjoy from the comfort of their own home or in the case of keyworker children, during their time on-site.
They have gone above and beyond the call of duty once again to provide the fun fitness sessions, which takes pupils away from their online learning for a brief period to get some vital exercise and have plenty of fun in the process.
This is similar to what is being deployed at the Senior School, with staff putting on health and wellbeing sessions at the end of each weekday that anybody working or learning at Rydal Penrhos can participate in.
Rydal Penrhos has led the way in regards to remote learning and maintaining structure over the last 11 months, which is a testament to the exceptional dedication shown by staff in a bid to make sure that every pupil’s respective goals remain the same.
Giving Joe Wicks a run for his money is just a small – but essential – part of this.
Chapels & Assemblies
Keeping spiritually balanced during uncertain times
Maintaining routine and structure has been at the forefront of our minds at Rydal Penrhos over the last year in extremely difficult circumstances. COVID-19 has forced staff into new methods of teaching and learning and has made them think of new ways to “get the message across” on a daily basis, something each member of the school community has adjusted to impressively.
One comforting constant has been our Chapels and Assemblies, which have taken place in a virtual format to give pupils and staff a sense of normality despite the ever-changing situation around them.
These come from the Reverend Nick Sissons, with Director of Music Pete Williams providing the songs and communications manager Dean Jones putting them all together.
Prep School head Lucy Davies also lends her support with a Friday “Celebration” Assembly, which rewards the hard work of pupils during their week both in and out of the classroom.
Rev’d Sissons gives up a lot of his time to film the entertaining videos, with Senior Chapel and Prep Assemblies on Monday to get everyone off on the right foot at the start of the week,
Pre-School “Calm Time” is also taking place in virtual form and is perhaps even more appreciated given the current circumstances.
The Chaplain enlists the help of “Rydal” the Dragon for his Prep Assembly every Thursday, which also showcases Rev’d Sissons’ musical talents more often than not!
Plenty of prestigious guests and figures from the wider community have been special guest speakers during Friday’s virtual Celebration Chapel, including recent messages from Jerusalem and a High Court Judge.
This is another small but vital part of keeping a solid foundation to build a successful education. Normality might seem unattainable in the current climate, but thanks to the sterling work of staff at Rydal Penrhos, pupils continue to receive a vital routine that will stand them in extremely good stead once they are permitted to return to school by the Welsh Government.
We are eternally grateful to Rev’d Sissons and Mrs Davies, together with every staff member and guest who has featured in our virtual Chapels and Assemblies, for their incredible efforts to keep up spirits.
Weekly update from Miss Earle
Pupils in years 7 & 8 have started participating in the national Readathon.
The charity Read for Good encourages children to read through its unique motivational approach inspiring reluctant readers to give reading a go, and keen readers to read more widely. Pupils can choose whatever they want to read - from comics to classics and audio books to blogs - they are not being assessed, it’s all about reading for fun.
And, they are motivated to read because the money they raise in sponsorship helps to provide a regular supply of brand new books and a resident storyteller to every major children’s hospital in the UK.
At this moment in our society, reading for pleasure, sharing stories, being able to escape our four walls through the pages of a book could be more important than ever. Reading can help with our mental health and well-being: reading for just 6 minutes has been shown to reduce stress levels by 68%. But more than that, taking time to share stories, losing ourselves in a book, travelling the high seas or the Milky Way from the comfort of a sofa might just be the tonic we all need.
As well as using real books, pupils can access fiction on the following links:
Enjoy the company of Chris Hemsworth, Meryl Streep, Eddie Redmayne and more reading Roald Dahl’s James and Giant Peach – it’s truly unique!
The brilliant author-illustrator Tom Percival reads a chapter from Attack of the Heebie Jeebies every day. It’s the most delightful way to get caught up in a great story! Thanks, Tom, and publisher Macmillan, for sharing!
J.K. Rowling and Audible have made Stephen Fry’s compelling narration of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone freely available. Nearly ten hours of pure listening joy!
Oak Academy and the NLT have opened a Virtual School Library to keep children reading during lockdown. This week’s featured author on Oak Academy Library is Nizrana Farouk. Pupils can read or listen to The Girl Who Stole an Elephant completely FREE, watch an exclusive video about Nizrana's new book, discover her top three children's books and read an interview all about reading.
In addition, Audible have made a whole range of books available to listen to for free. Perfect for struggling and reluctant readers.
Rydal Penrhos Readathon started on Tuesday 26 January, and will conclude on World Book Day on 7 March.
I look forward to discussing the books they are reading/listening to in tutor periods each week.
Stars of the Week and Performing Arts success!
It is a bumper edition this week, which is further explained by Prep School head Lucy Davies:
This week has been another week full of online excitement and full days of interactive lessons. Our pupils, even those in Reception, are super-techies and can all upload work into the correct file, take photos as evidence and type directly onto shared documents.
Children really are brilliant learners!
Our teachers are finding it increasingly hard to pick the Star of the Week and often try and ‘barter’ with me to have their whole class as stars!
This week we also found out that our pupils who took LAMDA speech and drama exams just before Christmas all passed with distinction, a fantastic feat indeed and well done to their teacher, Mrs Wilder.
In the musical arena, we also had Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music examination success with Head Boy Noah Roberts passing grades in two instruments and Oscar Jewsbury on the piano with their teacher, Mrs Frost.
More details will be coming in separate stories.
Well done to:
Stars of the Week:
- Reception – Harris
- Year 1 – Demiana and Haydn
- Year 2 – Sienna
- Year 3 – Eglantine
- Year 4 – Francesca
- Year 5 – Oscar J
- Year 6 – James
- Year 5 – Finlay and Oscar J
Speech and Drama:
- Year 4 – Ela L-B, Alexandra and Beatrice
- Year 5 – Steffan and Oscar J
- Year 6 – Lewis and Martha-Rose
Mrs L Davies
Head of Prep School
Familiar face delivers message from the Middle East
Our Chaplain Reverend Nick Sissons enlisted the help of a very familiar face for his latest virtual edition of Celebration Chapel – current parent and previous Head of Rydal Penrhos Prep School and Acting Head of Senior School before deciding to take a position in a much warmer climate in Abu Dhabi – Mr Roger McDuff.
His big personality and personable nature made him a very popular Head of School and his wife Emma also became a popular super teacher and important part of the Rydal Penrhos family at both Prep and Senior sites.
Mr McDuff, said: “Don’t ever send an email congratulating Reverend Sissons on his new post and not expect to be coerced into providing a message to the school community!”
The message itself came from the Garden City of Al-Ain, where Mr McDuff is based as Principal of Al Dhafra Private School.
It centered on the subject of Love, which comes in many forms that prove it “flows through us in life”, said Mr McDuff.
Whether it be Nando’s, family, friends, or the view from the Rydal Penrhos Prep School playground, love is all around us and Mr McDuff finished off the message with a passage from the fourth verse of John:
“We who are dearly loved should love one another.”
Everyone at Rydal Penrhos would like to thank Mr. McDuff for giving up his time to deliver our latest Celebration Chapel message and we look forward to seeing him again once it is safe to do so.