Richard Wolfendale, Head Boy of Rydal Penrhos, took time out of his studies to write some thoughts reflecting on a difficult few months that has seen the school adapt significantly well to the ever-changing circumstances surrounding COVID-19.
It may be difficult to find another time in recent memory where so many have been affected on such a large scale. The consequences of two lockdowns and countless other restrictions have made this year a very tough and frustrating period of time, largely due to the huge disruptions we have had to face at Rydal Penrhos, but even more so due to the extremely unnerving projections for the future.
I can say with confidence that this concern for what lies around the corner is a feeling shared by every member of Rydal Penrhos, and I suspect that the word ‘terrified’ is not an exaggeration of how many currently feel.
From a student’s perspective, the effects of the pandemic have been extremely damaging – those of us sitting A-levels in June do not know if there will be any exams to sit, or whether the reward of higher education will be available afterwards.
The entire structure of the school has also had to adapt; year groups can no longer mix and ‘bubbles’ are simply no longer things you blow in the playground.
However, this very negative image is not one I wish to portray.
As I sit writing this, gathering my thoughts on the events since March, I realise that since we were told to stay at home, I have completed almost two terms worth of schoolwork and completed the entire university application process, a remarkable feat considering the circumstances.
This, of course, would have been impossible without the school; it is only now I realise how much I owe to the efficiency of online learning and the willingness of my teachers to maintain their constant support on all fronts.
As I hear the stories of others in far worse situations, the realisation of how fortunate I am grows; I would now be in serious danger of falling behind without weekly lessons on Microsoft Teams, and would be extremely stressed without online guidance from school on how to write my university application.
A word I recently came across is ‘fenua’. It comes from Polynesian culture and is used to describe the feeling of belonging to a community or place, regardless of distance or time away from home. I feel strongly that this word has more meaning than ever at present; as we sit in our homes, the feeling of community in a world of isolation is now of huge importance.
I also feel that ‘fenua’ is something Rydal Penrhos has achieved incredibly successfully; never before has the school community worked so hard to maintain the unity that gave it so much character before the pandemic.
Over the past few months, I have been involved in many events such as school council meetings, virtual assemblies and more, and each one has added to the sense that in a strange but fulfilling way, we as a school community are still able to stay in one piece.
The Hello Yellow charity day a few weeks ago stood out in particular, as despite all year groups being forced to separate, a dress-up day complete with a drawing competition was still able to raise a significant sum for a good cause.
Even while apart, we worked together; I feel it links perfectly with the idea of ‘fenua’.
Therefore, there is every reason to be positive. My message is one of optimism – in such a testing time, the school has shown itself to be resilient and forward-thinking. I wish to leave the idea to all those who read this that you are fortunate to be a part of such a fantastic wider school community, and that we should all be looking forward to the future, rather than fearing what comes next.
Rydal Penrhos Head Boy 2020-21
Rydal Penrhos is now able to offer private tours to prospective pupils and their families.