May I begin by sending my very best wishes to all our parents and families. The past few months have presented many difficulties and I particularly send the condolences of the Rydal Penrhos school community to those who have lost loved ones, family members and friends.
These difficult times have brought out great courage and selflessness and I especially commend our pupils and staff. A great challenge for the Rydal Penrhos school was to seek to engage pupils with online remote learning and ensure that the progress being made by pupils continued. In broad terms we believe that our pupils (and staff) have made significant progress in their IT skills: the lockdown also showed the need for pupils and staff to be using an identical ‘platform’ because of the difficulties encountered when software synchronisation was less than perfect.
This is why we will be spending £250,000 over the next two months enhancing our IT provision.
New ‘servers’ were installed over the summer vacation and we are now upgrading all the software, such as iSAMS, which enables the IT network to service the needs of pupils, staff and parents.
Over the next few weeks, identical iPads will be provided to our pupils and staff. We want this technology to be used as much as the traditional pencil and paper. The cost of all these improvements has been made despite the overall fee reduction which came into effect this term: we are committed to using the income from fees as efficiently as we can.
Parents rightly expect the school to teach the pupils well so that on leaving the school our young people do so with a strong academic performance thereby enabling them to secure a place at their preferred university or other destination. Therefore, I am delighted to report that both the GCSE and ‘A’ level results secured by our pupils were outstanding, not only in ‘raw’ terms but most especially in ‘value-added’ terms.
A detailed explanation of ‘value-added’ is provided on the school website in the examination results section. This analysis compares the examination performance of Rydal Penrhos pupils to approximately a million pupils nationally. Thereby it represents the impact of the school on a pupil’s actual performance against the performance projected from tests administered in Years 7 and 10. This analysis is undertaken by the Independent Centre of Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM) working with Cambridge University.
At ‘A’ level, our 51 Year 13 pupils who recently left, secured over 100 additional ‘A’ level grades with a value-added of almost +0.6, as displayed in the graph below which shows the last six years.
These ‘A’ level results, in turn, have enabled our pupils to secure their preferred university places: of the 51, 42 will be moving to their first choice university this autumn and three are taking a GAP Year prior to attending their first choice university in 2021 and three attending their second choice university along with three applying for a university place in 2021. We are proud not just of the academic performance of these young people but the high quality of Higher Education advice available within the school.
Strong ‘A’ level performance is based on a foundation of a strong set of GCSEs. The results of our Year 11 pupils show a similar level of excellence with an average value-added of +0.8; this means that the 36 pupils in Year 11 secured over 250 higher grades than projected against their individual prior performance and against national standards. The value-added performance of our GCSE pupils is shown below, also over a six-year period.
In seeking to ensure that best for our pupils these results mean that I can, with all confidence, confirm the high standard of teaching that our pupils receive and how this, in turn, better prepares our young people for the world beyond school.
I am sure that whilst Prep parents might be pleased to hear of this it might seem to be less relevant to younger children. However, this is not the case, firstly life moves rapidly for the children and secondly even one poor year at school has the potential to blight a child’s progress without appropriate action by teachers.
The identical protocols to ensure high-quality class teaching operate throughout the school: they do not differ from Reception to Year 13. I commend to parents the academic leadership of the Head of Senior School, Mrs Harding, and the Head of the Prep School, Mrs Davies, in continuing to raise the progress of our pupils.
However, we remain restless for further improvements and our plans include ensuring that the ‘value-added’ of all pupils in all subjects reach the highest levels currently achieved. That is why we encourage all parents to raise any concerns with us at the earliest opportunity.
It is by working together to address concerns that we can achieve the very best for our pupils. If a parent has a concern it should typically be raised in the first instance with the Class/Form teacher and the appropriate emails address are listed at the end of this letter.
We have already announced changes to the structure of teaching and the curriculum in Years 12 and 13 and we will be continuing to evaluate our provision during this term and expect to make further developments for 2021.
As with many organisations throughout the UK and the rest of the world, the current pandemic has presented huge challenges. A great one for the school has been to ensure that pupils, staff and visitors remain as safe as possible. The school has to follow the guidelines and protocols of the appropriate statutory bodies, not least the HSE (Health & Safety Executive) and spot visits are being undertaken at schools in Wales.
This does mean that it has been impossible to have a full range of extra-curricular activities, from singing to swimming. We are seeking to expand the provision of these activities which can be offered: I am aware of the apparent discrepancies which exist (public swimming pools may open, but school pools may not) but we will always seek to be fully compliant, not least since that is the best way to ensuring the safety of everyone.
Obviously, face to face communication with parents – one of our priorities – has become significantly more difficult. I am especially disappointed that our New Parents’ Dinner which would have taken place this month cannot go ahead.
We do hope that our all parental dinners, which were well supported and received last academic year, will go ahead later in the academic year. However, we are happy to use technology such as FaceTime, Skype, Teams to speak to parents face to face.
You may also have noticed that we have brought forward further improvements to the school website and our other methods of communications such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If you ever feel inadequately informed about any aspect of the school please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
With all good wishes.
J E WASZEK