Mrs Lucy Davies, Deputy Principal and Head of Rydal Penrhos Prep, took time out of her busy schedule to write a special feature surrounding a recent learning journey.
During the recent Rydal Penrhos Prep Spring Concert in the Memorial Hall, I had reason to visit the dressing rooms underneath the stage.
Some chairs needed moving about and I had forgotten that the width of the twisting staircase, to this somewhat underused area of the school, requires the nimbleness of a gymnastic cat!
All of the backstage areas are decorated with photographs and posters from former productions and plays and it was with a sense of impending historical doom that I found myself faced with the 1980s! I leant over my pile of chairs and squinted at a black and white photo of myself singing onstage to a number from ‘Oh! What a Lovely War!’
The mere fact that the photo was in black and white immediately resonated as to how long ago that was. I felt a little breathless, possibly caused by still holding onto the four stacked chairs, but more likely because sometimes we are jolted into thinking about our past and how moments connect to our present.
Since returning to Rydal Penrhos in 2019 I have had many moments when I am reminded of how strongly we are bonded to our school. I have met literally dozens of past pupils who are now parents at the school, or who work at the school, or, in some cases, are both.
Our strong Alumni society also encourages past pupils to visit the school for various events and reunions and I have been privileged to hear many stories about life at Rydal Penrhos over the decades.
So what is it about the school that marks it out as such an important part of every pupil’s life journey?
Why do so many former pupils find themselves returning to the North Wales area?
There are obvious reasons such as it’s a beautiful place, it has good commuter links and housing is cheaper than in London; but there must be something else. Something that binds us to the area and draws us back, even if only for holidays.
Thinking back through the many tales I have heard about life at Rydal School, Penrhos College, or Rydal Penrhos (yes, it’s been 22 years now!!), they all have one thing in common…
I think our life journey is marked by how we work together with others and these are the moments that we remember most.
A pupil who attended the Prep School in the late 1950s, when it hadn’t been in its current building for very long, told me of his proudest moment. I was expecting a story of receiving the Maths Prize or of representing the school in rugby; this was not the case…
His proudest moment was pulling off the ‘chapel dare’! In those days the boys had morning chapel in what is now the Prep Library. There were no chairs and the boys were squashed in standing rows on the floorboards.
Famously one floorboard was loose; the idea was to lift up the floorboard at the start of the hymn, squeeze down into the cellar, run up the stairs into the playground and wave to your friends through the window before darting swiftly back into the cellar and back up into line without being noticed by any of the masters.
I stared at the gentlemen telling me this story, the picture of respectability and well into his 80s but able to remember with sheer joy the feeling of pulling off this great feat of daring.
I asked him what he thought he had learned most from being at the school, and he answered without hesitation…
“To have a go at everything and to learn that not everything goes to plan, always have a Plan B because Plan A might not have been the right one anyway!”
I didn’t dare to ask what Plan B had been if the floorboard had jammed or if he had been seen waving at the window!
Rydal Penrhos is certainly a school that gives every one of its pupils opportunities; and all pupils are encouraged to take these opportunities and try them, find out what they excel at and what they need help with, how to make their own Plan A and Plan B, and even a Plan C!
Learning to adapt, know our strengths and plan our next move are extremely important life lessons that so many of us were fortunate to receive whilst at school here. And if you find yourself carrying four chairs in a stuffy corridor remember to put them down and take a moment to reflect on the past experiences that led you to where you are now…learn to plan, change your plans and look forward to your next plan!
A good school teaches us so much more than academic subjects; through close bonds with our friends and staff, it teaches us to be brave, to try new things and to find out what it is truly possible to accomplish if we don’t give up!
– Mrs Lucy Davies, Deputy Principal, Head of Prep