A new chapter for Rydal Penrhos

Simon Smith, Headmaster at Rydal Penrhos, reflects on his first term and what it’s like to live and work at a boarding school

How impressed have you been by the commitment of both pupils and staff at the school? 

You have to live and work in a 24/7 boarding school to truly appreciate the stamina and commitment of the pupils and staff at an outstanding school like this. Our pupils are impressive – happy and courteous around campus with very full days.

They are in the classroom for six lessons per day, then they have gym or rehearsals, complete prep, and engage in other enrichment projects. The staff of both the senior and prep school set the tone and are the ones facilitating so much of what happens. I have seen them teach, coach, umpire, direct, lecture, supervise, inspire and still want to participate in their own professional development.

It’s very important that the staff can find time to commit to their own wellbeing and best practice

We are all learners and it’s very important that the staff can find time to commit to their own wellbeing and best practice. I’m keen to see, in the coming months, all this commitment to events matched by an even greater commitment by the community to support each other too. It’s important that we all find time in our busy weeks to attend and appreciate the hard efforts of someone else. 

What challenges have you faced during your brief time at Rydal Penrhos? 

Finding enough hours in the day to meet with everyone, see everything and remembering all the pupils’ names!  

How have you found the adjustment to a headmaster role? 

My staff have been incredibly supportive and helpful. It would be unfair to single out individuals but my school leadership team (SLT) have been incredible and thank goodness for my PA, Julie Lucas. She is always organising my diary and magically refilling the coffee pot.

It’s been everything I expected and so much more. I don’t think anything can truly prepare you for headship but day by day I’m building the bridge as I walk along it. As headmaster you have an interest in every area of school life. 

  The variety makes it such an interesting role. I have challenged every pupil to be a leader and I’m conscious I am a role model in that regard. Being a headmaster brings its challenges but the rewards are even greater. 

What do you like most about being headmaster? 

I should start by saying how much I’m enjoying teaching my history classes; I hope they are enjoying them too! I have really enjoyed Rev. Sissons’ Pop Gospels each Wednesday in Chapel. The Amnesty Group’s Chapel on refugees was incredibly powerful. Inter-House Music and the Young Performers Music Concert were particularly memorable. I think Inter-House Music is arguably the most important House event in the school calendar. It’s about every member of each boarding House preparing together, performing together and enjoying a shared experience. It’s the ultimate bonding experience for the House community, particularly so when many have to step out of their comfort zone for it.

Are there any exciting things lined up in the near future that you are particularly looking forward to? 

There is plenty to look forward to at the school. I am currently in discussion with my SLT and senior management team (SMT) about a number of facilities, development schemes, curriculum changes and other significant events. I’m very excited about a number of projects which will directly enhance the pupils’ lives, learning and experiences at the school. Watch this space! 


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