Rydal Penrhos Community
Simon Smith reflects on first half term as Headmaster at Rydal Penrhos

Simon Smith reflects on first half term as Headmaster at Rydal Penrhos

We sat down with Headmaster Simon Smith to ask him some questions on what was an extremely busy first half term at the helm:

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: in the classroom for 6 lessons per day, then the Gym or rehearsals, completing Prep, and engaging 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.

We are all learners and it's very important that the staff can find time to commit to their own well-being 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 here?

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 SLT have been incredible and thank goodness for my PA, Julie Lucas, her organising of my diary and her magic refilling 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.

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

Plenty. I am currently in discussion with my SLT and 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.

What has been your favourite thing so far about being Headmaster here?

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. 

I loved Dr Lewis' Sixth Form lecture on Cambodia, and we have won every Hockey match I've seen so far. Having the opportunity to speak with members of the community on a daily basis. Explaining to prospective families why it's such a brilliant school. The highlight is when those families then get back in touch with us to say what a great time they've had, how impressed they were with the pupils and staff and that they now want their son or daughter to join us.

Nothing makes make me prouder than to see a family making such an important decision on the basis of their experience here. I'm lucky I get to read their emails and letters and it's important that I feed that back too.

What are your plans for the coming weeks?

My diary is filled with more meetings, lesson observations along with Prep and Senior School events. I am very much looking forward to seeing "Annie" as I know just how hard the cast and crew, under Mrs Crimes' direction, have been working. I'm looking forward to visiting some more of our very supportive feeder schools. I am taking every opportunity to learn our pupils’ names!

As the nights grow lighter I'm hoping to get out along our stunning coastline for regular training runs. I'm keen to run the Chester Half Marathon but I need to get a few more kilometres under my belt first. On 23 March I shall be glued to Twitter as our U18s Rugby 7s team are playing Haileybury (my previous school) in the Rosslyn Park 7s - there's a lot of pride at stake!

I’m also looking ahead to the Summer Term and particularly our plans for Speech Day as the highlight of the academic year for our whole community.

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