Boarding at Rydal Penrhos
At Rydal Penrhos School
We will be a warm, supportive, orderly courteous and welcoming community, with strong moral values. Rydal Penrhos pupils and staff are caring, quite exceptionally proud of their school and fiercely loyal to each other.
We will develop a model which seeks to exploit House rivalry for the good of every individual. Houseparents, Heads of Lower, Middle and Sixth Form will be supported by all staff and the curriculum and co-curriculum in their caring for the pupils’ wellbeing and mental as well as physical health.
24/7 Boarding and all its benefits will be a central pillar of Rydal Penrhos School but not at the expense of the day pupil. In fact they will certainly benefit from a boarding culture too.
Rydal Penrhos is a Methodist foundation, though remaining open to and respectful of children from all faiths and none. Developing a spiritual awareness in each and every pupil lies at the very core of our school. We will encourage visitors to school events and we will aim to consolidate our reputation as one of the most courteous and hospitable schools in the country.
Time to Transform
Mr Smith outlines Boarding culture
"Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it."
Perhaps quoting from a fictional teenager – Ferris Bueller – who spends the entirety of a film trying to avoid school for a day is a strange choice. But, it is the very speed of life, particularly teenage life, which makes me believe that boarding is a sanctuary for positive wellbeing and an opportunity to allow talents and interests to flourish whilst achieving academic success.
The boarding experience has transformed in the last two decades and boarding offers the time and space for young people to transform too.
Firstly, a word on the boarding experience. 21st Century boarding is very much a home from home. Comfortable rooms, an exciting new catering provision and refurbished dining room, greater privacy, access to school facilities late into the evening, endless birthday or other notable event celebrations, multi-national communities with a strong British core and, essentially, a family-friendly ethos, are the order of the day.
Many boarding houses have “House Parents” rather than the traditional Housemaster or Housemistress; it’s a family-sized team effort. Many boarders go home at weekends after five days of study and a Saturday morning of sport and parents typically live less than an hour or two away; close enough to call in if required and to support from a touchline or audience, but far enough to allow a sense of self-sufficiency and independence.
For those in school at weekends, there is a smorgasbord of activities, trips, study support, etc. that would shame many all-inclusive holidays. Again, the family touch is important with equally good weekend food - for those at my school even Sunday Lunch with the Headmaster and his wife (they enjoy it, honestly)!
In addition to fostering friendship, active involvement and preparation for university, boarding schools are in-tune with the welfare of pupils. Boarding schools are just as concerned with our teenagers’ mental health as they are their physical health. Counsellors, peer mentors, mental health trained House staff, school doctors and nurses are just as common as History teachers and hockey coaches.
In other words, we seek to replicate the best of home life whilst still preparing young people for the independent challenges of university life; forging friendships that really do last a lifetime. Most former pupils, I know, remember their House parents, matrons and tutors far more affectionately than most of their academic teachers.
However, boarding schools aren’t hotels, nor is a night in the House akin to a sleepover. The core function of a boarding house is a natural extension of the school’s ethos and values.
Boarding provides a structured routine with homework (prep), social time (talking, not texting) and strict lights out – without mobile phones!
Students work far more productively when everyone is working around them and with academic support on-hand. Once prep is finished students are encouraged, indeed expected, to make use of the gym, the swimming pool, the playing fields, the music practice rooms or the DT workshop and so on, staffed by teaching or support staff late into the evening. In my school the gym is open for boarders from 6.30am until 10pm staffed by a team of strength and conditioning coaches to help the 1stXV rugby player, the 1stVII netballer, the aspiring triathlete or the U14 Hockey goalkeeper trying to return from injury.
In addition to the obvious regular activities of a boarder there are the more seasonal advantages. Cast and crew of the school play, the sailing team taking advantage of light evenings, the choir leading up to the festive season – they all benefit from being able to stay in school beyond lessons, participate and then remain in school. No late night parent pick-ups required! Indeed the whole issue of the school commute ceases to be an issue.
By the time a day pupil has returned home many a boarder will have had got changed, had supper, relaxed with their friends and made some headway into their prep. In some cases they even get a relative lie-in the following morning. Full boarding, weekly boarding and flexi-boarding (one or two nights per week) offer an unparalleled educational and social opportunity.
It is no exaggeration to say that I have watched teenagers transform as a result of their time in boarding. Disorganised pupils have become more organised, hesitancy has been replaced by greater confidence and those struggling academically or physically have made astonishing progress, responding to the support and time freely given to them in their boarding house and boarding school.
Rather than siding with Ferris Bueller, most of my boarders are more likely to consider Gandalf’s words in The Fellowship of the Ring:
"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."
Mr S R Smith, Headmaster
Boarding has been at the heart of Rydal Penrhos for more than 120 years.
We nurture a supportive, stimulating environment for our pupils in order to make their boarding experience a positive and enriching one. Both day pupils and boarders alike benefit from our boarding ethos and our community of children and staff living and learning together. Every family and every child is different and our boarding provision is designed to suit the circumstances and needs of each individual family.
We know that as our pupils move from Prep to Senior, or move up at the Senior School, many choose to experience boarding as a natural extension of their studying and social life. Choosing to live at school during term time brings many benefits, not least the maturing of confident, socially-adept young people and the international mindedness fostered by living alongside pupils from across the globe.
Boarding in the 21st Century is a positive choice for many pupils and their families, not simply a necessity. Our boarders are cared for by experienced Houseparents together with a team of Tutors and Matrons, all of whom work hard to create to convival family atmosphere.
Boarders very quickly come to view their House as a home from home and build close relationships with other boarders and the House team. During term time, school is never closed and is alive with activity in the evenings and at the weekends.
The school is within 45 minutes' drive of Chester, Holyhead and Bangor, and there are fast rail links to London (under three hours) and the Midlands.
Ways to Board at RP
Full boarding may seem initially daunting to some, so the opportunity and ease of occasional flexi-boarding offers an ideal introduction.
Flexi-boarding is invaluable for those staying on for a drama rehearsal, music concert or expected late back from an away fixture, if parents are working late or going away for a few days, or simply to reduce the hours every week spent travelling to and from school.
A great way to balance home and school life: Monday to Thursday boarding with the flexibility to add extra nights - particularly useful for Saturday sports fixtures and training.
Without the daily school commute, boarders can get more done - their days are longer and their experiences broader. Boarders have more time to spend with their peers and can take advantage of opportunities including extra sport, cultural trips, Duke of Edinburgh Award involvement and extended access of the school's facilities.
For those in the Sixth Form, weekly boarding is a tremendous stepping stone between home and university life. Sixth Form lectures, socials, societies and Business Club meetings all take place in the evenings too.
As full boarders, the structure of their daily and weekly routine reminds pupils of their academic priorities but leaves them with plenty of choice to prioritise, plan and organise themselves independently.
Boarders live in a close community and learn to be considerate and tolerant of others. Friendships formed at boarding school are often life-long: shared experiences, conversation and time together beyond the school day make for good relationships between peers as well as with staff
What to expect at RP
Our boarding houses are small and friendly, each with its own family atmosphere. The biggest House is Edwards, our girls' House, with up to 50 boarders. The boys' boarding houses are smaller, with 20 to 30 pupils in each of the Houses.
At the end of the school day boarders go to their House to get changed before supper in the school dining room.
Boarders eat all of their main meals (breakfast, lunch and supper) in the Senior School dining room, but all Houses also have well-equipped kitchens for the pupils to use in the evenings and at weekends, where they can cook and eat snacks, make cakes and even prepare more elaborate meals should they wish.
Boarders return to House in time to start their prep at 7pm. The House Tutors on duty each evening are subject teachers and are available to help with homeworkduring prep time.
In addition, all departments run clinics throughout the week, at lunchtimes and in the evenings, for pupils to seek extra help if they need it. Prep time finishes at 8pm for Years 7-9 and at 8.30pm for Year 10 upwards.
Pupils are then free to use the House kitchens and common rooms. They may also visit other boarding houses, use the school swimming pool or fitness centre, or work in the academic departments that are open in the evenings. Bedtimes are between 9-10.30pm.
Boys' boarding house
One of the most spacious boarding houses at Rydal Penrhos, Beecholme is home to boys from Years 7 to 12.
Among the 14 bedrooms, boys usually share rooms in groups of three or four. Sixth Form boarders enjoy single or twin rooms slongside greater independence and responsibility.
Three common rooms and a pupil kitchen make Beecholme a very sociable House.
The stained-glass windows, wood panelling and a grand piano add to the warmth of the atmosphere and create a truly inviting environment in which to live and work.
Girls' Boarding House
Edwards is the largest of our boarding houses and has the enviable position at the top of the hill with glorious views over Colwyn Bay to the sea.
The castellated three-storey building has 36 bedrooms and can also accomodate up to 50 girls from Years 7 to 13, with House staff also living on each floor. Girls in Years 7 to 10 will share a room with two or three others, older girls are usually allocated with twin or single rooms.
Original stained glass windows and fireplaces make Edwards a lovely homely environment. There is a common room on each floor and two kitchens in which the girls can make themselves drinks and snacks. Situated adjacent to our Prep School, the girls also enjoy access to the Prep's facilities outside the school day, such as the library and playing field.
Boys' Boarding House
Accommodating boys from Years 10 to 13, Hathaway House enjoys a lovely location across the road from Edwards House and the Prep School.
Many of its 28 bedrooms have breathtaking views of the sea and surrounding scenery.
The common room and pupil kitchen are popular spaces for catching up, relaxing and making those essential snacks and drinks to fuel studying and socialising.
Hathaway also has a lovely garden and veranda, perfect for summer barbecues and outdoor games.
Phil Mather and Karen Mather have been Housemaster and Matron at Rydal Penrhos since 1987, both at the Preparatory and Senior schools. They are assisted at the house by full-time Assistant Housemistress, Miss Sarah James.
Boys' boarding house
Netherton is home to boy boarders in Years 10 to 13. It is located close to the school's tennis courts, New Field and Pavilion and only a short walk from other boarding houses and main school buildings.
Netherton has a large common room, pupil kitchen and a games room with a pool table where boarders challenge House staff and often win!
Netherton is an academically strong house and there is a good sporting tradition, with Netherton boarders playing in rugby, tennis and basketball teams.
There is a full weekend activities programme available to Netherton boarders, which includes trips to Newborough beach, the cinema, outdoor activity centres, and many cultural and city visits.
Everything you need to kow
At what age can pupils board at Rydal Penrhos?
Boarding starts at age 11 (Year 7) right through to 18 (Year 13).
What percentage of pupils board at Rydal Penrhos?
Currently approximately 35 per cent of pupils board and around 50% are from overseas.
What happens if my son or daughter is unwell?
In addition to the care and support provided by your child's Housemaster or Housemistress, Tutors and House Staff, the School Health Centre keeps pupils happy and healthy whilst they are at Rydal Penrhos.
The Health Centre is staffed by qualified and dedicated nurses who are able to provide care and advice as required as well as referrals to other health professionals.
Is there a transport service?
Yes. The school has a full-time transport manager who organises transfers between Manchester/Liverpool airports and school at the beginning and end of each term and there is a minibus service for weekly boarders.
What happens during the holidays?
All of the boarding houses close during the holidays and boarders go home. If a pupil needs to stay in the UK during the school holidays, he or she may stay with a guardian. Rydal Penrhos does not have weekend exeats unlike some schools, so pupils do not need to leave for the weekend during term time.
Does my son or daughter have to have a guardian?
Rydal Penrhos requires pupils who do not live in the United Kingdom to have a UK-based guardian. However, European pupils who return home home every holiday do not currently need a guardian.
Any pupil who may wish to remain in the UK during half term or other holidays will need an appointed guardian.
A guardian may be a family member or relative, or a family friend over 25 years of age who is not a full-time student.
If parents do not have such a contact in the UK, we will assist you to identify and secure the services of a suitable guardian.
If your child is interested in boarding at Rydal Penrhos, be it flexi, weekly or full, please get in touch and we will arrange a tour of the school, including looking around a boarding house and meeting boarding staff.
If your child is a day pupil when they join the school, or is already a day pupil, and may have interest in boarding, please contact our Head of Boarding Mr Tim Cashell.
Tel: +44 (0) 1492 530381
Rydal Penrhos Senior School, Pwllycrochan Avenue, Colwyn Bay, Conwy, North Wales, LL29 7BP