Senior School newsletter: February 2019
Rydal Penrhos newsletter
Acting Head appointed
Rydal Penrhos is delighted to announce the appointment of Sally Ann Harding as Acting Head.
Mrs Harding arrived at Rydal School in 1992 as a Geography teacher following a successful period working for the Field Studies Council.
She then took over a girls’ boarding house from 1993-96, and then ran the current Edwards Boarding House for more than a decade.
The popular figure then moved on to Head of Geography, before taking on significantly more responsibility after her appointment as Director of Studies.
During this period, Mrs Harding has overseen everything from the curriculum, timetable structure, assessment, monitoring, in addition to GCSE and A-level options.
Mrs Harding has two sons that came through Rydal Penrhos, with Tom now in the Royal Marines and aspiring track star Matt recently joining the Virginia Tech University in the United States of America on a prestigious scholarship.
She is about to embark on her 28th year at Rydal Penrhos and her 40th in the teaching profession, and Mrs Harding has also been heavily involved in the school’s choir, orchestra, Dramatic Society productions, its Duke of Edinburgh programme and Badminton Club.
Mrs Harding, said: “This is a challenging job to pick up but it is an opportunity that both greatly excites and motivates me.
“Rydal Penrhos is such an incredible place to work and I have been extremely proud to play a small part in its fantastic success for nearly 30 years, something I will look to continue in my new role as Acting Head.”
Queens' College Cambridge offer
Imogen Camp, a Year 13 pupil at the school, has received a conditional offer from Queens’ College at the University of Cambridge, where she will study Natural Sciences providing she receives the necessary A-level grades this summer.
The Prefect, who is currently studying Biology, Chemistry, Further Mathematics and Physics at A-level, has enjoyed a phenomenal amount of success academically and from a co-curricular perspective since arriving at Rydal Penrhos as a Reception class pupil at the Prep School in 2003, and she impressed considerably during a strenuous selection process which receives more than 15,000 applications each year.
Her exploits in the sport of Chess have been a prominent highlight, with the 17-year-old securing a senior women’s championship at national level, in addition to making a series of appearances for the Welsh squad at prestigious events such as the World Youth Championships.
Imogen’s academic prowess saw her secure seven A* GCSE grades in Biology, Chemistry, Geography, Home Economics, Mathematics Physics and Religious Studies.
The pupil also managed to secure a Distinction in her Additional Mathematics, an A in German (Second Language) and two eight marks in English (First Language) and English Literature in accordance with the newly introduced grading system.
She also gained a Distinction in the UKMT Girls’ Mathematical Olympiad, helped the Rydal Penrhos team reach the national finals of the UKMT’s Senior Maths Team Challenge and attained a Gold Award from the recent Intermediate Biology Olympiad.
Mrs Harding, said: “Imogen is a prime example of what can be achieved when you really work hard and embrace the opportunities offered here at Rydal Penrhos, and everyone is absolutely thrilled that she has been offered a place a prestigious facility such as Queens’ College."
Jesus College Oxford offer
Elinor Davies, who left the school last summer, has been offered a place at Jesus College at the University of Oxford, where she will study French upon acceptance of the offer.
The 19-year-old Colwyn Bay native is currently on a gap year and has been making the very most of her time, with Elinor recently taking part in the Cardiff Half Marathon in memory of her grandfather alongside other family members to raise a total of £3,355.01 for Cancer Research UK.
She enjoyed a hugely successful time as a Rydal Penrhos pupil, which spanned 12 years and began as a Reception class pupil at the Prep School in 2006.
Elinor founded the school’s newspaper The RePorter with Ben Gibson, who is now studying at Cambridge University, and also thrived in a leadership role as Prefect.
Her academic excellent was further reflected in some outstanding A-level results last summer, which saw Elinor secure an A* mark in Business and A grades in French, History and Home Economics (AS Level).
Elinor also achieved a significant amount in a sporting environment, in particular for her sprint prowess in the 100 and 200-metre events at regional and national level, and the alumna also took part in a week-long journalism work experience placement at Rydal Penrhos’ marketing department, where she got the chance to interview renowned chef Bryn Williams.
Mrs Harding, said: “This is absolutely fantastic news and everyone is thrilled for Elinor and what she has accomplished.
"She was an exemplary pupil during her time here at Rydal Penrhos, and this solid foundation is sure to stand her in very good stead as she embarks on the next stage of her journey later this year."
April dates confirmed
Rydal Penrhos will be showcasing what it has to offer at a pair of Open Morning events in the spring.
Both Prep and Senior sites will be welcoming prospective pupils and their families over a two-day period, which will give them a first-hand opportunity to see for themselves what goes on during a typical day at the school.
The Senior School Open Morning will take place on Friday, April 26 from 9.30am, and those in attendance will be given individual tours of the school with pupil tour guides, which will see visitors observe all departments situated at Rydal Penrhos.
Following the tours, there will be a chance to speak with teaching and admissions staff, in addition to current parents and alumni to get a broader perspective of the day-to-day life of a pupil, the curriculum, pastoral care and what it is like to be a part of the school community.
The Prep School Open Morning will take place on Saturday, April 27 from 9.30am and will follow a similar format.
Mrs Hind, said: “Our Open Morning events are the very best way to see for yourself the great things we have going on throughout all areas of Rydal Penrhos’ Prep and Senior School areas.
“Our pupils play a huge part in the occasion and are on hand to answer any questions regarding the school, and this really is a fantastic chance for anyone thinking about joining the school community to get a better indication of the academic and co-curricular success we continue to accomplish.”
Anyone wishing to book can do so online at http://www.rydalpenrhos.com/open-days-visits, by emailing email@example.com or caling 01492 530155.
Record-breaking cheque presented to Ty Gobaith
Christmas Market highlights
Rydal Penrhos’ Sixth Form Charity Committee have officially handed over their record-breaking fundraising total from the recent Christmas Market.
The group organised a fantastic event on Friday, December 14, which has fast become one of the highlights of the academic year, with the market once again raising funds for Ty Gobaith Children’s Hospice in Conwy.
A packed Sports Hall enjoyed a host of different activities throughout the event, with Commando X-Fit lending their inflatable assault course that proved to be a popular addition.
Local businesses were also in attendance, purchasing stalls for anyone looking to get their hands on some last minute Christmas gifts, and there was also a special raffle with a fantastic hamper up for grabs donated by Panzi’s Deli in London.
A virtual reality suite, racing computer game, a Hula game, face painting, and the ever-popular cake stall and barbecue were other notable highlights from the market, and a number of pupils across all age groups also helped out at stalls and provided entertainment during the celebration.
The event drew a fantastic response from the Rydal Penrhos community, raising a superb total of £1,827.14, which was handed over to Fundraising Manager Sarah Kearsley-Wooller by Head Boy Nick Fiorita and Alexia Radu on Friday, February 1.
Mrs Kearsley-Wooller, said: "The continued support of Rydal Penrhos School is so very much appreciated.
“It is thanks to the hard work and enthusiasm of this year's Charity Committee that the excellent sum of £1,827.14 was raised. As the only children's hospice in North Wales, this generous support will help us make the most of short and precious lives."
Ty Gobaith provides care and support to life-limited children, young people and their families from Shropshire, Cheshire, North and Mid Wales.
Group speak on RP experience
A group of Sixth Form pupils took part in a special video detailing their experiences at the school.
Head Boy Nick Fiorita, Head Girl Gowri Pradeep, Deputy Head Boy Miles Poller, Nia Humphreys and Abhishek Bathula have been working with Communications Assistant Dean Jones on the promotional piece, which was officially released on Tuesday, January 22.
The video begins with Gowri speaking about the expert preparation she has received throughout the University application process, the UniFrog app and how that has benefitted her in recent months.
Miles then discussed the level of support received from teachers and his form tutor, outlining time management structure between academic and co-curricular as a key defining factor in his recent success, with Abhishek speaking on the differences between Year 11 and Year 12 in terms of independent study time.
Sports scholar Nia then talked in-depth about the vast array of co-curricular opportunities available at Rydal Penrhos, including the hugely successful Strength and Conditioning programme, the Cookery Club and Dramatic Society production.
Closing out the video was Nick, who focussed on the Leadership opportunities available at the school, and in particular his progression from Committees to the role of Head Boy.
Mr Jones, said: “This was a great deal of fun to work on and each pupil’s passion for the school was especially evident during the filming.
"Our Sixth Form is such a thriving area of Rydal Penrhos and this is down in no small part to the enthusiasm and dedication of the pupils and the incredible support and guidance they receive from staff."
6th Form Fair
Huge turnout at The Ferg
Prospective Sixth Form pupils got the chance to see what Rydal Penrhos has to offer at a special event.
The school held its annual Sixth Form Subject Fair on Thursday, January 24, which saw a huge amount of current and prospective pupils explore their options at the newly refurbished Ferguson Centre.
During the Fair, those in attendance were able to view the vast curriculum options available to them during the final two years of their school life, in addition to speaking with tutors, Head of Sixth Form Leah Crimes and Acting Head Sally Ann Harding.
Current Sixth Formers were also on hand to speak about the Rydal Penrhos experience, the support on offer and other specialist elements such as university preparation and community involvement.
Mrs Crimes, said: “It was a fantastic Sixth Form Subject Fair. I thought it had a marvellous energy and vibrancy about it, with the experience and enthusiasm of our staff team visibly demonstrated.
“All of the parents that I conversed with were very happy and impressed; we have really done ourselves proud showing the ‘best bits’ of the academic life of our school.”
Anyone that was unable to attend the Sixth Form Subject Fair can still register their interest by emailing Admissions Officer Jenny Marsden on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Committee chairs announced
A large number of Sixth Form pupils have been appointed to leadership positions.
The new co-chairs of the Sixth Form Committee initiative were announced, with Nia Humpreys and Alexandra Williams taking on the responsibility of the Management Committee.
The duo both arrived at the school on sports scholarships in September and have wasted no time in making a huge impact on their peers and the Rydal Penrhos community as a whole.
They will now be tasked with ensuring the smooth running of the Sixth Form, overseeing things day-to-day and dealing with any queries, problems and assisting at specially organised events.
Holly Battersby and Brona Richardson will Co-Chair the hugely successful Charity Committee, with Zahra Shamsi and Orla McGagh taking over the Social Committee.
Rounding off the new appointments were Millie Collins and Raha Aminnejad, who were appointed the new Eco Committee co-chairs with immediate effect, with Ioan Peake-Jones and Matt Fiorita heading up the Health and Wellbeing Committee.
This is just one of many leadership opportunities available as part of the school’s thriving Sixth Form, with those living and learning at the site presented with the chance to join various committees or apply for the coveted Prefect positions.
Mrs Harding, said: "We are strong believers in enhancing leadership whenever possible across all year groups, which is essential in terms of their overall development and gives them a chance to adjust to extra responsibility.
"This has brought with it significant success since its implementation and it is something that we are enormously proud of."
Head Boy helps out at Legion AGM
Head Boy Nick Fiorita, a Year 13 pupil at the school, took time out of his busy schedule to assist the Royal British Legion at the North Wales District annual general meeting, which took place at the Blind Veterans Centre in Llandudno.
The 17-year-old’s contribution to the event involved greeting each visitor that attended the meeting, before guiding them to where they needed to go and speaking with them
Among the visitors included the Cllr David Hawkins, the Mayor of Llandudno, the Lord Lieutenant of Clwyd Harry Fetherstonhaugh and other senior figures from the Legion.
The Corporal, who secured his Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award and will attend a special ceremony at St James’ Palace later this year, also spent considerable time with members of the Blind Veterans and spoke in great length about their time in the forces and his current role within the Army Cadets.
Nick, said: “It was my honour to assist at the Royal British Legion Annual General Meeting for the second year running.
“Despite playing such a small role I feel great pride in helping with the event, learning so much about the help available and the fundraising done for veteran and their families.
“However, my favourite part has to be the conversations I had with the blind veterans who were walking around the building.
"One person remembered me from last and has kept his copies of the Royal Artillery official magazine and gave then all to me from 2018 to take into the detachment for us to have as Llandudno Detachment is cap badged Royal Artillery."
Group attend Bangor Uni event
Holly Battersby, Jamie Lavery, Arend Franssens, Sam Jones, Ioan Peake-Jones and Aisha Jidda attended a Chemistry Pharmaceutical Day at Bangor University, where they explored more about the complexities regarding the elements surrounding aspirin.
During the sessions, each pupil got the chance to synthesise aspirin in a laboratory, experienced life as an undergraduate chemist and sat through a fascinating lecture by Professor Roger Phillips on Pharmacology and Cancer.
There was also a specially arranged Spectroscopy session, where those in attendance were introduced to MS, IR and NMR spectroscopy, preparing them for the Organic A-level module in Year 13.
Approximately 35,000 metric tonnes of Aspirin are produced and consumed annually, enough to make over 100 billion standard aspirin tablets every year.
Nowadays aspirin is not only used as a pain killer but has also been proposed as effective in reducing the incidence of heart disease.
Mrs Harding, said: “These experiences are invaluable for our pupils here at Rydal Penrhos, and hopefully it will stand our current Year 12 Chemistry candidates in good stead as they look to continue our outstanding recent exam success in the subject next year.
“They all got an enormous amount out of the day and I would like to thank Bangor University for having us once again.”
Cold War project work praised
As part of the school’s work with the Erasmus scheme, the contingent will make the trip to Madrid, Spain on Wednesday, November 7 to progress their investigation surrounding their topic of the Cold War.
Edward Patrick, Ioan Peake-Jones, Tomos Cole-King, Harry Hackman and Luke Davies formed the Rydal Penrhos contingent that will travelled to the continent, where they will be starting the first year of the project.
They have been tasked with producing teaching materials regarding the significant period of tension between the Soviet Union and the United States, together with their allies following World War Two.
The focus in year is to provide teaching via games, interviewing people to add first-hand accounts and telling the story of History via objects and artefacts.
The two-year project, which is taking place alongside partner schools from Germany, Slovakia and Spain, involved the group investigating the broad topic of The Cold War in great detail and producing ideas that would aid teaching methods relating to the subject.
Following their sterling work throughout the visit, the project now has a website full of teaching resources covering not only the usual topics of Berlin, Korea and Cuba, but also topics such as the Space Race, Religion and Sport during the Cold War.
Survivor visits RP
Susan Pollack MBE was a special guest at the school on Tuesday, January 29, where she spoke about her ordeal during the Second World War with History pupils and staff members.
The visit was arranged by North Wales Holocaust Memorial Committee members Roy and Jackie Thurley, who also took time out of their schedule to spend the morning at Rydal Penrhos.
Mrs Pollack, who was born in 1930, saw her uncle murdered by fascists at a very young age, before he father was taken to a concentration camp after agreeing to attend a meeting to discuss the welfare of Jewish families in 1944.
She never saw her father again and still is not sure whether he died in the camp or was deported elsewhere.
Under the supervision of SS officer Adolf Eichmann, the Nazis and their Hungarian collaborators organised the deportation of Hungarian Jews: within less than two months from mid-May 1944, almost all Jews were deported, mostly to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
When Mrs Pollack and her family were ordered to leave their home, they were all sent to a ghetto in Vác and from there to an internment camp before arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau, where her mother was immediately sent to the gas chambers.
Mrs Pollack was selected to work, and remained in the camp for around 10 weeks before being sent to Guben in Germany to work as a slave labourer in an armaments factory before being liberated on April 15, 1945.
More than 50 of her family members were killed in the Holocaust, and after the war, Mrs Pollack lived in Sweden before moving to Canada, where she met and married a fellow survivor.
She has three children and six grandchildren. She now lives in London and regularly shares her testimony in schools across the country.
Year 7 explore Methodist links
Year 7 pupils at Rydal Penrhos got the opportunity to explore the school’s Methodist links thanks to a special learning initiative.
The group descended on St John’s Church for a Methodist Workshop Afternoon with the Reverend Nick Sissons, the school’s Chaplain, prior to the Christmas break.
They began by taking part in a special activity around the theme of Connections, and explored what connects the school, the community that surrounds it and the wider world.
Rev'd Sissons on RS Activity afternoon
To mark their findings, the groups created a long chain outlining the specific things that connect them, in addition to the Methodist values and ethos that is the cornerstone of the tremendous success of Rydal Penrhos throughout history.
Each House then looked at the leading Methodist figures they are named after, their key strengths and what they believed in to make the inception of Rydal School and Rydal Penrhos possible.
The contingent then ended the session with a final creative task centred on “The things that warm our Hearts”, where they discussed in their opinion what makes life worth living before putting their suggestions on to a poster that is proudly displayed within the confines of St John’s Church.
Rev’d Sissons, said: “This is a wonderful way for them to find out more about our rich Methodist history here at Rydal Penrhos, what made the people that created the school so inspirational and to discuss their own feelings about various matters surrounding Methodism.”
Bag-packing event raises more than £900
Members of the Rydal Penrhos community raised hundreds from a special fundraising event in aid of a national maritime charity.
A large number of volunteers from the school participated in their annual bag packing drive at Morrisons, Colwyn Bay on Saturday, January 26, with all proceeds going towards the RNLI.
Staff, Governors and pupils took separate shifts during the day, where they aided customers with their groceries in exchange for a small donation.
They were also joined by representatives from the RNLI throughout the event, and their efforts in-store managed to secure a total of £625.17.
This total was further boosted by £294.70 collected throughout the Bay View Centre from RNLI volunteers, bring the final amount to £919.77.
Sailing administrator Petrina Blomeley, who organised this year’s event, said: “I would like to offer huge thanks to our amazing 30 volunteers who gave up their time in shifts to support the RNLI at the recent bag packing day at Morrison’s Colwyn Bay.
“Thanks must also go to the governors and parents Bethan and Margaret for their support and to the generous public who donated.
“Our pupils also took the opportunity to speak to the other RNLI members and ex Rydalian Peter Weekes to establish the history and links between Rydal Penrhos and the local RNLI.
“We have had thanks for our support from the RNLI and have been booked in for next year already.”
National TV appearance in native China
A talented vocalist performed in front of a national audience as part of a landmark celebration in the Far East.
Amy Yue was selected to sing as part of the Spring Gala Festival on Thursday, January 17, which is part of a sensational production for their Chinese New Year celebrations.
The 17-year-old Chinese boarder mixed with the stars and sang both individually and as part of a larger group at the showcase, which was broadcast throughout China and the Middle East reaching millions of viewers on television station Liao Ning.
She was also interviewed on TV following her efforts on stage.
Amy, said: “It was a fantastic experience and one that I really enjoyed.
“It was very nerve-wracking but everyone was really nice and relaxed so that made things easier for me. It was a brilliant show and something I will remember forever.”
This is the latest in a series of impressive accolades for Amy, who joined Rydal Penrhos as a Year 10 pupil in 2016 and has thrived under the guidance and support of dedicated staff at the school.
She has contributed significantly to the various community and school concerts put on by Director of Music Pete Williams and his team throughout the academic year, in addition to appearing on stage during the recent RPS Showstoppers extravaganza that attracted more than 1,000 audience members over a three-night period last spring.
Amy will also be playing the part of one of the leading roles in the upcoming Rydal Penrhos Dramatic Society performance of Les Misérables, where she will depicting Cosette.
Preparations gather pace
Preparations are gathering pace ahead of the eagerly anticipated Dramatic Society performance this spring.
The school’s talented Performing Artists will take the stage for a depiction of the cult French novel Les Misérables, which will take place at the Memorial Hall over three nights from March 28-30, all of which will start at 7pm.
After a 60-strong cast was revealed late last year, those participating have been working hard during a series of rehearsals under the guidance of Head of Sixth Form Leah Crimes, Director of Music Pete Williams and teacher Richard Davies.
These have intensified since the start of the spring term, and in addition to in-school rehearsals each member of the cast will also be honing their skills on stage at weekly sessions every Sunday.
Mr Williams, said: “We have been highly encouraged by the commitment show by the cast during what is an incredibly busy time here at Rydal Penrhos, and they are to be commended for their application in learning their lines and specific routines in relation to the performance."
Two creative departments are working incredibly hard to lend their support to the upcoming Dramatic Society performance.
With rehearsals now in full swing for the eagerly anticipated three-night production of Les Misérables from March 28-30, staff and pupils working within the Art and Design & Technology department are busy creating the backdrop that further add to the efforts of the 60-strong cast.
This involves spending considerable time constructing a specific set for the iconic French novel, with Head of Art Mark Sherrington and Design & Technology Head Phil Sutton now pressing forward with ambitious plans from the show’s main organisers with a view to bringing their creation to life.
Mr Williams, said: “The outstanding work to create the set for our Dramatic Society productions tends to get overlooked by some, but we are immensely grateful to the tireless commitment of Mr Sherrington, Mr Sutton and everyone involved.
“They give up a lot of their own time to ensure we have the best possible backdrop for the performance, which is going to be one that you will not want to miss.”
Speech & Drama
Comedy Night a triumph!
Some of Rydal Penrhos’ most talented Performing Artists took the stage for a special event recently.
A host of pupils, together with some staff, entertained a large crowd at the Memorial Hall during a Speech and Drama Comedy Night, which took place on Tuesday, January 29.
There were plenty of laughs to be had throughout the event thanks to a series of hilarious sketches put on by members of each year group that take part in the school’s thriving Speech and Drama provision.
Each performer had been working incredibly hard in the lead-up to the performance under the guidance of passionate provision leader Christina Bloomfield, which brought with it some exceptional contributions from those involved.
It has been another very successful few months for the programme, thanks in no small part to the exceptional set of examination results from their respective London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art assessments last year.
This included a plethora of distinctions from all age groups, with many now striving for further success in the near future at various levels of difficulty.
Mrs Bloomfield, said: “I was immensely proud of everyone that performed at our Speech and Drama Comedy Night."
RP lends support to high-profile event
The school played a significant role in the extraordinary success of the tenth annual take pART showcase at Venue Cymru in Llandudno, which took place from Saturday, January 12 and Sunday 13.
Deputy Head Boy Miles Poller, Sam Jones, Oliver and Megan Gibson, Hannah Davies, Niamh Smith and Zahra Shamsi put on a special musical performance alongside Director of Music Pete Williams, performing a host of songs that were enormously well received by the audience.
This was followed by a free singing and drama workshop under the guidance of Mr Williams and English and Drama teacher Fiona Earle, which took on the theme of astronomy and science.
Once then had been given some industry tips regarding elements of performance such as posture, poise and vocal range, the children involved performed a mini-concert in front of friends and family to round off the workshop.
Thousands attended the annual showcase over the two-day period, to further enhance the event’s reputation as one of the best of its kind anywhere in the country.
Mr Williams, said: “It was a fantastic event to be a part of and we would like to thank organisers for letting us get involved.
“Our pupils got a tremendous amount out of the experience, and our workshop really captured the imagination of the children that participated.”
Welsh National Opera deliver workshops
Welsh National Opera workshop
Lower School and Preparatory pupils were given a vocal masterclass by one of the most prestigious organisations in the country.
Representatives from the Welsh National Opera visited the school for a special workshop on Wednesday, January 23.
The first session was delivered with the Year 6 and 8 groups, which saw everything from Opera demonstrations, fun-filled activities to improve acting on stage and working within a team to perform an African song in front of those in attendance.
This was followed by a session with Year 7, which followed a similar format and proved to be a huge hit with all involved.
Welsh National Opera workshop
Miss Earle, said: This was a fantastic experience for our pupils, who had a great deal of fun but also went away with plenty to think about in terms of improving their overall delivery on stage.
“I would like to thank the Welsh National Opera for visiting us."
News aplenty from former pupils
Alex Sharples, who left the school in 2016, was accepted on to the prestigious CTC Aviation School, which has seen him undertake a gruelling and highly advanced series of modules in the hope of securing employment at the end of the programme.
Part of this saw Alex reside in Hamilton, New Zealand, where he successfully completed his foundation flying training on an aircraft called the DA20 Katana.
The 21-year-old also spent considerable time enhancing his skills in multi-engine aircraft DA42, and he logged hundreds of hours of experience before returning to the UK for his multi engine instrument rating.
After coming through his practical and written assessments with flying colours, Alex has now been offered a first officer position with EasyJet, where he will be flying the Airbus A320.
He said: “It’s been hard work. My first year was all theory exams. I had to do 14 exams in the space of six months, each exam is around 50 questions and it was a 75 per cent pass mark.
“I found each subject very interesting as it was about something I am very passionate about. Thank you to all my friends and family for all their support throughout my training and helping me to make my dreams come true.”
Cllr Dr Mark Baker, who left the school in 2003, was a special guest speaker at the 50th anniversary celebrations at Abergele Library earlier this month, which officially opened on their current site, at Market Street, on January 1 1969.
The Conwy County Councillor gave a talk regarding his latest book - Gwrych Castle An Official Guide – at a special Open Day event that attracted more than 500 people to the facility.
Dr Baker was inspired to form the Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust 21 years’ ago, aged 12, after passing the castle every day on his way from his Prestatyn home to Rydal School.
He hopes the castle, which still has 300 acres (121 hectares) of grounds surrounding the walls, turrets and towers, will eventually offer holiday accommodation after Dr Baker officially acquired the site last year.
Gwrych Castle was built by Lloyd Hesketh Bamford-Hesketh from the early 1810s and completed by 1822.
It was a stately home for more than 100 years with its own stables, brewery, dairy, bakery and ice house and was visited by Queen Victoria before she took the throne.
It was also used to house Jewish child refugees during World War Two.
Catfish & the Bottlem - Longshot
A former pupil has released a fantastic new single as part of his ongoing involvement with chart-topping band Catfish and the Bottlemen.
Rob Hall, who left the school in 2011, is a drummer with the group, who have enjoyed a phenomenal amount of success during what has been a very promising career from the band to date.
The Llandudno four-piece released their long awaited first single “Longshot” on Tuesday, January 8, which is their first new material in three years and follows on from their second album ‘The Ride’ that reached the top of the UK Album Charts.
It promises to be another hugely busy few months for the indie rockers as they continue to grow their massive fanbase across the world.
The track has also received an official video: directed by long-term collaborator Jim Canty and filmed on a cliff-top in South Shields, the clip presents a bird’s-eye-view of frontman Van McCann arriving in style to join the rest of the band in performing the new song.
This latest track is set to propel the BRIT award winners to new heights, and is the latest in a long line of notable landmarks for the former pupil as part of the group.
Mr Williams, said: This is a superb song for Catfish and the Bottlemen to return with."
Heidi Nash-Smith, who attended Penrhos College between 1992-99, was part of a 16-strong team that cycled a total of 250 kilometres through the stunning countryside, bustling cities and friendly villages of Cambodia in aid of International Justice Mission Australia.
The challenge started in Siem Reap, the home of Angkor Wat, and saw the team cycle to Battambang and onto Phnom Penh.
Along the way, the team spent time with not-for-profit organisations and social enterprises working with survivors of trafficking and forced labour.
The final two days of the challenge was spent in Phnom Penh with IJM’s field office, where they got a first-hand view of the work of the National Investigations and Enforcement Team, in addition to hearing for themselves the stories of those IJM has rescued.
Their sterling efforts managed to raise $51,919.70 (£31,786.81) that will go towards the IJM’s new labour tracking project in Cambodia.
Heidi and the team trained vigorously for a year in the lead-up to the challenge in order to build of the endurance needed to complete the task, and they also used this time to learn more about IJM's work and the global issue of modern slavery.
This is the latest in a long line of fundraising successes from the former pupil and So They Can ambassador.
A former Rugby Academy star reached a significant landmark for RGC 1404.
Joe Simpson, who left the school in 2012, was named in the starting line-up for the Gogs’ in their WRU National Cup clash against Newport at Cardiff Arms Park, which will be his landmark 150th appearance for the club.
The physical forward has been one of the mainstays of the squad during their meteoric rise to the Principality Premiership, and Simpson is looking to aid is side to further cup success after they famously lifted the competition for the first time in their history in 2017.
Speaking to the official RGC website, Simpson said: "It is a change of focus this weekend with the cup game. We were disappointed last season with losing at Ebbw Vale in the first round, especially as we were holders.
“It is going to be a tough game and following our last game vs Newport we know we need to up our game to get the win."
Simpson was one of the first members of the Rydal Penrhos Rugby Academy which is run in partnership with RGC and the Welsh Rugby Union, which has produced a host of senior squad members for the Gogs, Welsh youth internationals and other successful graduates that are plying their trade at high-profile professional and semi-pro clubs across the country.
Sean Lonsdale, who left the school in 2015, notched his first ever English Premiership try for Exeter Chiefs in their hard-fought 14-9 home victory over Bristol Bears at Sandy Park, which was their tenth success in 12 league contests so far this term and saw them move four points clear at the Gallagher Premiership Rugby summit.
The 21-year-old, who joined Rydal Penrhos as a Year 10 pupil in 2011, was later part of the school’s Rugby Academy that is run in partnership with Principality Premiership side RGC and the Welsh Rugby Union.
He then made the move from the Welsh domestic set-up to the Chiefs, and has made a considerable impact for the Chiefs’ senior side this year after a successful loan spell at Cornish Pirates.
Lonsdale crossed the white wash for the hosts’ second try of the contest after a considerable spell of phases, which went a long way to securing another notable triumph for the title challengers.
Mr Boyd, said: “It is fantastic to see so many of our Rugby Academy graduates shining not only for RGC, but also some other prestigious and high-profile clubs across the country.
“Sean’s development to an English Premiership player is a tremendous achievement, and given his age there is plenty of scope to develop further and enhance his growing reputation."
Matty Harding, who is the son of newly appointed Acting Head Sally Ann, joined Virginia Tech University on a prestigious scholarship last summer, and has been making great strides at one of the top sporting establishments anywhere in the world.
This development was further evident at the Hokies’ Invitational Championships earlier this month, where Matt turned in an outstanding effort in the 1,000 metres to cross the line in first spot after securing a time of 2:25.41.
The 20-year-old was one many significant additions to the Virginia Tech squad during the summer in what the US Media called “one of the best-recruiting classes in the Hokies’ history”.
He arrived at Blacksburg following a two-year stint at UNC Asheville, where he qualified for the 2017 NCAA Outdoor Championships as a freshman.
He also won the 800 meters three times while competing in the Big South Conference Championships for the Bulldogs.
Mr Boyd, said: “Matty’s incredible progress in the United States has been fantastic to see, and everyone at Rydal Penrhos is absolutely thrilled with his ongoing success.
“We are very proud to have played a small part in his development, and he is just one of a large number of former pupils who are making a sporting impact across the country and beyond.”
Mili Jayadeep, who left the school last summer, has successfully completed her Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award after successfully completing a thorough assessment process.
The 18-year-old managed to secure the exceptional distinction under the expert guidance of programme co-ordinator Dr Jim Lewis to ensure she adds her name to the long list of success stories emanating from Rydal Penrhos.
In order to achieve the accolade, Mili had to take part in gruelling expeditions under testing conditions along with other candidates, and she will now attend a ceremony at a royal venue later this year with other successful pupils from across the country to receive her award.
Mili made a tremendous impression at Rydal Penrhos after arriving as a Year 6 pupil in 2011, with the former Prefect, Peer Mentor, Scientific Society Head now studying at university after an outstanding set of A-level results.
The departed Sixth Former is the latest in a long line of candidates that have secured Gold from Rydal Penrhos in recent years, with Jenny Marsden, Jack Sissons, Katie Marsden, Jenny Johnson and Sara Owen all attaining the coveted feat.
Dr Lewis, said: “This is another well-deserved and outstanding achievement, something that Mili deserves an enormous amount of credit for."
Sara's CLIC Sargent campaign video
Sara Owen, who left the school in 2018, has starred in a video for CLIC Sargent where she details her experiences of having a brain tumour and subsequent operations and treatment.
The 18-year-old initially started by detailing her initial diagnosis after her left arm went numb when on a skiing holiday, which was down to a tumour that required surgery.
Once removed by surgeons, the tumour was discovered to be Ependymoma, which arises from the ependyma, a tissue of the central nervous system.
Sara was then offered a new type of radiotherapy treatment in Florida, which involved 33 rounds proton beam therapy before another surgery prior to her A-levels once another tumour emerged.
Despite this adversity, the former Prefect secured an exceptional set of A-level results, securing A* marks in Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics, in addition to an A at AS level in Physics. This included an overall mark of 585 out of a possible 600 in her Mathematics papers, and she is now at the prestigious King’s College London studying Medicine.
Sara, said: “I have my friends, my independence and with every clear scan I cry with relief."
Trio turn out for region at Olympic Park
Jacob Heaton-Rue, Alex Starling and Tegid Goodman-Jones were part of the North Wales side that competed at the Indooruk18 Hockey tournament, which took place at the Copper Box at London’s Olympic Park.
The trio competed against a host of prestigious clubs from the England National League and Conference clubs, and the tournament also featured a team from Australia.
Alex made a huge impression as part of the U14 squad, scoring three times throughout their fixtures as the North Wales side secured two draws and a win during their first taste of competitive action at this level.
There was further cause for celebration with the performance of Tegid in the U16 category, and contributed significantly with goals and strong performances as they grew into the tournament on their way to an eighth placed finish overall after finishing on a high with two triumphs.
Sports scholar and Welsh youth international Jacob competed in the U18 tournament that featured predominantly national level players, and despite losing to eventual finalists Teddington and Canterbury early on, the regional side responded well and notched three successive victories to see the finish in fifth spot.
Jacob ended the competition as top scorer for his side with four strikes, and this is the latest in a series of notable achievements for the three aspiring stars as they continue to develop their skills at club level and with Rydal Penrhos’ dedicated coaching staff led by Head of Hockey Dominic Maguire.
Mr Boyd, said: “This is yet another invaluable experience on the big stage for Alex, Jacob and Tegid, who all performed exceptionally well which will give them plenty of confidence for the season ahead.”
News from aspiring athletes
Tomos Davies was named in the Welsh Academicals squad that took on Llandovery College on Wednesday, January 9, and the talented forward produced a fine performance as the Accies’ emerged victorious by a narrow margin of 38-31.
The 17-year-old is part of the Rydal Penrhos Rugby Academy which is run in partnership with Principality Premiership side RGC 1404 and the Welsh Rugby Union, and he has become a prominent member of the Gogs’ youth set-up at U16 and U18 level.
He enjoyed a fantastic campaign with the school’s senior side thanks to a series of standout displays, and he is also a representative of Bangor Rugby Club.
Mr Boyd, said: “It was great to see Tomos’ hard work paying off with a deserved selection to the Welsh Academicals squad, and he acquitted himself superbly throughout the fixture.
“He is another shining example of our sports scholarship programme here at Rydal Penrhos, which has produced a huge number of athletes that are performing at a national and international level across a multitude of different areas.
“This is a testament to the dedication shown by our coaching and teaching staff, and the way each pupil under the initiative really buys into our product in order to thrive.”
The Year 7 group have taken part in three initial sessions at North Wales Golf Club in Llandudno as part of an introduction into the sport, which have been implemented to boost participation and encourage others to continue the rich success of the school’s thriving Academy since its inception.
During the session, the young hopefuls have worked on basics of the game with coaches at the facility, in addition to vital areas of the game including club grip, putting, stance and swing.
They also got the chance to learn about the short game aspect of the sport under the guidance of Wales Golf 2017 PGA Professional of the Year Robin John Hughes.
This has brought with it some outstanding recent progression, and they will be taking their newly acquired skills onto the actual course in the coming weeks.
Rydal Penrhos’ golf programme has gone from strength-to-strength in recent months, with academy members producing a plethora of regional and national competition success stories thanks to the great work being done by programme co-ordinator Ian Richardson and his dedicated coaching staff.
It has two Golf Wales youth members in the form of Reuben Bather and Charley Simpson, with the former ranked nine in the U16 European rankings.
Mr Boyd, said: “Our partnership with North Wales Golf Club is something that benefits our young pupils immensely, and it is great to see them enjoying their introductory sessions and displaying a real talent with a club in their hands.
“Thanks, as always, goes to Robin and his team for all of their invaluable efforts with our group.”
Iestyn Williams has been appointed as the school’s First XI football captain for the current campaign.
The talented midfielder demonstrated superb leadership during a series of coaching sessions prior to the festive break under the watchful eye of teacher Darren Baker, and he will be looking to make his presence felt in his new leadership role.
Iestyn has progressed his game considerably both at the school and at Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One West side Colwyn Bay, where he has been part of their youth set-up for a number of years.
This excellent run of results saw Iestyn secure the Parents’ Player of the Year Award for his efforts with the Seagulls’ U15 side in 2017.
The new skipper made an encouraging start to life in the role, scoring a fine effort in their opening fixture at Stonyhurst College.
Mr Baker, said: “Iestyn possesses a great deal of quality but is also a very good communicator on and off the field, so he is sure to thrive in his role as captain this season.
“He is a massive influence on the squad, who are still relatively inexperienced in a competitive environment, so having someone like Iestyn to look to for motivation and advice is going to do a considerable amount of good.”
The school’s U18 and U16 sides will once again test their skills against some of the best talent in the country at the Rosslyn Park Sevens, which is one of the most prestigious competitions in the UK.
Mr Boyd’s side have been drawn in Group O alongside Royal Grammar School, Newcastle, King Edward’s Whitley, Canford School and Gravesend Grammar School for Boys as they attempt to reach the knockout stages of the competition.
All ties are scheduled to take place on Tuesday, March 26 in what is expected to be a hotly contested race to the elimination stages.
Since its inception in 1939, the Rosslyn Park National Schools Sevens has evolved into the world's largest school rugby tournament with around 7,000 boys and girls aged 13-18 competing annually.
The draw for the U16 Colts tournament has also been made, with Rydal Penrhos set to square off against Wellington College, Sutton Valence School, Mount St Mary’s College and John Fisher School in Group P on Wednesday, March 27.
Mr Boyd, said: “The Rosslyn Park 7s competition has proved to be an invaluable experience for our more senior rugby players, who all get a tremendous amount out of being part of such a big occasion.
Jonathan Osbourne continued his excellent recent run of results at the North Wales Indoor Regional Championships, which took place at Deeside Stadium on Saturday, January 12.
The Academic and Sports Scholar, who was representing Colwyn Bay Athletics Club, was competing in the U15 category and managed to produce a superb performance in the high jump, securing a personal best leap on his way to a silver medal finish.
This was followed by another silver medal in the high jump, and the 12-year-old narrowly missed out on a podium finish in the 60 metre sprint with another personal best time against older and more experienced opposition.
Jonathan has benefitted considerably from Rydal Penrhos’ dedicated sports scholarship programme, which has produced a significant number of young athletes that are currently competing on the regional, national and international stage.
Mr Boyd, said: “This was another very encouraging performance from Jonathan, who works tremendously hard across all areas of his Athletics under our dedicated coaching team and his time with Colwyn Bay Athletics Club."
Tom Hughes, Ben Purcell and Joe Allen, who are all Year 10 pupils at the school, have been rewarded for their excellent recent development with call-ups to the RGC West U15 squad.
The trio have been taking part in specialist coaching sessions as part of the young Gogs’ throughout the season, in addition to honing their skills with Rydal Penrhos’ coaching and Strength & Conditioning staff.
They have also competed in a series of matches for both RGC West and the school, with each impressing considerably during this period.
All three are looking to continue the long and rich history of rugby products that have emanated from Rydal Penrhos over the years, with the likes of Sean Lonsdale, Andrew Fenby and Tom Williams all plying their trade at prestigious clubs across the country.
The school’s Rugby Academy has also seen a host of graduates go on to contribute significantly to the ongoing success of RGC, who are now an established Principality Premiership side and also got their hands on the WRU National Cup for the first time in their history in 2017.
"We have had a great deal of success from a rugby perspective in recent years, and Tom, Joe and Ben have a great deal of potential to add to this in the weeks and months ahead if they continue to work hard on improving all aspects of their game."
A group of talented skiers enhanced their growing reputation at a prestigious national competition.
The Boys’ Team of Chay Bonnington, Ben Davies, William Rutherford and August Bell-Iverson travelled to Scotland for the British Schools’ Championships, which saw them test their skills on the fearsome Hillend slope against some of the best young prospects anywhere in the country.
They secured their place at the showcase with a fine effort at the Welsh Championships in Llangranog, and they carried on their excellent form with some impressive runs.
After remaining composed throughout their runs on the longest and steepest artificial slope in Europe, the quartet came within a second of securing the best in Wales crown as a result of their efforts.
This is the latest in a long line of notable performances from the school’s skiing squad, which is a unique provision provided by Rydal Penrhos and one of many co-curricular opportunities afforded to each pupil living and learning at the site.
Mr Robson, said: “The team really performed well on a really testing slope, and once again they came within a second of being the best Welsh team at the event.
"This is a testament to how Chay, Ben, August and Will are developing their skills on a session by session basis, and hopefully this will be a stepping stone for all of them given their age and their willingness to learn."