Pupils’ life skills develop from their community work

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Pupils’ life skills develop from their community work

Rydal Penrhos School, Conwy, fosters pupils’ sense of community and understanding of service to others from a very early age. Their extensive extra-curricular programme involves pupils in a wide range of community work, from working with charities to hosting tea parties for elderly residents.

Number of pupils: 542
Age range: 2½ - 18 years
Date of Estyn inspection: October 2013

Context and background to sector-leading practice

Rydal Penrhos School is a co-educational independent day and boarding school in Colwyn Bay for pupils aged 2½ to 18.

The school is an associate school in the Methodist Independent Schools Trust, which integrates a international dimension into school life by working with pupils and teachers in its successful global citizenship project, World Action in Methodist Schools (World AIMS). To further develop pupils’ strong sense of community and understanding of service to others, from a very early age all pupils participate enthusiastically in an extensive enrichment and extra-curricular programme that includes significant aspects of service and community work. This helps to ensure that the school is true to its ethos and prepares pupils extremely well for life and work outside school.

Nature of strategy or activity identified as sector-leading practice

In 2012, the school’s weekly routine was restructured to allow protected time for enrichment activities within the school day and in the school’s extra-curricular programme. Innovative arrangements were introduced to support pupils’ personal development, including a greater understanding of those in circumstances less fortunate than their own. For example, the whole-school community supports its own project for the charity ‘Action for Children.’ For this project, pupils devise and organise a range of activities in school to spend time with local young carers and make the school’s facilities and resources available to them for respite and ‘down time’. The project is based in one of the school’s boarding houses and the young carers stay to have supper with the boarders in the school dining room. Larger scale activities are also organised at the weekends, to enable them to join in the school’s extensive weekend programme. Pupils and parents in the preparatory school raise money to support the project and as a result of a presentation by pupils to bid for funding, the school’s parents association has also provided funds to help finance some of the activities enjoyed by the young carers. This project helps pupils understand the value of working for a common aim and sharing resources to support members of the wider local community.

During the summer term, the wholeschool participates in a ‘Community Action Day.’ This involves groups of pupils, led by staff and sixth formers, in gardening and restoration projects in local parks and churchyards. Throughout the year, older pupils are also involved in the school’s partnership arrangement with ‘Contact the Elderly,’ which involves providing afternoon tea parties for people aged 75 and above, who often live alone, without nearby family and friends. The tea parties take place on Sunday afternoons once a month throughout the year. This means that the pupils who volunteer to help have to commit themselves to being involved in the school holidays as well as term time. Despite this potential barrier, the tea parties are very well supported by the pupils and are now well-established in the school’s enrichment programme.

To help pupils’ have a stronger understanding of their global role, older pupils participate in the World AIMS Uganda project. This involves a group of pupils spending time researching local relief and development projects they can become involved in when visiting partner schools in Uganda, planning the itinerary for the visit and organising and running fundraising activities to offset the cost of taking part. The visit to Uganda takes place in the summer holidays, and involves a wide range of activities working with the partner schools in Mbarara and with the RUHEPAI charity, which specialises in rural development. To help develop greater independence and a stronger sense of responsibility, pupils hold their own planning sessions, supported by school staff and the World AIMS coordinator.

The school’s enrichment programme, together with an extensive extra-curricular programme, makes a significant contribution to pupils’ personal and social development.

For example, through the enrichment programme, younger pupils take part in a rota of directed activities such as STEM, introduction to Latin, chess, practical skills and biogeography. As they move up the school, pupils can choose to participate in a wider range of creative, physical and intellectual activities, which include, for example, an Amnesty International group and a peer mentoring scheme.

About half of the sixth form pupils choose to study for the International Baccalaureate Diploma and about half follow A level courses. Although there is a core requirement to fulfill ‘creative, action and service,’ within the International Baccalaureate Diploma programme, in order to provide all sixth form pupils with further opportunities for personal growth, each term they all select at least three activities from the school’s combined enrichment and extra-curricular programme. This includes opportunities for involvement in additional community service, creative arts and a range of clubs, sporting activities and fixtures. As a result, older pupils have a greater awareness of themselves and their role as responsible members of the school and wider community.

Impact on provision and learners’ standards

Pupils’ participation in the enrichment programme, and in particular the community service and charity activity, is very high. The programme has helped pupils to:

  • have better recognition and understanding of different social and cultural backgrounds in the school and wider community, which helps them to respect and value diversity;
  • develop a greater sense of responsibility and well-developed understanding of service to others;
  • increase their confidence and resilience by taking part in projects that challenge them and require emotional and physical commitment; and
  • develop their organisational, team working, leadership and communication skills through working with young people and adults from a variety of different backgrounds and cultures in a range of contexts.