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The Spiritual State of the School

Nick Pochin RS 53-59 has always had a love of the sea, however a series of tragic events in 1992 led to him making the decision to buy a boat, learn to sail and set off to sail single-handed around the world. Nick writes about this voyage of discovery in his book, Poles get Closer, during which he covers 34,000 nautical miles, crosses three oceans, and visits five continents.

by Nick Sissons, School Chaplain

A chaplain’s job description is notoriously (liberatingly?) vague, but mine does include one concrete expectation: I must be ready when asked by the governors to give an account of the spiritual state of the school. This June those chickens came home to roost. Here’s a flavour of what I wrote:

But the adventure doesn’t end there, as at the age of 69, Nick set sail again from Holyhead to Cape Horn and North to Alaska, returning via the Panama Canal to the UK. His second book, Voyages of the Discovery, documents these travels and shares his experiences aboard his Discovery 55, the Festina Lente.

All Independent Schools are required to cater for the ‘Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural (SMSC) development of pupils’. This is described in very general terms as being about: ‘developing a sense of identity and purpose in life’, and fostering ‘the non-material element of a pupil – their soul or character’. You can tell immediately that this can mean all things and nothing, but what it cautions against is simply identifying the explicitly religious bits of school life as spiritual (in our case – chapel, obligatory RS up to GCSE, having a full-time chaplain, regular Confirmation classes etc.) and disregarding the less obvious, such as the self-confidence that comes from a pupil involved in public speaking, the imagination required to compose a piece of poetry, the wonder inherent in scientific discovery or the ability to listen actively to music.

Graham Roberts RS 52-61 has written several books on Colwyn Bay and the surrounding area, his latest being Colwyn Bay Through Time which documents the history of the area through the 19th and into the 20th centuries. Graham’s book includes many photographs which give the reader a real insight into how the town has changed, and also the areas which remain very much the same. Graham returned to Rydal Penrhos this year to talk to Year 6 pupils about Colwyn Bay during Victorian times, and kindly donated copies of is book to the School so that pupils could carry on learning about the history of Colwyn Bay after his visit.

Any assessment of the spiritual state of the school must also look for where the current emphasis on placing narrow individualism above the needs of the broader community is being challenged. Surveying this academic year one might mention, amongst other things, the ongoing energy directed towards charity work; the visit of representatives from the Christian community of Taizé, the recent Year 8 workshop on Fairtrade, the continuing campaign work of the Amnesty International group, global sustainability issues being looked at on the forthcoming Borneo expedition, the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, the recent business projects looking at the tension between ethical, commercial and economic factors; the Olympic prayer baton exchange with other Methodist Independent Schools.

John Wileman RS 51-56 is currently writing a book about his hotel life after spending over 30 years as a hotelier. Following his hotel life John went on to become a full-time church administrator. Benjamin Hanisch RPS 06-08 has completed his BA in Media Management at the University of Applied Sciences, Berlin, and has recently published his thesis, ‘The Transferability of UK– American TV Programmes to the German Market – Success Factors for the Programme Import’, which he wrote with a fellow student. Ben hopes to gain employment in the TV/film industry or in marketing.

Finally we need to ask whether we successfully maintain a balance between our core religious values and ongoing commercial pressures, such as marketing the school, staying competitive, attracting good numbers and balancing the books. That’s a hard question to face, but how we do business and the kind of business we do must inevitably reflect whether those spiritual foundations, on which the school was built, are being given due respect or not.


Rydal Penrhos Society Newsletter Issue 20  

Issue 20 of the Rydal Penrhos Society Newsletter