A new kind of church school has opened its doors for the first time in St Davids.
Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi is the first Voluntary Aided through school in Wales, offering continuous education from the age of 3 to 16. It’s also the first church school to offer secondary education in St Davids diocese since the 1920s.
It’s an amalgamation of three former schools, the Ysgol Dewi Sant comprehensive and Ysgol Bro Dewi primary schools in St Davids itself and the Solva Community School. The new organisation will operate across all three campuses – Dewi, Non and Aidan.
Head teacher David Haynes believes this will bring significant benefits.
“We can track the pupils from cradle to college,” he explains, “making the best use of resources, facilities and staff.
“The children can work across the campuses providing them with facilities they would not have otherwise have such as the sports hall, laboratories and technology rooms.
“And children in different year groups can work with each other. So, for example, Year 6 pupils will be on Dewi campus for three days a fortnight and, while they’re there, Year 7 children will be working in the predominantly primary Non campus where they’ll have the opportunity to work with Year 5 on reading perhaps and they’ll have these opportunities on a weekly basis which they wouldn’t normally have.
“You’re also getting rid of the transition [from primary to secondary] that can lead to a lost year. Instead, you’re building on the strengths of children coming through from Year Seven, maintaining momentum.”
And there’s more. Five years ago, Ysgol Dewi Sant was earmarked for closure. David Haynes believes that would have led ultimately to the loss of the primary schools too, turning the peninsula into “an educational wasteland”.
“Now, secondary education has been secured for a generation. My daughter, who left here last year, will be able to send her children to the school she attended.”
But one thing underpins all the others: Faith. David Haynes was surprised to learn, when he arrived in St Davids, that it (Ysgol Dewi Sant) wasn’t a church school already, given the central role the cathedral plays in the city and the links between church and education that date back to the 12th century.
“We have always worked closely with the Church anyway – the cathedral, the music department. And being officially a VA Church-in-Wales school will enhance that and re-affirm the Christian values we already have, which will benefit the children and the community.
“I think it was a natural progression for this school to become a church school again. I think the school’s coming home really, back to where it should be within the Church.”