Rhyl High head on first term out of special measures

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Rhyl high head teacher Claire Armitstead with A-level students
Image caption,
Head teacher Claire Armitstead with A-level students

A Denbighshire high school is trying to change public perception since coming out of special measures, says the head.

Rhyl High School has just finished its first term since conditions were lifted due to previous concerns over its education standards.

New head teacher Claire Armitstead admits there is still work to do.

Student numbers dipped after schools' inspectorate Estyn found "important shortcomings" in January 2009, but Mrs Armitstead hopes that can be changed.

Mrs Armitstead, who took over at the school in January, describes a "difficult journey" for staff and pupils in restoring the school to accepted standards.

"You feel as you have let the children down, the community down, and you experience the real guilt that comes with that.

"It was a difficult journey through special measures but it was a journey we took together and when it ended it was amazing," she said.

"It's a mixture of relief, self respect and that feeling of really achieving.

"It was the best day of my professional life when I could walk into the staff room and say 'we did it'!"

'Feeling and energy'

The school has 800 students, 50 teachers and 36 support staff, but the intake dropped last year.

"I believe that this could be due to special measures but we are hopeful and confident of an increase this year however we won't know until December," said Mrs Armitstead, who has been teaching for 18 years.

Among the changes, pupils have been given a louder voice with a student council, peer mentors, a student leadership team and rewards for good work and attendance.

The school is also adapting the curriculum to bring in the new Essential Skills Wales qualifications - covering communication, numbers and ICT - introduced by the Welsh Aseembly Government in September.

Mrs Armitstead said: "We are not the school people think we are and it only takes one visit to address this.

"The school speaks for itself but the feeling and energy it encapsulates can't be shown in words and pictures - it needs to be felt.

"We hope anyone who has doubts about Rhyl High will come and visit us because very quickly all those doubts will be removed."

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