A trip to the Principality Stadium!

Mrs Coles and I took a small group of Y11 to the Principality Stadium on Tuesday. This was part of the ‘Reach for the Sky’ project with former Welsh rugby international, Ian Gough. We all enjoyed the visit and Ian was extremely motivational and gave some great advice about preparing for the GCSEs. You can see the photos in this Flickr album! It was great to see behind the scenes- I was especially interested in the press room (see above photo), having watched some very interesting interviews taking place there on the TV!Aidan

Congratulations to Cerys  in Y10 who has been selected for the Welsh national football squad playing in Dublin in April. And well done to Aidan in Y7 who has won yet another belt in kick boxing!

The GCSE art students have been taking their exam this week and I have been impressed by the work they’re producing. We have some very good artists across the whole school and I know Mrs Taylor has been sharing some of their work with some rather well known people who have been very impressed… More of this in a later blog!

On Tuesday we welcomed back ‘Technocamps’ who returned to deliver a workshop using Greenfoot Java based programming. We have been lucky enough to have worked with Technocamps for a number of years now to inspire, motivate and engage our youngsters with computational thinking and promote computer science. The sessions were very interactive and the pupils increased their skills in a key area in preparation for their GCSE onscreen tasks. The Year 11 and Year 9 pupils rose to the challenge and had created a functional game by the end of the session.

We have been delving through the school archives with the help of former staff members Lesley Rees and Sue Blakemore, and have unearthed some interesting stories, some of which will no doubt feature in our anniversary history book. At one time there used to be several animals on the school site, certainly chickens and goats, and one or two others I think, looked after by a teacher many of you will remember, Allan Parfitt. Parf is coming in to chat with our historian in a couple of weeks- he will be a mine of information!

Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 13.08.22Enthused by this we are looking to get some chickens here again, and I’ll keep you updated with where we are over the next few weeks. We hope to see the birds from incubation to hatching, and then to providing us with eggs to sell to pay their keep! We have an ideal spot on our allotment earmarked for the project! Watch this space!


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The Four Doctors 1963-1981

Finally this week, we’ve made contact with all the previous headteachers of the school, and all four of us will be present at the Fortieth Anniversary Concert on 30th June-it’s going to be like one of those Dr Who episodes with four incarnations coming together for the first time! So Mr McKie, Miss Millichamp, Mrs Kingston and myself will all be there. Mr Heron has been working incredibly hard on this event and I am really looking forward to it.

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ASSEMBLY: Assistant Headteacher (No Assembly on Monday for Y11)

LITERACY FOCUS: Joining commas

NUMERACY FOCUS: Fractions of an amount

NUMBER OF THE WEEK: “35 / thirty-five / tri deg pump / trente-cinq / XXXV” 35 mm film is the basic film gauge most commonly used for both analog photography and motion pictures. 35 is the minimum age of candidates for election to the United States or Irish Presidency.

WELSH WORD OF THE WEEK: cryf: strong

ENGLISH WORD OF THE WEEK: fortitude : strength, resilience

THIS WEEK’S QUOTATION: “Only those who dare to fail greatly, can ever achieve greatly.” Robert F. Kennedy

TRIVIA OF THE WEEK: The name Easter derived its name from the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eastre. Easter always falls between March 22 and April 25


Huge thanks to Rich @Technocamps for the Greenfoot workshop today. Some fab programming skills displayed by pupils in years 9-11.
21/03/2017, 21:36

WEBSITE OF THE WEEK: Advice to young people who may be upset by the news, from the BBC Newsround website

History lessons!


On Monday I was delighted to welcome Nick Thomas into school. Nick is researching the history of RCCS as part of our 40th Anniversary celebrations, and we spoke with former staff and pupils. It was fascinating to hear the stories. I didn’t realise, for example, that when the school opened in 1977 the Tech Block and Leisure Centre were not ready, so everyone had to squeeze into the main block for all lessons. I also learned that the school basically moved itself in terms of resources etc, which were brought up from the old school down in the town, with some items being literally carried up by hand. Nick will be putting together a book and this will be available later in the year. If you have any stories or photos to contribute, please do get in touch.

The week before I met with Chris Binding from the South Wales Argus. I am really pleased they are linking up with us for our anniversary and will be covering some of the events we’re organising.

Planning for the Anniversary Concert is well underway! This is scheduled for Friday June 30th and it will be held in the Sports Hall We have decided to coincide the burial of the time capsule with our “birthday party”- so this will take place the week before on Friday the 23rd- watch this space to see which special guests will be joining us for this!

Talking of the time capsule, don’t forget you have until the end of the month to enter our essay competition, details here! Your essay could be the one everyone is reading in 2077!

At the start of the week, Mr Oliver took a group of Y9 students to Cardiff Museum to listen to the final Christmas lecture in the Royal Institute series. Called “How to hack your home’, the session was all about how you can now remotely control so many of the devices we use every day, and was an insight into the technologies available. A special mention has  to go to Morgan who found himself on stage helping with a demonstration at one point!

On Thursday we welcomed a group of teachers from the schools we are working with as a Hexad (a group of six.) This was really useful for all of us. We were looking at various themes and trying to share ideas and strategies. This form of collaboration is still relatively new in Wales but I am convinced it is the way forward and will make a difference. Later this year, staff from RCCS will be visiting the other schools to look at other projects and approaches.

The exam season is upon us- well the revision season certainly is! Today Y11 have a special session with their tutors on study skills and managing stress. We’ve two guides available to support parents and pupils with GCSEs and you can find them on our website, or by clicking the links here for parents and here for pupils! There are a number of revision sessions organised, mainly after school, and even a breakfast club! You can see the schedule here. The work done between now and the exams is absolutely vital, and the Easter holiday period is a crucial time. I always say Y11 need to put the holiday on hold… they get an extended summer break anyway as they’re all finished by the end of June at the latest, so working over Easter is no real burden! And it really does make a difference. Click here for the GCSE exam timetable for summer 2017.

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NEW! LITERACY FOCUS: Joining commas

NEW! NUMERACY FOCUS: Fractions of an amount

NUMBER OF THE WEEK: “52 / fifty-two/ pum deg dau / cinquante-deux / LII” There are fifty-two weeks in a year and fifty-two white notes on a piano keyboard. There are fifty-two letters in the English alphabet if you count lower case (minuscule) and upper case (majuscule) separately. There are 52 cards in a standard pack of playing cards, excluding jokers.

WELSH WORD OF THE WEEK: amgylchedd: environment

ENGLISH WORD OF THE WEEK: environment : (i) the surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates (ii) the natural world, as a whole or in a particular geographical area, especially as affected by human activity.

THIS WEEK’S QUOTATION: “Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth… these are one and the same fight. We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security and women’s empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.” (Ban Ki-moon)

TRIVIA OF THE WEEK: Although Mount Everest famously lays claim to the highest altitude, due to the bulge of the Earth at the equator, Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador is the closest to the moon.


My advice about collaboration? Get in with schools who are passionate about getting better, not schools who think they are already the best.
15/03/2017, 20:10

WEBSITE OF THE WEEK: All about St Patrick.

On leadership and teamwork

A slightly different RCCS blog today. Rather than the usual summary of the week’s events and a look forward to the days ahead at school, here are some reflections on leadership and teamwork…

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I posed a question on Twitter last week. If you had the choice, would you rather be in a poor team with a good leader, or in a good team with a poor leader?

There were over sixty responses, and I found it interesting that over half of those who voted went for the first option, with about 17% saying it didn’t matter either way and the remaining 30% saying they’d choose the good team and not worry about the leader’s shortcomings.

It’s not a very scientific study, of course, but it makes you think. My own view is that in the short term, I’d go for a good team. But if I wanted to gain success over time I’d be more interested in making sure I was part of a team where the leadership was the best it could be. That way I think there would be consistent improvement.

But it is really much more complicated than the simple question I posed on Twitter suggests. Here at RCCS we have a very clear vision for leadership,  which is based on a collective and distributed model. This means that teamwork is at the heart of all we do, and although different people take the lead in different situations, it is the collective strength of the whole team that has the impact. I am proud to be the headteacher of this school, but more proud to be part of the team that has made a difference in recent years, and that I am sure will continue to do so.

It links in with one of my favourite quotes, which comes from Rudyard Kipling, probably best known as the author of “The Jungle Book.” This is from his poem “The Law of the Jungle”:

“Now this is the law of the jungle, as old and as true as the sky,

And the wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die.

As the creeper that girdles the tree trunk, the law runneth forward and back;

For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”

Wolves have a special place in the folklore of many countries. To be honest, there is usually a slightly sinister side- the  tradition of the werewolf and story of Little Red Riding Hood being good examples! But as a species they have been incredibly successful, and this is partly down to their instincts to work together as a pack to survive even in the harshest conditions.

The theme for next  week at school is Winning. I hope our leadership philosophy, which puts teamwork and partnerships at the heart of all we do, continues to support the success we have seen in recent years at RCCS.

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LITERACY FOCUS: Bracketing commas

NUMERACY FOCUS: Estimating height, weight and depth

NUMBER OF THE WEEK: “60 / sixty / chwe deg / soixante / LX” There are sixty seconds in a minute and sixty minutes in an hour. The internal angles in an equilateral triangle measure 60 degrees

WELSH WORD OF THE WEEK: enillydd: winner

ENGLISH WORD OF THE WEEK: victorious : having won a victory; winning

THIS WEEK’S QUOTATION: “Winning is habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.”
― Vince Lombardi

TRIVIA OF THE WEEK: In a 1999 poll for Channel 5, “The Winner Takes It All” was voted Britain’s favourite ABBA song. This feat was replicated in a 2010 poll for ITV. In a 2006 poll for a Channel Five programme, “The Winner Takes It All” was voted “Britain’s Favourite Break-Up Song.”


Happy #InternationalWomensDay. Thanks to all the role models who help our children understand about respect, equal rights & gender equality.
08/03/2017, 19:32

WEBSITE OF THE MONTH: The official website of the Six nations rugby tournament

Working together.

There’s quite a bit to catch up on from before half term! Y10 were given a talk by Gary Brace as part of the “Speakers for Schools” programme at which he was able to share his  many and varied experiences. Gary was Chief Executive of the General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW) 2000-2014. Previously, he’d been Assistant Chief Executive with the Qualifications, Curriculum and Assessment Authority for Wales (ACCAC) and prior to that, history officer with the Authority. He spent 15 years at the ‘chalkface’ teaching history and government & politics in a secondary school and a sixth form college in Cardiff. He has been author and co-author of a range of guidance booklets for teachers and has undertaken education advisory work in the Russian Federation and Georgia on behalf of the Council of Europe. On top of that he has twice climbed Mt Kilimanjaro. so he knows a bit about motivation!

Our netball teams have been having more wins- this really is a strength in our school, and as numbers in the school grow, so competition for places in the teams gets more intense. There is a great team spirit in our squads, and that together with the skills the players have developed makes them hard teams to beat. The coaching team of Mrs Coles, Mrs Cooper and Mrs Perry is to be congratulated on their hard work!

English oracy tests took place before half term and I know Mrs Madden was very impressed by the attitude of the pupils. These can be quite nerve-wracking! Well done to everyone involved!

Miss Conte took a group of her Y8 form class to compete in a special competition organised through Careers Wales just before half term. They had to design a robot using lego and computer software, and then do a presentation to the other schools present. I know they enjoyed the experience and although not the wining team they did come away with a certificate.

Over half term Cerys in Y10 was selected to play for the Welsh national U15 football team. This is a massive achievement and  we are all really proud of her. Well done indeed!

This week started with a staff training day for all but the Science Faculty who were doing some extra work with Y11. We spent the day planning some important changes linked to the new curriculum. I am very lucky to work with such a talented and forward-thinking staff team. Some of the ideas generated are really brilliant, and most importantly the pupils will definitely benefit from them in developing their skills and their learning.

I was away from school on Tuesday and Wednesday at the National Headteachers’ Conference. I do not like to be out of school too often, but this was very useful and I was able to learn a lot, especially from other colleague heads. You never stop learning.. or you certainly shouldn’t! The spirit of collaborative working is tremendously strong in Wales and those of you who read my tweets will know how strongly I feel about that already: the hashtag #TogetherStronger features heavily, and goes well beyond comments about Welsh football!

On Thursday we had some early Y11 results in English, ICT and Welsh Baccalaureate and these were very positive. Y11 continue to impress and  if they continue to work hard- and even harder in some cases, it still has to be said- they will do very well in the summer.

We are advertising for a new and exciting position at RCCS- the Principal Teacher in our ASD Centre. As the school grows, it is not possible for Mr Lloyd to look after the Risca ASD Centre (what we used the call the SRB) and be the school SENCO as well, so we have separated the roles. We are so very proud of the success of the pupils who join us in this centre. Whoever gets this job will have a great opportunity to develop our work further and play a part across Caerphilly in the education of autistic young people.



ASSEMBLIES: Principal Teacher of Technology

LITERACY FOCUS: Bracketing commas

NUMERACY FOCUS: Estimating height, weight and depth

NUMBER OF THE WEEK: “12 / twelve / un deg dau / douze / XII” A dozen. Jesus had twelve disciples. There are twelve months in a year, and twelve signs in the Zodiac.

WELSH WORD OF THE WEEK: cydraddoldeb: equality

ENGLISH WORD OF THE WEEK: equitable : fair and impartial

THIS WEEK’S QUOTATION: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”
― George Orwell, “Animal Farm”

TRIVIA OF THE WEEK: “Big Brother” from Orwell’s classic novel 1984 was voted the “scariest character in literature” in a poll on abebooks.com


It is very clear to me that the appetite in Wales to collaborate and share ideas and strategies across our schools has never been stronger.
01/03/2017, 20:12

WEBSITE OF THE MONTH: The official website of the Six nations rugby tournament

For after half term…

No blog this week due to the holiday! Here’s a reminder of the year’s calendar, and following that you’ll find the themes etc for after half-term. Have a good break!rccs-yaag-16_17


ASSEMBLIES: Deputy Headteacher

NEW!! LITERACY FOCUS: Bracketing commas

NEW!! NUMERACY FOCUS: Estimating height, weight and depth

NUMBER OF THE WEEK: “2 / two / dau / deux / II” There are two halves in a whole, two hemispheres in a sphere or globe. Two semi-finals will decide which two teams make it to the final in a knock-out tournament.

WELSH WORD OF THE WEEK: ffocws : focus

ENGLISH WORD OF THE WEEK: focus : the centre of interest or activity. OR (Mathematics)
one of the fixed points from which the distances to any point of a given curve, such as an ellipse or parabola, are connected by a linear relation.

THIS WEEK’S QUOTATION: “Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses.
Focus on your character, not your reputation.
Focus on your blessings, not your misfortunes.”
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart”

TRIVIA OF THE WEEK: A daguerrotype is a photograph taken by an early photographic process employing an iodine-sensitized silvered plate and mercury vapour.It is named after the inventor, Louis Daguerre.


Fantastic to have @garybrace talking with Y10 on the excellent @speakrs4schools programme! Thank you for visiting and for your inspiration.
15/02/2017, 15:16

WEBSITE OF THE MONTH: The official website of the Six nations rugby tournament

Halfway there!

On Monday we held a meeting of the Governing Body. There were presentations from the core subjects on progress against targets. This was also an opportunity for the School Council to give feedback to governors and Caitlin and Anna, senior prefects, gave an account of their most recent meeting.

After school on Tuesday a group of staff and pupils went down to Cardiff to see the Welsh national netball team in action against New Zealand. The Siver Ferns won the game convincingly but it was a great experience for the pupils. Wales played again on Wednesday evening and this time Mrs Perry, one of our teachers who is herself a Welsh international player was commentating on the TV! And she gave Risca CCS a mention!

On Wednesday morning I met with the senior prefects team to discuss a number of issues raised by the school council. This was a really useful meeting. As a result we have agreed to hold a onesie/pyjama non-uniform day on Friday 7th April to raise money for St David’s Hospice.onesies-2017That evening our Y7 rugby team took on St Julian’s. This is a much bigger school than us, so we did really well to draw 20-20, and by all accounts Mr John was quite a harsh referee! Wales play England on Saturday, let’s hope they are inspired by our Y7s against bigger opposition (in terms of selection, that is!)!

After half term we’ll be taking orders for the school photo. We have negotiated a special price of £10 and I hope many people buy one. It is a really lovely way of remembering everyone at the school in years to come.whole-school-photo

The half term holiday starts on Friday 17th at 3pm and term will resume for most pupils on Tuesday 28th. Staff have a training day on Monday 27th and some Y11 will be in doing a special Science revision day. There’ll be no blog next week, so I’d like to wish everyone a good break. It’s hard to believe, but we’re half way through the school year already and Spring is not too far away!



ASSEMBLIES: Pastoral Leader, Y9


NUMERACY FOCUS: Long Multiplication

NUMBER OF THE WEEK: “65 / sixty-five / chwe deg pump / soixante-cinq / LXV” The traditional age for retirement in many countries.

WELSH WORD OF THE WEEK: onest : honest

ENGLISH WORD OF THE WEEK: integrity : the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.


“Nid wy’n gofyn bywyd moethus,
Aur y byd na’i berlau mân:
Gofyn wyf am galon hapus,
Calon onest, calon lân.”

(Daniel James, “Calon Lân”- more here including a translation)

TRIVIA OF THE WEEK: The world’s first Department of International Politics opened at Aberystwyth University in 1919 just after the First World War, in an attempt to promote the understanding of the causes of wars and conflicts.


@RCCS_MrsPerry sounding amazing on the red button tonight! Great shout out for @RiscaCCS
08/02/2017, 19:49

WEBSITE OF THE WEEK: The official website of the Six nations rugby tournament

Welcome to the Lord Lieutenant!

On Friday we were honoured to welcome the Lord Lieutenant of Gwent, Brigadier Robert Aitken, to our school. I had invited him in to talk to the pupils about his role, and the role of the monarchy in our country. He spoke with Y10 and Y11 history students, and, as well as some pretty high-powered discussions, he also showed us the uniform he wears on special occasions, including his sword! Mrs Weston and I then discussed  with him the possibility of inviting another member of the Royal family to school; more of this in a later blog.

Three RCCS girls- two past, one present- were selected to play for the Dragons Ladies U18 rugby team at the weekend. Well done Victoria, Georgia and Davina! Mrs Coles and Mrs Perry went along to support. The result didn’t go our way and the weather was terrible, but I have to say we are tremendously proud to have three players in the team.

This week we launched our Fortieth Anniversary essay competition.Pupils are invited to submit a futuristic story about school life in 2077. The prize is that the winning one will be buried in the time capsule- so fame both now and in 60 years! I’m delighted our local MP, Chris Evans, the editor of the local paper the South Wales Argus, Nicole Garnon, the Chief Education Officer for Caerphilly, Keri Cole, and our former deputy headteacher David Parker will be joining me on the judging panel. You can find out more here.

On Wednesday morning we welcomed a speaker, Tim Penn, to speak with Y9 about the opportunities open to people who have foreign language skills. Tim is a businessman who has extensive experience of the benefit of being multilingual. This was an awareness-raising exercise rather than a hard sell on doing French. I attended one of the sessions and found it very interesting. I have a degree in Spanish and French and the early part of my career was as a language teacher and then as a director of a specialist language college so this is something I care about. It is hard to find time on the curriculum to fit everything in, but it is important people have the necessary information to make choices.

And talking of options, that evening we held an Options Evening for Y9.It is very difficult-impossible in fact- to ensure every pupil gets all his or her first choices. We have done a lot of preparation beforehand to try to meet as many people’s wishes as possible, and there is still scope on the forms to request a change to the blocks. There was a great turn-out at the evening. We are now able to put on more subjects than we have over the last couple of years due to the increase in pupil numbers.

Today I am delighted to be welcoming three councillors from CCBC to visit the school and meet some of our pupils. I will be sharing our school’s recent success in GCSE and KS3 results, and there will be an opportunity for them to ask our students questions as well as for our students to question the councillors on their roles.

The Six Nations rugby tournament starts next week. Cymru am byth! Here’s our poll- who is going to win?


THEME FOR THE WEEK: Perseverance



NUMERACY FOCUS: Long Multiplication

NUMBER OF THE WEEK: “32/ thirty-two/ tri deg dau / trente-deux / XXXII” 1 squared plus 2 squared plus 3 squared is 32. 32 is the freezing point of water at sea level in degrees Fahrenheit,

WELSH WORD OF THE WEEK: ymdrech : effort

ENGLISH WORD OF THE WEEK: perseverance : steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

THIS WEEK’S QUOTATION: “Perseverance, secret of all triumphs.” Victor Hugo

TRIVIA OF THE WEEK: February is the only month to have less than thirty days, and the only month for which the number of days can vary depending on the year. Do you know the rules about when a leap year happens?


Thoroughly enjoyed Tim Penn’s sessions with our Y9 about the value of languages and communication in the work place! @sewalesEAS @RiscaCCS
01/02/2017, 15:09

WEBSITE OF THE WEEK: The official website of the Six nations rugby tournament