One of the UK's oldest independent schools, Ruthin School is a small day and boarding school in North Wales that is taking steps to rebuild its reputation after a 2020 inspection found serious shortfalls at the school.
While successes academically have remained uninterrupted, this co-ed day and boarding school in Wales was heavily criticised by the Care Inspectorate of Wales in January 2020 when inspectors reported 'serious shortfalls' in terms of wider student care. The inspection report states that “Ruthin School is not fulfilling its duty to safeguard pupils and to promote the wellbeing of all members of the school community”. A follow-up inspection in February 2021 also found the school failing to meet standards for the welfare, health and safety of its students.
During the past 18 months, the school has had an unsettled period in terms of leadership. The headteacher Toby Belfield was dismissed in early 2020 after allegedly sending inappropriate messages to a student; he was replaced by Paul Wallace-Woodroffe, who had spent the last few years as head of Wycombe Abbey International School in China and Hong Kong. He introduced various changes to help restore the school’s reputation and ease the rigidness of its curriculum; these included scrapping Saturday exams and three-day half terms.
However, Mr Wallace-Woodroffe has now also left the school and Sue Frencham, previously assistant head, was appointed interim headteacher in May 2021. Miss Frencham is the first female to lead the school in more than 700 years.
One of the UK’s leading schools for A Level results, Ruthin is popular with international families. It attracts a community of girls and boys from more than 23 different countries across Asia, Europe, Africa and the US. Established in 1284, it is a small school of around 350 students. With boarding fees of around £38,000 a year, Ruthin was originally established as a school just for boys, and it became a co-educational school in 1990.
Ruthin is a selective school that is unashamedly academic and describes its students as “extremely able academically”. However, recognising that “rote learning and robotic learning are a hindrance rather than a help”, the school combines its rigorous curriculum with plenty of enrichment activities, sport and the arts. Whether students always have the time to take part in these activities due to a heavy academic workload is a question parents may want to ask.
In Years 7 to 9, students follow a broad curriculum that prepares them for GCSEs. Ruthin’s list of options includes biology, chemistry, physics, geography, history, economics, French, Spanish, Latin, astronomy, computer studies, art, music and statistics.
In the Sixth Form, students typically study four A Levels, and there’s a broad choice of mainly academic subjects including art, biology, chemistry, computer studies (as only), economics, English literature, French, further mathematics, geography, history, mathematics, music, physics, politics and Spanish.
Students are offered support for life after Ruthin. Mentors support students with their university applications, and the school prepares them for the more liberal environment of uni life by creating a café culture for study; you can expect to find Sixth Formers studying and writing essays in the school café or in their bedrooms while sipping a smoothie rather than in the more formal classrooms.
Sport and the arts
Music is a busy and thriving area of Ruthin, which describes it as “a key academic discriminator”; students are strongly encouraged to study music at GCSE or A Level and commit to instrumental lessons. Sports offered include basketball, rugby, netball, hockey, football, tennis, sailing and climbing. Other sporting activities centre around house events; there’s also the traditional annual Hill-Fort Run, the winner of which receives a jar of ‘Oxford’ marmalade.
Beyond the classroom
To balance out the academic side of Ruthin’s timetable, one afternoon each week is dedicated to activities as varied as stage management, car maintenance, fitness, golf, sailing, dance, cooking, climbing, mountain biking, table tennis, basketball, and girls’ football. There’s a fun weekend programme, open to both boarders and day students, with bespoke activities for Sixth Formers ranging from karting to zip wires and white water rafting. There are also all the usual opportunities after school to join clubs and sports teams after school.
In 2020, the A Level cohort received 13 Oxbridge offers, and in 2021 10 boys and girls have secured offers to Oxford and Cambridge. The school a proven, and significant slipstream into two of the most prestigious universities in the world.
The majority of students are boarders (around 200 girls and boys), who stay in one of seven boarding houses. Younger years share bedrooms, while Sixth Formers have single or double rooms, many with en-suite bathrooms. Boarders are cared for by a team of Housemasters and Housemistresses, supported by Assistant Houseparents and Pastoral Tutors.
Campus and facilities
Ruthin is located on the edge of a small market town in North Wales with links to Chester, Manchester and Liverpool, as well as Snowdonia and the North Wales coast.
Admission and fees
The most popular points of entry are Form 1 (11+), Form 10 (14+) and Lower Sixth Form (16+). Overseas students joining in Form 10 and Sixth Form are expected to have high standards of English.
Annual fees range from £12,400 to 15,000 for day students, and £38,700 for all boarding students.
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