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Morning chapel impresses Estyn

Daily morning chapel services might seem quaint and outmoded to most state-school pupils.

But an inspection team from Estyn was clearly impressed by their continuing relevance at Wales's oldest school.

Christ College Brecon was founded by Henry VIII in 1541. A Dominican friary stood on the site from 1250 and the 13th century buildings, including the chapel and dining hall, remain in daily use by the school community.

This week it made the record books for another reason when it became the first independent school in Wales to be publicly reported on by inspectors.

They bestowed praise on most aspects of educational life at the Pounds 13,000-a-year mixed school, which has 313 pupils aged 11-19, including about 200 boarders.

"Christ College Brecon is a school where the quality of teaching is very good and where pupils achieve very high standards," says the report, noting that the chapel service provides a "thought-provoking and inspirational start to the day".

The inspectors also highlight the school's consistently good exam results.

In 2004, 92 per cent of pupils gained at least five GCSEs at grades A*-C, while the A-level pass rate over the three years to 2004 has been 100 per cent in almost every subject, reflecting the optimism of the school motto, Possunt quia posse videntur (They achieve because they believe they can).

But the inspectors found some shortcomings, particularly in personal, social and health education, where pupils lack opportunities to explore issues concerning sex and relationships, and drugs.

And health and safety improvements need to be made for the care of boarders, including effective supervision of pupils at all times and improving safety and security measures, particularly when pupils are moving between buildings after dark.

Philip Jones, headteacher of Christ College, said: "I was anxious about the inspectors being unfamiliar with the sector, and I was concerned that as the first independent school to be visited by Estyn there might be a political agenda.

"Those fears turned out to be unfounded. The inspectors made sure they understood what this school is about and it turned out to be a very positive experience."

Christ College is the first of 62 independent schools in Wales to be inspected by Estyn under new arrangements, introduced by the Education Act 2002, that are more in line with those that apply to state schools.

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