On Wednesday 1st July 2015, St John Baptist Church in Wales High School celebrated the 40thyear since its opening.
The occasion began with the Holy Eucharist with the Most Reverend Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan. Pupils and staff – past and present, clergy, governors and visitors were at the service. The Archbishop gave a most inspirational sermon which was very well received by the hundreds of people present. It was a great honour and privilege for the school to have the Archbishop of Wales with them. The Archbishop spent time talking with pupils and staff. He also blessed a patchwork quilt that had been made by a Year 10 textiles group. He also blessed a ‘time capsule’ to be opened in the future. The time capsule included a Bible, a cross, school pen, school mug and a school ‘boater’ that used to be worn. The Archbishop also cut the school ‘birthday cake’ which was then shared. David Anthony of Year 10 composed a Blessing for the service.
The Headteacher, Dr S M Mitchell delivered an address which outlined the history of the school.
In 1920, the Parish of Aberdare purchased for then the considerable sum of £3,000, Maerdy House in Aberdare with its surrounding grounds. In 1930 Maerdy House opened as the first Church in Wales secondary school and in 1975, Maerdy House transferred to the site of St John Baptist High School in Aberdare. The school is indebted to the work of Canon Charles Arthur Williams, who worked so hard to establish the school. Canon Charles Williams Arthur originally from Bangor, prepared for the ministry at the University of Durham where he obtained an Honours Classic degree, the Diploma in Theology and a MA Degree. He was ordained as a Deacon in 1935 and Priest in 1936 at Brecon Cathedral. In 1943 he was appointed the Rector of Llanfairpwllg, Anglesey. In 1980 he relinquished his benefice to become Diocesan Director of Religious Education in Bangor. He obtained the BD University of Wales in 1947. In 1957, he was appointed Rector of Aberdare where his experience as Director of Education was very opportune in the funding of St John Baptist Church in Wales High School. He brought his family down form North Wales, namely his wife Marjorie and children, Richard, Madeleine and Gaynor. He was a gentleman, scholar and was well liked. His daughter Madeleine’s children Nicholas and Clare both attended St John Baptist Church in Wales High School and attained success. Nicholas graduated from Cardiff University with a first class Honours degree in Biology and Clare from Royal Holloway in London. Ilenia James, the great grand-daughter of Canon Charles Williams Arthur is also now attending the school.
St John’s continues to be like a ‘family’ with generations of families returning to the school.
Initially the school consisted of a small building which was then extended. At the time there were only 21 classes, a Headteacher, Deputy Headteacher, Girls’ Mistress, 15 teachers and 5 support staff. Since then there have been many changes such as facilities for the disabled and a new sports hall. There are now 1000 pupils in the school and 100 members of staff.
The Headteacher spoke about how privileged she felt to have so many past staff and pupils present, which included former Deputy Head Boy Paralympian Rhys Jones. Rhys brought the Olympic torch and medals to show the school community. The importance of worship was stressed - all at the school are inspired by Jesus’ teaching. The school’s aim is for pupils to develop into happy well-motivated individuals, with the knowledge and skills to succeed.
The school is very high attaining and recently was judged as ‘Excellent’ by inspectors. It is also a Welsh Government Category 1, Green school and has again attained the best results in RCT for those attaining 5 GCSEs A*- C including Mathematics and English.
However, it is not just academic success that is important in school. It is the wide variety of extra-curricular activities that do so much to raise the esteem and confidence of pupils. The sporting teams do particularly well at St John’s. The Headteacher also explained how proud all are at the school of the caring and kind nature of pupils who regularly raise so much money for charity.
Work of pupils from Art, Design and Technology and Textiles was on display and was of the highest quality. The sports players were also in action with coaches from premier league Swansea City Football Club including football legend Lee Trundle. There was also top quality rugby training from the WRU. Girls were involved in hockey, netball and rounders matches.
In the evening, there was a summer music concert which displayed the talent of singers, the orchestra and popular jazz band and individual musicians. This was quite amazing with traditional and modern pieces being played. Musicians from Town Church Primary School were also involved in the concert which was lovely. The music was of the highest quality and the school received many compliments about the standard.
This was a wonderful day in the life of the school when the whole community celebrated the ‘tradition of excellence’ and demonstrated total dedication to attaining even greater success for each individual child.