SCHOOL OF THE WEEK: Garnteg school's motto is serving them well

THE two-storey school, which is situated on the outskirts of Pontypool, was opened 15 years ago.

The school serves the area of Garndiffaith and Abersychan, and has developed strong links with the surrounding community.

Two hundred and forty children currently attend the school, which operates a nursery and classes right through to year six.

The nursery is a hive of activity, with children free to take part in any aspect of play that they wish.

Some were playing with clay, some were in the Garnteg Castle outside and others were sat with toys.

Before my arrival the children had been making fairy cakes, which they were eager to show off.

The class teacher, Natalie Rogers explained that along with the fun activities, the children learn mathematics and reading skills through games on the computer. They learn the Welsh language through basic phrases and by learning songs.

They are also encouraged to think about healthy eating as they enjoy fruit time and brush their teeth afterwards, Ms Rogers said that they have worked hard to encourage a love of books among both the children and their parents by introducing the Story Trail. Parents come into the classroom to read with the children, as well as take part in fun activities such as craft and cooking workshops.

Next, I was introduced to eight high achieving pupils who had been selected as pupil of the week for their year group.

They had each been awarded a certificate for personal attributes such has being polite, helpful and working hard.

Despite the bitterly cold weather, and the odd snowflake, a group of pupils were outside in the wetland area and secret garden.

They were running about so much with excitement that they didn't feel the cold.

Each were equipped with a clipboard with a chart of local birds, and the teacher was using an Ipad to play different bird calls.

The method was working and a robin could be seen hopping from branch to branch in the trees.

The children were then able to tick the bird off their chart.

In the warmer months the pond is used for pond dipping and mini beast hunting, and the area is also used by the school's Eco Group who do projects there.

The group will be putting up nest boxes and inserting cameras; so that they can watch the birds take up home and watch their eggs hatch.

In the spring, pupils will be undertaking planting in the area.

The eldest of the children also use the area to learn about fire safety and toast marshmallows.

The school also boasts its own recording studio and teacher, Karen Powells is in charge of training the pupils in filming and recording skills.

The studio is made up of a green screen, cameras and an editing suite.

Children are able to carry out projects that are tied into the curriculum, e.g creating short films that give message such as anti-drugs, class projects on RE or recording dance performances in PE.

The recordings are edited by the pupils and shown on screens around the school.

They even learn the skills of weather reporting using the green screen, which is quite a task as the projection is backwards.

Year three, pupils were busy at work painting portraits. The class theme was the Victorians, with children learning about the period and the difference between that time and the modern day by analysing photographs.

They were then asked to draw a portrait of the modern day of someone special to them.

The pupils had also undertaken some typical Victorian tasks, such as washing clothes using a wash board and a mangle.

Susan Roche has been the head teacher at the school for three years with aspirations of improving the education of children.

She said: "I'm happy here. It's a fantastic community, with the school working closely with parents to get involved in their children's education."

She explained that the school is expanding the use of IT throughout the schools with Ipads and touch screen computers.

She said: "I'm really happy with our pupils academic results, which have improved year on year."

Mrs Roche explained that last year the school has shown significant improvements in all core subjects, and is above the Welsh averages in both Key Stage one and Key Stage two.

The school is also apart of the children's university, with 130 pupils passing through it last year.

It promotes the school's after school clubs as the pupils gain credits for attendance, and Mrs Roche hopes that this year they will have even more pupils complete it.

The year six pupils are starting to prepare for their leaver's concert, the theme for this year is top secret, but previous themes have included BAFTA and Olympics.

Pupils are also busy fundraising for Comic Relief, and a group of pupils are filming a programme highlighting both the serious and funny aspect of the appeal, which will be broadcast throughout the school.

Headteacher: Susan Roche.

Deputy headteacher: Chris Thomas.

Admissions: 240 pupils including the nursery.

Staff: 10 teaching staff and 12 teaching assistants.

Address: Garnteg Primary School, Hillcrest, Garndiffaith, Pontypool, NP4 7SJ.

Tel: 01495 742934

Extra-curricular activities Recorders, climbing wall, football, gardening, cricket, rugby, craft and art, netball, dance, cycling, school council, eco-council, IT, newspaper, woodwind, choir.

Estyn Report.

Report undertaken in 2010.

The overall judgement for the school's performance is adequate.

The school has many strengths including: Most children make at least appropriate progress by the end of key stage 2; The school provides high-quality care, support and guidance for the pupils which results in high standards of wellbeing; And the quality of partnerships with the community and local employers is very effective.

Prospects for improvement is good because in a short period: Leaders and managers have successfully developed procedures for effective self-evaluation; The headteacher has provided clear leadership and direction and sense of purpose to the school; Leaders and managers have improved the ethos, the quality of behaviour and learning environment; And leaders and managers have motivated staff so that they all demonstrate an enthusiastic commitment to the process of school improvement.

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