SCHOOL OF THE WEEK: Ysgol Gymraeg Ifor Hael in Newport
Staff at Newport’s Ysgol Gymraeg Ifor Hael believe that Welsh language education is the pathway to success, as SOPHIE BROWNSON discovers.
SITUATED in the heart of Bettws, Newport, Welsh language school Ysgol Ifor Hael is striving to mould pupils in to happy and respectful Welsh-speaking citizens.
Opening in 2008 with just 26 children the school, now in its sixth year, is bulging at the seams with 192 pupils, reaching year six for the first time.
“We have grown so much as a school that we have had to alter what was the kitchen in to a temporary class room until the local authority can provide us with accommodation,” the school’s head Bethan Parry-Jones said.
“This is because there is a growing demand for Welsh medium education in the community.
“The school is now very much part of the community with close working relationships with other schools as well as more and more parents choosing Welsh medium education.”
The language of the school’s administration and the medium of learning in the Foundation Phase and Key Stage one is Welsh, and when pupils are in Key Stage two they are primarily taught through the medium of Welsh.
“The pupils have exemplary behaviour and often visitors to the school comment on the welcoming atmosphere and warm environment which is attributed to the conscientious, committed staff and wonderful pupils,” Mrs Parry-Jones added.
As I was shown around the school I was told the history behind the school’s name.
The school was named after Ifor Hael, meaning Ifor the Generous, as Ifor ap Llywelyn of Bassaleg was the son of Llywelyn ap Ifor and Angharad Morgan of Tredegar, and lived at the court Gwern y Cleppa in Tredegar in the 14th Century.
He sponsored the poet Dafydd ap Gwilym, who named him Ifor Hael in his poetry, which talked of nobility and a fair lordship at Bassaleg.
In fact, Welsh history feeds in to every aspect of the school, in addition to nearly all communication in Welsh, the classrooms themselves are named after figures in Welsh history such as Betsi Cadwaladr.
Other Welsh features in the school include the Castell Owain Glyndwr.
The castle in one of the school’s classrooms is used as a reading corner and symbolises the tale of a Welsh prince who battled for independence against the king of England.
While I watched the children take part in PE, I noticed a huge sculpture in the corner of the hall.
“That is a sculpture of Blodeuwedd, from Mabinogion, a Welsh folk tale,” the head said.
“We used the sculpture when we took part in The Newport Festivals’ March of the Giants, where children were all dressed up in outfits.
On the wall is a huge mural of Ifor the Generous – the tale from which the school takes its name.
The school has recently received funding from the Glyndwr Trust which has funded the project Gorsaf Glyndwr, creating a play house for the children.
Outside the school has a ‘Learning Den,’ and outdoor classroom that the pupils have named ‘Den Dysgu.’ “We have various activities outside with the pupils from the foundation phase, such as reading and drama.
“This is so that the pupils are not stuck in a classroom all day,” Mrs Parry-Jones said.
The philosophy of the foundation phase is that the children learn through play and the outdoor area is ideal for this.
“Throughout the day and during playtimes the children are allowed to make dens out of donated tyres, fabric, and wood and left over milk crates.
“The dens are a great way of stimulating creativity, building strength, in the pupils while allowing them to socialise,” Mrs Parry-Jones added.
The school runs after school clubs as part of the Urdd organisation which aims to give children throughout Wales the opportunity to live their lives through the medium of Welsh.
Such activities include Clwb y ddraig, which means dragon club where key stage two pupils can take part in various sporting activities.
Clwb yr Urdd, is also run where children can take part in various games to allow the children to socialise through the medium of Welsh. The school also runs and IT Club for children who may not have access to a computer at home.
The school is a healthy and eco school, where pupils actively take part in conserving energy and resources by switching off lights and recycling paper, batteries, and clothes.
Music is also a big part of the school with all students taking part in regular peripatetic music lessons where children have one-on-one tuition to learn to play instruments such as the harp and violin.
Mrs Parry-Jones said: “We teach lessons for pupils from year one upwards and let the children choose an instrument- either a harp, violin, piano, or clarinet and have lessons to learn to play during weekly lessons “This is part of our partnership with the Gwent Music Service and we hope to build up to a school orchestra.”
The children enter a national competition called Eisteddfod every year where they take part in recitations in singing and dancing, as well as performing in Christmas and Easter concerts.
“We still have got lots to do but these are exciting times,” the head added.
- Head: Bethan Parry-Jones
- Deputy Head: Claire Hoey
- Pupils on roll: 192
- Ages: Nursery to year six
- Chair of Governors: Elin Maher
- Motto: “Llwybr llwyddiant” (Pathway to success)
The schools last Estyn report in February 2010 by Merfyn Lloyd Jones said that the school responds well to pupils’ wide range of learning needs and interests.
Pupils receive equal opportunities to benefit from a wide and balanced curriculum.
The school also conforms to the Foundation Phase, the NC and Religious Education requirements.
The report also highlighted how the partnership between the school, parents and governors is robust.
While praising the pupils bilingualism as successfully developed with a good emphasis given to the Welsh dimension within the curriculum.