LAURA LEA visits Pillgwenlly Primary School, where the focus is on learning, playing and working together.
A SCHOOL reflects the community it serves, and with Pill being one of the most multi-cultural areas of Newport, it follows that Pill Primary is a celebration of this diversity.
As soon as you enter the door, you are met with a wall of clocks displaying times around the world. This school really is international from the outset and the pupils here have a distinct awareness of children in other parts of the world too.
On Mondays and Fridays, there are whole school assemblies where the head teacher will set challenges at the beginning of the week, before celebrating achievements on the Friday. In the rest of the week, year groups can hold family assemblies, which are an opportunity for pupils to show and present their work in front of their family members.
Head teacher, Kath Bevan said: “We welcome everybody in assembly in eight languages.
“One of our key focuses is to develop language.” And with one fifth of pupils new to English and the UK educational system, you can see why. But all extra language support is totally integrated.
She said: “Some of our kids speak five languages. It’s so impressive.”
When a new student is arriving, the pupils will be shown maps to see where they have come from.
“They have a greater understanding of the wider world.”
It is Mrs Bevan’s 11th year in the school, six of which she has been head teacher.
On the day we visit, representatives from the school’s eco council are burying a time capsule. Every class had an opportunity to add items – some drew pictures, wrote stories in their home language or even recorded voice messages on memory sticks saying what they hoped to be doing in 25 years’ time.
The capsule commemorates the 25th anniversary of Pill Primary, which the school celebrated at the end of last year.
Asides the eco-councillors, there are student digital leaders, who were selected through an interview process and deliver IT classes throughout the school.
One of the latest additions to the school is the salad bar, which the school council petitioned to have. According to Mrs Bevan it’s now incredibly popular.
This is the result of a pupil participation project, where students had to go out and research to find out what would make their lunch times better.
We are led upstairs to where a group of Year 6 pupils are with their Year 1 reading buddies.
They meet every day at lunch times and the volunteering project is so popular, there’s a waiting list of Year 6 students ready to do it.
Mrs Bevan said their big focus is on literacy.
She said: “We focus on oratory in the early years because we believe if they can speak it they will be able to read and write better.”
One of the maths groups we stop by are huddled around a sand pit digging for numbers.
The children are excited and enthusiastic – perhaps more so than you’d normally expect for a number patterns exercise.
“It’s been a really big push to get our numeracy skills up,” said Mrs Bevan.
On the Friday we visited, the nursery was holding their Chinese feast day as part of learning about Chinese New Year.
The three and four-year-olds were sat around very quietly eating their bowls of noodles beneath red glittering decorations, drawings and lanterns they had made earlier in the week.
Some had even learnt and mastered the art of using chopsticks.
But Fridays are also the day for marble parties.
Each class has a marble jar and when this full – they will receive marbles for good work, behaviour, attendance – they are able to vote for what treat they would like as a class.
“Marble jar parties are very popular,” said Mrs Bevan.
The school has won many awards, with its fair trade ethics, healthiness, equality and diversity all being recognised. They include the Nurture Group Quality Mark Award.
“We are a flagship for nurture groups. We have lots of schools from South Wales who come to visit,” said Mrs Bevan.
These groups are for children who need extra support.
They will learn together but are fully integrated with the rest of the school.
The school also runs an adult family learning programme, which takes place during the school day.
“Our children are very familiar with seeing their parents within the school day,” said Ms Bevan.
“These sessions are really busy.
“We offer language classes to our parents on a weekly basis.”
As far as extracurricular activities are concerned, there are lots of after school clubs on offer including lessons from Rubicon dance company.
Every child in the school receives music tuition which can include African drumming and leads to musical performances.
Outdoor learning in the forest school is part of everyone’s timetable.
Mrs Bevan added: “We try and take literacy and numeracy skills outside.”
Despite its size there is a real sense of community and family in Pill Primary.
It is somewhere everyone can feel welcome and excited about learning.
Mrs Bevan said: “I’m a firm believer if children are happy in school they are more likely to learn.”
Head teacher: Kath Bevan
Deputy Head: Andrew Shepherd
Head of Governors: Nasera Hassan
Pupils on roll: 681 (144 nursery)
Age range: 3-11
Motto: We play, learn and work together.
Last Inspection – June 2009
The school were graded good with outstanding features in: how well learners are cared for and guided, effective leadership and strategic management and how well learning experiences meets the needs of learners and the wider community.
The next inspection is due June 2015.