St David’s Roman Catholic Primary School in Cwmbran is a popular school.
Currently holding 230 pupils, the number has been increasing frequently.
The school’s popularity was apparent when one parent applied for a place for their child and could not decide if they wanted it. A couple of days later, when they decided they definitely wanted the space, it had been snapped up by another parent.
About 90 per cent of the school’s pupils who leave at 11 go to Pontypool’s Roman Catholic secondary school, St Alban’s High.
Those Year 6 pupils who will be leaving in the summer regularly use technology in their learning and their teacher, Alison Baillon-Jones, has taught lessons using a book-reviewing application on iPads for her students. They use it at school and then supplement their work at home.
The students’ favourite books include Sir Alex Ferguson’s recently-released autobiography and David Walliams’ Gangsta Granny, which was televised over Christmas.
In Year 1, this term’s theme is dinosaurs. Jackie Lewis, the year group’s teacher, is helped by two classroom assistants in a class of 30. They learn to write fact files in literacy about dinosaurs.
She said: “Everything revolves around our topic. We did sound yesterday and the experiment was to walk as far as we could until we stopped hearing a roar and we counted the clicks back from the trundle wheel from there. It was 103 metres before they couldn’t hear it. They build up fact files about dinosaurs in literacy. They count up dinosaurs in numeracy.”
As part of providing fresh services for children, the school has a few people who come from outside the school environment to help with other extra-curricular activities.
Every week the school temporarily becomes a crime scene with the help of Sports Xtra who come in and help pupils learn different surveillance techniques, learn code breaking and create their own identities as part of an activity called Spy School.
The regional director, Andrew Perry, said: “We try to offer something slightly different with general physical activity in children.
“It’s a fantastic way of engaging with children who don’t traditionally engage in sporting activity.”
Pupils pay £4 every time they attend the classes. Sports Xtra are already booked up for the next block of six-week sessions.
Similarly, musical groups have been invited into the school for pupils to benefit from what they can offer.
The theatre arts and music school Nidas, run by sisters Gabi Nicholson-Dunbar and Heidi Nicholson, run a number of choirs and have competed internationally – they will be performing at an international choirs competition in Latvia in the summer, have performed with Bryn Terfel three times and with Vangelis – and have recently started to run choirs and classes at the school.
They also run classes at the school on Saturdays.
Pupils are encouraged to take part if they can.
At the moment the fledgling choir has just over 20 members but they are hoping to recruit more soon.
They were first contacted by the school’s head teacher John Healy when he heard them singing in Morrisons and they were looking for a venue where they could hold their new classes. He invited them to St David’s and they have held the classes since late last year.
Mrs Nicholson-Dunbar said: “(Mr Healy) hooked us in to teach his own kids, which is great because it works for both of us and his children get something too.”
Karen Robinson, a teacher at the school, runs a British Heart Foundation-affiliated first aid course for Year 6 pupils.
She said: “Not every school is linked to it but we are. It’s the third year we’ve done it. We have training every year to keep us updated with all the new aspects that come in.
“It’s to give them a life skill. It’s absolutely fantastic and it’s something different from maths and English. Hopefully they’ll be able to use it in later life. And it’s certainly given me more confidence since I’ve been here.”
The training is delivered for an hour a week for eight weeks. Pupils are taught the recovery position, how to deal with a person who might be suffering from a heart attack and how to use bandages.
All the children who complete the training receive a certificate from the school and their names are sent off to the British Heart Foundation, who send their own awards to them.
The school has raised money for several charities, most recently the Catholic charity CAFOD. They raised about £400 and all the money was donated to the typhoon appeal after the disaster in the Philippines last November.
The nursery, which is made up of 34 children, also plays an active part in school life.
Lynne Roberts, the head of the nursery, said the children’s favourite song was The Train Song, where they join onto each other and one child trails off at different parts of the song.
She said: “It’s an absolute favourite of the children at the school.”
Mrs Baillon-Jones said: “My children were in Lynne’s nursery and we had to have a copy of it in the car.”
Other visitors to the school include voluntary teaching assistants Sheila Mills, who has been visiting for 18 years, and Mary Peacock. They visit the school once a week to help children with their reading.
Mrs Baillon-Jones added: “We put a letter in the newsletter at church and MrsPeacock and Mrs Mills both came and we’ve never let them go.”
The school’s last Estyn report was delivered six years ago and Mr Healy said the school did “very well”. The school is waiting for one later this year.
It will do well to match its last inspection: the standards body gave the school a grade one for every point it was measured on; it was said to be a school that was “good with outstanding features” in attainment, teaching effectiveness, care, leadership and quality and standards.
St. David’s RC Primary School, Caldicot Way, Pontrhydyrun, Cwmbran NP44 1UF
Head teacher: John Healy
Pupils on roll: 230
The last inspection was carried out on June 25 2008 by Glyn Robert Scott. It said: "St David's Roman Catholic Junior and Infant School is a good school with many outstanding features" and that children make "very good progress". Younger children were found to listen attentively to teachers and follow instructions well. The pupils' creative skills were "exceptional" and their social skills were "outstanding". The inspection found the school's best features included good relationships between staff and pupils, adventerous approaches to lessons and the way that pupils' interest was well maintained.