WALKING through the gates of Glan Usk Primary School, it's hard not to be instantly impressed by what you witness.
With fantastic sports facilities and huge grounds, it could easily be mistaken for one of the bigger secondary’s schools in Gwent.
The school has evolved from the amalgamation of three separate schools; Durham Road Infant School, Durham Road Junior School and Rockfield Nursery and moved into its new location in January 2010.
There are 667 pupils spread across 22 classes making the most of the facilities in and outside of the school – and the high numbers is part of the charm according to deputy head teacher, Catherine Place.
“The size of our school is a fantastic advantage,” she said. “We’re really proud of the high standards we have in our school from the academic side to the well being of the children.
“We are conscious that our school is big so we have support workers to help with the children’s well being.
“Taking steps to look after every child personally and checking their wellbeing is great. A lot of work goes into that and it’s something we’re very proud of.”
The school’s motto is “Excite, Challenge, Empower” which is also translated into the Welsh equivalent “Tanio, Herio, Galluogi” around the school.
But instead of being a slogan on the wall that is rarely referred to, it is a motto that is central to everything that the staff and pupils do.
“In terms of excite, challenge and empower, it is evident throughout our curriculum,” added Miss Place. “We are constantly trying to excite the children, engage them and get their enthusiasm for learning flowing by challenging them.
“We have a team called Team Herio which is group of children from year two and year five who we push to challenge them so they go beyond what they’re expected.
“They focus on things that aren’t in the curriculum such as Shakespeare and it’s just about trying to push them to achieve what we believe they can.
“It ties in with our motto about challenging pupils and it really is at the heart of everything we do from the children to the staff. We try and involve it everywhere.”
The school only moved from their old site on Durham Road in January 2010 after a drawn out ten-year process but they’re making the most of the facilities now available to them.
There is a master chef group run as an afterschool club every term which is a big hit with the children and has to be managed carefully due to the high demand.
“Not many primary schools are fortunate enough to have cooking facilities like that so we try and make the most of it," said Miss Place. "We try and ingrain the cooking into the school curriculum where we can.”
ICT is another massive part of the school's focus and they were recently awarded their ICT mark by NAACE.
It is awarded to schools with good use of technology to support teaching, learning and school administration.
The school offers a variety of classes and learning opportunities with ICT and look to integrate the parents as much as possible.
Classes are put on every Friday for parents that wish to learn about the latest technology such as tablets to enable them to help their child with homework.
There is also an after school homework club to allow students to complete their homework if they don’t have the required technology at home.
“It’s about being pro active and giving children the opportunities,” said Miss Place. “We have staff on hand all the time, going beyond their duty to help children which ties in with our mission statement once again."
She added: “We push the digital side of learning and teaching and we’re trying to get ahead of the game due to the importance of it.”
Head teacher Jeff Beecher said: “The award recognises our positive approach to the use of technology and the benefits it is bringing to our children. We believe that technology can be used in every aspect of learning and that it is essential our children are equipped for the modern world.
“We are very proud to include the mark on our website and our mailings and this has been noted on a number of occasions, which has further raised the profile of the use of technology at our school.”
The school has implemented a peer to peer learning initiative which focuses on children being taught something by the IT teacher, Bob Aspinall. The children then teach other children what they have learnt.
“We always look at research on how to improve,” added Miss Place. “Research has shown that peer to peer tutoring is a great way to develop pupils skills. Not just those who are being taught but those teaching as well.
“They then get feedback on their teaching and it makes them think and learn differently. It’s a huge success so far. It played a part in the ICT mark that we received.”
Away from curriculum and technology, the school is also very proud of its inclusion policy as well as its work with children with special needs.
“We recently became an ASD friendly school and a specific learning difficulty friendly school,” said Miss Place. “We use the ability and expertise of staff to make sure children are catered for in the lesson. The inclusion aspect is something we’ve identified as important.
"We look to give every child the chance to stay in mainstream school but it's always the parent's who make the final decision on what is best for their child."
Although it is more common in secondary schools, there is a head boy and head girl elected in year six as well as their deputies and several prefects.
For this year, the head boy is Connor Cooper and the head girl is Libby Smith. There is a democratic election at the start of the year and each pupil that nominates themselves have to present a presentation in assembly.
As well as this, year six pupils are the only ones to be upstairs in the building, which is designed to make the step up from primary school to secondary school a gradual one.
“It’s a really good system,” said Miss Place. “Younger children see the prefects and head boy and girl and you can see it’s what they want to be when they reach that age.
“It also helps add some responsibility and gets them ready for when they leave us.”
Glan Usk Primary School, Bank Street, Newport.
Headteacher: Jeff Beecher
Chairman of Governors Sally Harrhy (corr)
Number of pupils 667
Ages: 4 to 11
Last Inspection: May 2011
Estyn Inspector Huw Jenkins found Glan Usk Primary School to be operating at a good level with excellent prospects for improvement.
He found that nearly all pupils make progress which is good or very good in relation to their starting points during their time at school.
It also commended the school as it has an extremely positive ethos where the contribution of all pupils and staff is valued highly; and all staff work highly effectively as a team in order to ensure the best outcomes for all pupils. Mr Jenkins also stated that the behaviour of pupils across the school was exemplary.