A school that puts the wellbeing of its pupils happiness above all else, Maesglas Primary and Infants in Newport knows that happy youngsters are productive ones - as SOPHIE BROWNSON learns.
IT MAY be raining when I arrive at Maesglas Primary School in the heart of Newport, but the happy smiles on the faces of pupils that greet me quickly brighten up the day.
Meeting headteacher Phillip Harrhy it is clear that the school strives to create a happy learning environment for the children.
“We are a nurturing school,” he explained as I was taken on a tour of the school beginning with the Lightning Room where children are placed in smaller groups for more focused learning.
“One of the things we lead on is making the children feel good about themselves.
“Every afternoon children who need a bit of TLC get to come in to a smaller group to work.
“It is predominantly Years 3 and 4, but a lot of the children in the school have had the opportunity to work in this room.
“It is where we look after the children and make them feel special.”
As a result of intensive learning literature, standards have risen with children’s reading skills improving as the school follows the Read. Write. Inc. programme in literacy.
“One of the thing we try to do is to make the most of the staff we have to support learning,” he continued.
“We are looking at pupils’ well being and in a pragmatic way we are rewarding the children’s behaviour with a programme called Dojo.”
Taking me into another classroom children are being awarded points from the computer’s ‘randomiser’; which picks out a pupil’s name and gives them points for things such as hard work.
Children then collect these points and are rewarded with ‘golden time’ where children can take part in a enrichment activity on a Friday afternoon including ICT, sports and art.
“It is a more immediate form of reward,” Mr Harrhy continued.
“Children love the fact that their name flashes up on the screen and it is interesting in terms of behaviour and expectations.”
Since the rewards programme came into place the behaviour of many children has improved and pupils are also rewarded in school assemblies whenever they do something positive, by way of a certificate.
“The reward system seems to be working,” Mr Harrhy said.
ICT also plays a big part in learning with the school investing heavily in ICT equipment including iPads, tablets and flip cameras.
“The children have become really skilled in using and working with ICT, and we are looking to expand further in the next 12 months,” Mr Harrhy added.
The school also strives continuously to improve with pupils participating in a Student Voice programme, which looks to make things better in the school.
“The most important thing to us is happy and engaged children,” the head said.
The school goes above and beyond to ensure this engagement, the doorways of the classrooms in both foundation phase and the junior school have ‘thematic arches’ which are adapted to suit the classes current projects such as a camouflage archway to relate to a project on World War Two and an owl archway to relate to an owl project.
The arches help to make the projects more relatable and interesting to the children.
Physical representations of the children’s studies also play a part in the classrooms themselves such as a giant rocket in the corner of one which relates to a project on space and the solar system.
Children are also encouraged to be pragmatic in their learning by using the school’s Construction Area where they can build a model representation of what they are studying.
Pupils were currently building a nest to for their project on owls.
A hands-on approach to learning is also demonstrated in the school’s healthy schools policy and eco committee.
The school provides many sporting opportunities for pupils including football and rugby to create a multi-skills approach to learning.
“The school council takes an active approach to getting the children to eat healthily and we run a healthy-lunch-boxes competition every year with the winner receiving a prize decided by the children in the school council.”
The ASD-friendly school has also become very multicultural with pupils from 25 nationalities who speak 23 languages.
“We are trying to push the children to do as well as they can,” Mr Harrhy added.
“We are proud of our children.
“We look around the school and we do have a lot of happy children and if they are happy then they are more likely to be engaged and they will do well.”
Head: Phil Harrhy
Chairwoman of Governors: Barbara Morse
In nearly all classes, most pupils make good progress over time.
Standards achieved in lessons are appropriate to the age and ability of the pupils, taking into account their starting point.
Pupils with additional educational needs achieve well and consistently meet their learning targets.
The majority of pupils can recall previous learning well and most of the older pupils can apply their understanding of concepts in new situations.
Pupils apply themselves enthusiastically to the learning activities in the lessons and work productively.
They listen and communicate effectively with one another in lessons across the curriculum.
They use a wide vocabulary, which is specific to the themes in question.
Pupils show good reading skills across the school. Most pupils in the Foundation Phase read at a level that is appropriate to their age and ability, and their writing.