As a school that educates children about money, savings and business at a young age, Llanyrafon Primary School is setting up children with life skills in mind as Danielle Lewis finds out.

AFTER speaking with head teacher Wayne Jones, it is clear that he takes his school’s motto very seriously.

‘Learning for life; commitment to excellence’ is what the school aims to bring to the children and this is projected throughout the school in many ways, including in the extracurricular activities such as the Business Enterprise scheme.

This has been running for eight years and is aimed at all year groups. It looks at improving the children’s skills in literacy, numeracy, thinking skills, ICT and PSE.

“Business Enterprise is an excellent vehicle to achieve these objectives. It instils entrepreneurial attitudes which stems school ethos,” said Mr Jones.

“Children work with others and share their problems in order to prepare for life outside of school. The pupils are very independent and run their own companies. They bring their own business plan to the head teacher to negotiate a business loan and the head teacher will negotiate interest.”

He added: “We also run a savings club. The pupils have saved over £2,400 with Gateway Credit Union. The aim is to teach children money management and to show them how to start their financial planning.

“We want them to think, ‘if I save for this, I can buy it soon’. We don’t want children to have the ‘have now, pay later’ mentality. We want them to be sensible with their money and to not flitter away their pocket money but to save it up.”

Something else which is encouraged in the school is the use of technology to develop the children’s numeracy and literacy skills. The school has a unique approach to teaching where children are allowed to pick what software they want to use to develop their learning. They use the technology to write letters, produce mathematical reports, make graphs, use spreadsheets and have access to video conferencing.

This has seen children hold video conferences with people from China, America and France.

A recent video conference call even saw the pupils talking with a woman who worked as an engineer and astronaut for Nasa.

“We were the only British school to see the female astronaut. It was great,” said Mr Jones. “We want to encourage girls to consider science and technology in the future because not many girls are considering these subjects.”

The school runs a number of extracurricular activities, in which 82 per cent of the Year 2 to Year 6 pupils take part.

Activities include an eco club called Eco Children run by Chris Price and Denise Bishop which Mr Jones credits as one of their “great successes”.

He said: “We have three eco flags and five Welsh Government leaves which are awards to show the school is committing to eco sustainable living. We have just received phase five which is a long journey of incrementally developing the school and we are now aiming for the national award.”

The school has also just achieved Fair Trade status by meeting the criteria which includes selling Fair Trade products and collecting for Water Aid.

Another club which links in with the eco friendly ethos is Forest Schools led by Chris Jones and Faye Price.

Head teacher Mr Jones said: “The school has lovely grounds so we are using them in the best way. All pupils have access to the club after school which includes orienteering, learning how to light fires responsibly and safely, learning how to cook on the fires, and learning how to use tools responsibly and safely”.

The children can also go out in all types of weather thanks to Barclays bank who have partnered with the school and given them a grant just for the Forest Schools club. This has provided the school with a canapé which withstands all weather.

But it’s not just business and eco sustainability that the school focus on – they also put heavy importance on music and golf.

Tri-golf, a ‘mini’ version of golf designed specifically for young children at infant, primary and junior schools, is a very important aspect of physical education for the school.

The Welsh Golf Union develops pupils’ and teachers’ skills by giving them a six-week course.

“It gives children physical skills, etiquette, honour and self discipline which are excellent skills to develop in children. It is a disciplined and controlled sport and one that you can play until you’re 90 years old. This adds to our learning for life motto,” said Mr Jones.

The school also provides a strings project with Gwent Music Support Service where children in reception class learn to play either the violin or the cello.

Mr Jones said: “By the end of their first year, the children can read basic music and play basic music by plucking the chord. The product itself is great but the process is interesting and exciting.”

The school has supported the project for four years now and fully funds it. Mr Jones expressed his excitement after seeing the children become emotionally involved with music and carrying it on later in life which again applies to the “learning for life” motto.

“It just shows the commitment of the teaching staff and without their good will, the clubs would not be successful,” he said. “We are very grateful for their commitment during school hours and after school hours. We have been blessed with fantastic people in school.”

Mr Jones credited his staff for their hard work, stating that “a successful school has successful relationships”.

“We have a strong community. We have great links with the local Methodist church and we attend education Sunday. Reverend Cathy Gale, our chairwoman of governors, is a regular visitor to our school and is much welcomed.”

Llanyrafon Primary School is linked with Croesyceiliog Comprehensive School who ensure a smooth transition for the pupils going from year six to year seven.

“We are very lucky to have very good people at the comprehensive school. We have a great link with them and credit the senior staff and head teacher, David Taylor.”

It is obvious that the school is a big part of the community, providing as many possible training opportunities for future life that a primary school could offer.

Fact File

Number of pupils: 381

Head teacher: Wayne Jones

School motto: “Learning for life; Commitment to excellence”.

The schools recent Estyn report said:

“Pupils’ social and life skills are outstanding. They display these skills very well in their regular involvement in business-related projects. As a result, pupils’ oral skills are of a very high level and they actively engage in purposeful writing tasks. They display a very high level of engagement in nearly all classes. These regular and challenging business-related projects, as well the ‘Money Week’ and the involvement of pupils in a local credit union, ensure that many pupils have an excellent understanding of many aspects of financial planning.”