Milton Junior School is very proud of its pupils and works hard to prepare them for the future as CAIO IWAN finds out.
MILTON Junior School caters for more than 200 children aged between seven and 11.
Located a stone’s throw away from Milton Primary School and Milton Infants School, the school’s head teacher and her deputy tell me that a large majority of the parents there, like their children, also attended each school when they were growing up.
What is obvious at the school is that the place is very trusting of its pupils. For example, there is a child representative from each class on the school council, which also includes teachers.
In fact, during my visit, the council was discussing the school motto, which will be decided on next month at a school governors' meeting.
Joyce Tomala, who has been at the helm since returning after the Christmas break, said: “We do have a proactive governing body. They don’t just accept what we say – they ask us questions and challenge us on a few things, which is a good thing. Then, nobody gets complacent.”
The school employs eight full-time teachers, and one who works four days a week. Ms Tomala says there are many aspects the school can be proud of.
She said: “The ethos of the school is that it is very welcoming. I got the staff and children together before the Estyn inspection to ask what they thought was good about the school. What came out of it was the emphasis on welfare and care. I think both the pupils and staff feel valued and safe here.”
The school achieved an “excellent” report by the education and training inspectorate for Wales, which commented that the courtesy shown by the pupils was an obvious factor in its pleasant environment.
The most recent Estyn report, published in November 2010, said: “Pupils regularly show respect and courtesy towards staff, visitors and each other.”
These courteous values come in handy during the lunch breaks, as Ms Tomala explains: “Our Year 6 children man the reception every lunchtime and the amount of people who have commented and saying how polite they are is staggering.”
Pupils welcome school visitors and receive phone calls during the lunch hour – an insight into the real working world they will some day inevitably have to enter.
The Estyn report goes on to say: “The school provides an excellent environment for effective teaching and learning. Everyone is valued in this caring community. Excellent arrangements exist to support pupils’ health and wellbeing as well as to encourage their involvement in their school, wider community and learning.”
The school has four competitive 'houses' – Langstone, Beechwood, Christchurch and Delmont – in which the pupils compete against each other throughout the year at various events including a sports day and the eisteddfod.
One of these competitions, although not competitive as such, includes a technology-based challenge during the Easter period. Year 6’s enterprise club is also a business-motivated initiative in which the pupils raised more than £600 for the school last year by creating their own Christmas cards and gift boxes, and then selling them on. Ms Tomala says it is important to teach the pupils about managing money.
John Griffiths, who has been at the school since 1991 and is now its deputy head teacher, tells me how the school likes to remain up to date with what is going on in the news.
“We like to keep our learning topical,” he said. “A lot of the children were fascinated by the recent mystery of the missing plane in Malaysia and so we brought in a map of the world to the school as a learning tool in a way.”
James Morgan, 20, and Isaac Harrison, 19, work for Newport council’s play schemes and play clubs where they come in to different schools across the city to engage children in sporting activity and various games.
Mr Harrison said: “I was really naughty at school. We come into schools to get the children to play and interact with each other in a playful setting. I think it helps their development as kids.”
The vast majority of these children will attend Llanwern High, says Ms Tomala, adding the school has a close relationship with the secondary school to ensure the transition to comprehensive education will be as smooth as possible for the children.
But for now, they seem quite happy where they are.
Number of pupils: 207, aged between seven and 11.
Head teacher: Joyce Tomala.
Chairman of governors: Cllr Malcolm Linton.
The school’s Estyn report said: “All pupils feel safe and happy in school and their behaviour is excellent. Pupils regularly show respect and courtesy towards staff, visitors and each other. All pupils understand the need to take exercise and to eat healthily. The majority of pupils are well motivated and have excellent attitudes to learning.
“The school provides an excellent environment for effective teaching and learning. Everyone is valued in this caring community.
“Considering their linguistic background, the majority of pupils make good progress in gaining skills in the Welsh language.”