SCHOOL of the Week –Milton Infants School

The head of a Newport infants' school is a firm believer that instilling a love of learning in her pupils now will continue throughout their life. KATHARINE SKELLON visits Milton Infants School

“IF YOU love learning, you love life,” said Sue Wilson, head of Milton Infants School in Ringland, Newport.

“That is our motto. If we can instil learning they will go on to do better things and they will love their life.

“I want them to know they can do whatever they want if they do all their work.”

Its 297 pupils, who range from nursery to Year Two, have taken this to their hearts and their desire to learn is infectious.

When we arrive at the school, which shares its ground with the junior school, the children are immersed in learning, whether it is through play, activities or in the classroom, and their enthusiasm is evident.

The children’s talent for art is outstanding. From the moment you enter the building the many walls and corridors provide a rainbow of colours through displays of their many projects and artwork.

Mrs Wilson, who has been school head for 13 years, beams with pride as she takes us on a tour of the school.

“It’s a great place to be,” she said.

“It is a caring school. Every single member of staff cares and that helps to make a difference.

“No two days are the same, but it’s a joy to come into work each day and there is always something going on.

“It is a vibrant learning community where learning is fun in a nice atmosphere.

An Estyn Inspection carried out at the end of last year gave the school a glowing report and praised its performance and prospects for improvement as “excellent”.

“I have a strong team that works tirelessly to provide a consistently high quality of education. My staff have high expectations of pupils and encourage them to strive to be the best they can.”

In the nursery class, the children are taking advantage of the dry weather in the outdoor area and using a range of equipment to enhance their learning.

Among the newest equipment that is proving popular is a climbing frame and slide.

“We are very well-resourced and the children are eager to make good use of it whenever they can,” said Mrs Wilson.

Back in the classroom, and the reception children are concentrating on learning about the cost of different items with their teacher, Samantha Thomas. The classrooms at Milton Infants are stimulating and colourful.

Pupils are surrounded by eye-catching paintings that fill the classroom walls. A string line runs from one wall to another high above their desks and is used to hang cards documenting visits, using maths and pictures of them taking part in activities such as throwing and catching.

The emphasis is on interactive learning and one such project the children are excited about is incubating eggs and watching chickens hatch.

“Our Year Two have cared for and watched eggs hatching and were enthralled, so we have decided to run it again for our Year One class,” said Mrs Wilson.

The school has recently celebrated success as runners up in the regional final of the Enterprise Troopers Primary School Competition, run by the Welsh Assembly as part of Big Ideas Wales. It was also named first for the most innovative idea when they created their own books and sold them.

“They are very creative writers and did exceptionally well,” said Mrs Wilson.

The school celebrates pupils’ achievements with its ‘star of the week’ awards, held each Thursday.

“The children earn certificates for a variety of things, not just academic. They get a certificate to take home and one is pegged in the hall.

“It encourages them to do their best and be the best they can.”

The best piece of extended writing is also displayed on a board outside the Year Two classroom.

As well as classroom work, the school runs an eco-committee and a school council. After-school clubs include an illustrators’ club, PE club, healthy living club and a dance club.

Within the grounds is a ‘forest schools’ area and several vegetable patches which the children help to grow and maintain.

On Fridays, visitors to the school will hear the sounds of singing in the hall. This year the pupils are enjoying learning to play a more unusual instrument – the ukulele.

“Our learning support assistant taught herself to play the instrument after some training and is now teaching the children who really enjoy it.

“Their first performance was on St David’s Day and many of them have even bought their own. It also helps with their confidence.”

When asked what she hopes the children leave her school with, Mrs Wilson replied; “To be life-long learners.

“To have grasped the love of learning and for that to continue throughout their lives. If you love learning, you love life.”

Fact file

Head: Mrs Sue Wilson

Deputy head: Kate Edwards

Address: Milton Infants School, Hendre Farm Drive, Newport.

Pupils: 297, aged three to seven

Chairwoman of governors: Marja Grey

Last inspection: The school was last inspected in November 2013 when it received a glowing report from Estyn. The inspector, Susan Davies, found the school’s performance and prospects for improvement excellent. Mrs Davies said pupils make exceptional progress and achieve well above expectations during their time at school. She found the standards of literacy and information and communication skills are very high and nearly all the pupils are very well behaved and have an outstanding attitude towards learning.