Pupils at Castle Park Primary are leaping to success both in and outside of the classroom as KATH SKELLON finds out.
THE school motto- ‘Enjoyment in Learning’-is clearly evident at Castle Park Primary as pupils happily make use of outdoor play equipment in the vast grounds that lie a stone’s throw from the town’s famous castle.
From climbing frames to a reading house, a sandpit and a forest school, there has been significant investment in outdoor learning and play with support from the school’s friends association, The Friends of Castle Park.
Year one pupils have benefited from an all-new outdoor area, while plans are afoot to put a seating area in place thanks to a recent welly walk by children and staff which raised around £1,300.
“The children make good use of outdoor areas. They use them for reading, writing. We use the environment to try and engage learners,” explained Jon Keohane, the school’s deputy head teacher.
Pupils are spoilt for choice when it comes to enjoying the school grounds. One such space is a seating area where the junior leadership team has developed a bird feeding station.
Mr Keohane, who is one of the school’s newest members of staff, said the vision is for Castle Park Primary to be a school the community is proud of.
“We want to be a school for Caldicot that Caldicot is proud of,” said Mr Keohane, who joined the school in January.
“It is going from strength to strength and we are on an exciting journey.
“We are a good school but we want to be excellent.
“It is a testament to the school that lots of staff members send their children here.”
Mr Keohane said the school, which opened in 2008 following the amalgamation of Sandy Lane Infants and St Mary’s Junior Schools, has entered into a new era, led by school head Kay Ford who took up the post at the beginning of last year.
He said: “We have an amazing team of dedicated staff that pulls together and that is a major strength of the school.
“It has been a whirlwind few months since arriving at Castle Park but a good whirlwind.”
An important aspect of school life is that pupils have a voice through the school council which is known as junior leadership.
“They help to shape the future of Castle Park and are invited to governors meeting and are currently leading a project on uniform.
“We are planning to introduce a head boy and girl in year six in roles that will prepare them for the wider world.”
Mr Keohane said the school believes in celebrating the achievements and strengths of pupils, both inside and out of the classroom. Each Friday a star of the week from every class is chosen.
He said: “We encourage the children to bring in certificate or medals and to tell the school their story and success.
“There is a feeling here of community and that the pupils value and respect each other.”
All areas of the school, which is housed in two buildings, are a hive of activity - among them is an advanced multi-functional space known as the learning plaza.
As one of the newest additions to the building, the spacious room boasts cutting edge equipment for video conferencing, plasma tv screens, iPads and laptops. It features banana seating and moveable chairs and tables that can be wheeled through tri-folding glass doors to assist in outdoor learning.
He said: “Every child has the use of a laptop. We are trying to teach them about becoming independent and having the skills to research.”
Music is played in the corridor and can regularly be heard in the music room where pupils can learn to play instruments.
There are also after school clubs including sports, a choir, iPad technology and a Welsh country dancing club.
As the children return from half-term, they are looking forward to the annual sports day and performing ‘Cinderella Rockerfella’
Among the school’s ambitious plans for the coming year is the launch of a new website, which governor Dan Davies has been instrumental in developing and will help to forge even stronger links with parents.
When asked what he hopes the children leave Castle Park with, he replied: “We want them to reach their potential to be successful and success is individual. We want to give them that platform that they can fly and achieve what they want to.
“We want children who are happy, who love coming back to see us and who will look back after learning and think that was one of the best times of my life, with fondness of their teachers and enjoyment in learning.”
Castle Park Primary, Church Road, Caldicot
Head: Kay Ford
Deputy Head: Jon Keohane
Number of pupils: 193
Age of pupils: four to 11-years-old
Chairman of governors: Councillor Dave Edwards
Last Inspection: March 2010
In the school’s last Estyn Inspection, inspector Jeffrey Beecher found Castle Park Primary to be at the heart of the local community, providing a broad and relevant curriculum and a caring and supportive learning environment.
The inspection highlighted many good features, including a high level of challenge and expectation, good subject knowledge and expertise, high expectations and good lesson management ensuring a brisk pace that keeps pupils involved and on task in key stage one and two.
Outstanding features of teaching include excellent organisation combined with effective use of stimulating activities and strategies to engage pupils totally in the learning process.