THE beauty of a small primary school is that everyone can be involved in the same topic from reception through to year six.
This was what the head of Ponthir Church in Wales School, Ceris Spooner, impressed on the Argus as she took us on a tour of her primary.
In a secluded area of the school gardens, we found hedgehogs made out of paperback books, while at the other end of the lawns I stumbled upon a shelter made with recycled bottles.
Ms Spooner told me the primary in School Close was the first fairtrade school in Torfaen and is going for its third green flag this year.
As a small establishment with just over 100 pupils, she explains they have a “fabulous” group of pupils drawn from every single year group making up their Fairtrade, Eco and School Council.
Year 1 teacher Helen Harvey, 37, said: “We try to build their confidence and self esteem.
“Then we can help them with the learning. It makes them more comfortable with themselves.
“We also try to make their learning creative, which is more fun.”
Making efforts to promote the environment appears to be an important feature of the school.
Hence Ponthir carried out a survey to find out what parents thought about parking near the school and created short films on the issue which were shown at a governors’ meeting.
In addition, social landlord Melin Homes visited the primary to discuss an energy saving project with the Fairtrade, Eco and School Council.
The school has done work on its meadowland with an area for wildflowers, a small orchard and a faith garden.
Ponthir primary also uses innovative methods to enhance teaching, for instance through the use of sign language.
Carys White teaches children the British hand signs, which helps to boost their literacy skills.
She uses occasional signs, for instance one representing an octopus, or another for a tea cup during singing, which helps them memorise the lyrics.
The pupils also take pride in learning a new language, which can be used with people with hearing impairments.
Mrs White, 28, said: “For young children it is quite a visual cue.
“It really helps them with visual learning and they are fascinated they can communicate with somebody who is deaf.”
Inside the classroom, we find budding chefs hard at work worked making delicious pizzas.
The lesson seems to be straight forward cooking but is in fact the final part of a four–week project which combining design and technology with literacy, numeracy and art.
The children had to design their pizzas - some savoury and others sweet - create boxes with the right dimensions for them, and finally cook them in class.
Elinor (corr) Redmond, 10, made a sweet pizza inspired by the adventures of JK Rowling’s favourite wizard.
She said: “I’m obsessed with Harry Potter. I love it – I like sweets.”
Meanwhile, Ayaan Syed (both corr), nine, created a more traditional, “quick snack” pizza with pepperoni and cheese toppings.
He said: “You can eat it quickly. I mostly enjoyed the design. You had to figure it out. I don’t really cook at home – It is the first time I have cooked something.”
Their teacher Kate Spooner, 30, said: “By the time they eat them they realise how difficult pizzas are to make.
“We have managed to put everything, numeracy, literacy and art into it.”
The head teacher praised her staff for using refreshing ways to teach children at her school.
She also paid tribute to her staff including lunchtime supervisor Sue Hayman who retired this month after 15 years at Ponthir.
Ms Spooner, 53, said: “I am very fortunate as a head teacher to have such dedicated, hardworking and talented staff and the support of my governing body.
“This is a vibrant, fun and exciting place to learn.
“We firmly believe children learn through engaging and interesting activities.
“Children learn through experiences and at Ponthir we want to give them the experience to go out into the world.”
• The hedgehogs will be sold at the school fete to be held from 3.30pm on June 27. For more information log on to ponthirchurchschool.co.uk.
Head Teacher: Ceris Spooner
Assistant head: Tina Davey
Children on roll: 106
Chairman of Governors: Ken Jacob
School Motto: Together we care, learn and grow
In its latest inspection report published in 2010, Estyn found that the school was improving, standards were at least good in all classes and around a third of the teaching was outstanding.
The schools’ inspectorate said the quality of provision and leadership were also consistently good.
Estyn added that overall Ponthir did consistently well in national curriculum assessments and its results were frequently among the highest when compared to similar schools.
The watchdog found the teaching, training and assessment was good with outstanding features, and overall the school had good features.
All learners, whatever their aptitude, ability or social or ethnic background made good progress through the school and fulfilled their potential.
Standards in the key skills of listening and speaking were outstanding across the school and learners made good progress in their reading abilities.
Estyn said that bilingualism was generally well developed, all learners had a positive attitude to learning Welsh and learners’ behaviour throughout the day was exemplary.