It's a fun learning environment at Willowtown Community Primary School as KEILIGH BAKER finds out.

WILLOWTOWN Community Primary School is situated in Ebbw Vale, about half a mile from the town centre.

The school is administered by Blaenau Gwent Council and provides education for pupils between three and 11-years-old.

It is based in a beautiful and modern building built on the old school playing field in January 2007, and uses nearby public fields for school events.

There are two outdoor playgrounds with netball and football facilities, one of which is a hard surface and the other artificial turf.

Outside there are many educational and fun toys for the children to play with during their break and lunch times, which ensures they are busy and engaged at these times.

There are currently 379 pupils from nursery and reception age onwards. Pupils are taught in single and mixed age year classes.

There are 15 full-time teachers including the head teacher and four part-time teachers with 12 classes including one nursery and a special needs unit housed in two classrooms.

There are 14 full-time and five part-time learning support assistants and two full-time and one part-time school administrative assistants.

The last Estyn inspection took place in January 2010, meaning the school is due a new one shortly.

Most of the area the school serves is categorised as being in the ten per cent most deprived in Wales.

According to Estyn, most pupils come from backgrounds which are socio-economically deprived, and nearly all come from homes where English is the main or only language with none speaking Welsh as a first language.

Around 33 per cent of pupils are entitled to receive free school meals, above the all-Wales national average of 19.7 per cent.

The school holds the Basic Skills Agency’s Quality Mark 3 and received its second Healthy School Accreditation. It has achieved Silver Eco, Intermediate level International School and Certificate of Achievement Biodiversity Awards.

The school’s mission statement is: “Willowtown Community Primary School strives to provide a welcoming, respectful, happy, caring and secure working environment for all; one in which pupils will be educated appropriately in terms of the changing demands of the world in which they live to the highest possible standard.”

Its overall aim is to value all and focus on achieving potential for all by creating a healthy, stimulating, caring and inclusive environment where learners are able to achieve their potential.

The foundation stage children of years one and two are currently looking after a group of chicks. A teacher brought 12 chicken eggs into the school and an incubator to keep them in, and the children were lucky to catch the first two chickens hatching out of their eggs.

It’s another of the little features that make the school feel special.

But the most outstanding feature of the school has to be the pupils themselves. Each of them, even the smallest, politely says hello to the head teacher or governors as they go past and is keen to engage in conversation.

The Estyn report found the school was at levels one and two in all aspects – level one is good with outstanding features and level two means good features and no important shortcomings.

The school offers football, rugby, breakfast and kids club after school, and classes have the chance to look after their own little plot of land.

The school also offers two lovely community suites which are used for training, meetings, class activities and functions.

This year the school has piloted a new scheme, which sees children move into their next classrooms for the following academic year six weeks before the end of term.

Head teacher Robert Gardner said: “We are piloting this scheme to minimise the impact and effect of the change to a new classroom on the children.

“When they come back after the six-week summer holiday, they are confronted with a new classroom, a new teacher.

“It can be difficult for them to settle down – in fact it can take weeks.

“The idea behind this is to ease the children in gently. For instance, the nursery children are taken by their current teacher to the reception class room.

“They are introduced to their new teacher, and have this time to settle into their new environment.

“They don’t do reception level work until they come back from the holidays, when they are able to slip straight back into the swing of things.

“Similarly, with our Year 6 pupils, we have taken them to the high school for a couple of days a week.

“It has gone really well so far, and if it is a success it will be something we will continue to implement.

“We have the support of the board of governors and the vast majority of parents too, and as in all we do, it has the children’s well-being at the forefront.”

The building is covered in beautiful displays of pupils’ work, which enhances the school environment.

Furthermore, the foundation phase accommodation and provision is fully integrated to provide a wide range of indoor and outdoor activities for children.

Children appear happy and well adjusted, and the school choir is doing particularly well, having performed for the Queen a couple of years ago.

Headteacher: Robert Gardner

Chairwoman of governors: Cllr Jen Morgan

No. of pupils: 379

Age range: Nursery - Year 6