“COURAGE, respect, co-operation,” reads a poster in the headmistress’ office at Blenheim Road Community Primary School, and it is clear that these three words have a lot of importance here.
Co-operation is certainly the buzz word of the moment at the school in Cwmbran which has introduced more than a dozen measures to promote links between the pupils’ home and school life.
And from the number of parents spotted around the school on an ordinary Tuesday morning, it seems the measures appear to be working.
Liz Thomas, acting deputy and future associate head teacher, said parent-teacher links have been made a top priority for the school to develop ahead of its inspection expected at the beginning of next year.
Mums and dads are invited into the school regularly to join in with outdoor activities, view their children’s work and even nominate their children for achievements out of school in a special assembly.
Marie Galeozzi, who co-ordinates the school’s Home Links programme, said the involvement of parents is particularly important in Blenheim Road.
The school runs workshops for parents to learn how to teach reading at home as well as more practical parenting skills like tips on healthy eating.
Ms Galeozzi, who has taught at the school for 24 years, said: “We need parents’ support at home. They are the first educators so we do try to encourage them to assist in learning.”
“Parents have been very responsive. We have been doing the workshops every September, teaching phonics, and we have noticed a difference in the children’s levels.
“Often parents may fear school, for example if they didn’t enjoy it when they were children. But once we get them through the threshold we can show them what it’s like and they can see how their children behave in school.”
Thanks to funding from the Welsh Government for Learning through Play, from September children will be sent home with ‘activity bags’ which contain equipment for parents and children to play together, such as ingredients to bake a cake or material to build a cardboard rocket.
The bag library, which will allow these activity kits to be checked out by children, will be run by parents voluntarily, showing just how involved parents are in the school.
Despite a whole host of leadership changes in the last year, stability has returned to the school after Gill Ellis was appointed as executive head teacher.
From September Ms Ellis will run both Blenheim Road and Coed Eva Primary School in Cwmbran, with associate heads and senior management staff also appointed in each.
The new head has already impacted the school, which has 210 pupils on roll, with her plan for a larger range of extra-curricular activities at the end of the school day.
Following a Welsh Government-funded study trip to Chicago in February to see how education is run overseas, Ms Ellis introduced a series of after-school activities for Year Two pupils and upwards.
There are two 40 minute workshops with a 20 minute snack break every evening from Monday to Thursday and the places are full already.
Ms Ellis said: “It is a new initiative to raise standards within the school. We want to get the children to achieve a higher standard as is possible.”
Local community representatives from the Woodland Trust have run after-school workshops for the children, joining an assortment of other sessions teaching Minecraft, beginner’s French, and sessions on ‘how to be an author’.
Deputy head Ms Thomas said: “We figured the longer children spend in school, the more impact we can have. And not only educational benefits but it helps working parents too.
As well as these recently-launched sessions, regular extracurricular activities also take place, from the conventional football, cookery, and gardening, to the more obscure but no less exciting, Celtic band.
It is an exciting time for the school and its 19 staff members ahead of a new building to be built in 2016, which will have the capacity for 320 pupils, up from the 210 it currently houses.
At the end of next year the infants will be moved to the junior school building while the lower school is rebuilt.
The most recent inspection report, in 2011, notes the continual achievement made in foundation subjects such as numeracy, literacy, and science as well as evident progress made in Welsh studies.
And the importance of Welsh studies and local communities is also clear around the school, with the most recent topic studied in art being, “Welsh Landscapes.”
After being named as an eco-school, Blenheim Road is continuing their emphasis on the environment with regular forest school activities such as the making of mud monsters and shelters.
For pupils at Blenheim Road, it seems education has become so much more than ordinary lessons in ordinary school hours. A greater focus on parental engagement and learning through play means children are increasingly learning through different mediums, both at home and at school after hours. But when learning looks as fun as it does at Blenheim Road, it is no surprise both parents are so keen to get involved.