From playing golf to learning about the circus – children’s ideas are at the centre of the curriculum at Cwmbran’s Pontnewydd Primary School. CATHERINE COOK reports.
IF HEAD teacher Kerry Waters could bottle his enthusiasm and sell it, he would be richer that Alan Sugar.
Mr Waters has only been at Pontnewydd Primary School just over four years and in that time he has certainly made his mark. The latest inspection report stated that “the leadership and management of
the school is outstanding. The head teacher has totally rejuvenated the school through an unremitting focus on raising standards”.
Mr Waters is quick to point out, however, that his job is made easier by the “incredible dedicated and hard-working staff who are constantly looking for new ideas and ways forward”.
There are certainly a range of learning activities on offer, all curriculum based but with an exciting and different twist. Mr Hawyes is a PE co-ordinator within the school and was taking a golf
lesson with Year 4 on my visit.
It was an indoor lesson but I was informed that outside in the school grounds there is a small putting green so that pupils can practise outdoors as well. Mr Hawyes is an international clay pigeon
shooter and his photograph with his award is proudly on display in the entrance hall.
“The interest in golf really developed with the excitement of the Ryder Cup and we have gone from strength to strength with our outdoor course used throughout the summer months,” said Mr Hawyes.
“That means that whatever the weather we are able to pursue this activity.”
Year 2 were doing a Circus Topic that is incorporated throughout the curriculum. Teacher Mrs Paulette Cox had thought up the idea and the class even had their own Big Top and costumes for the
“From this central topic, pupils had a brainstorming session and stated what they wanted to learn about circuses. So it is a child-led study” Mr Waters said. “They have been covering such topics as
the history of circus; geography – where circuses began; science and PE – balancing; maths and English with creative writing also covered. Even the origins of face painting.” The children were
having their faces painted the day I visited and it looked great fun with clowns, tigers and even a ring master. “We want our pupils to learn in a happy and productive environment.” Mr Waters said.
“We want all our lessons to be fun, meaningful and challenging and that is why we use the International Primary Curriculum. It’s a skillsled curriculum that totally engages the children and
encourages lifelong learning which fits in so well with our school ethos of ‘Every child, Every Chance, Every Day.’ In the reception class, a group of pupils were having an ‘iPod Touch’ lesson.
Miss Sarah Richardson was taking the group and pupils utilise the aid with their writing and maths.
Children throughout the school are involved in this scheme and it is bang up to date for the modern child. “Nowadays children are au fait with technology and become really excited when using the
Some pick it up so quickly and soon become better than many adults,”
said Mr Waters.
“One of our main focus points this year is developing reading and we have launched a pilot project in tandem with parents to encourage boys’ interest in reading using the latest technology. The
children on the project are each given an iPod Touch and staff have made a series of podcasts for parents on developing their children’s reading. Every fortnight the children bring in the iPods and
a new podcast is downloaded together with some language games. If successful, we intend to widen the project to all parents by placing podcasts on the school website.”
Mrs Kate Bishop is in charge of the nursery unit where children can attend after their third birthday.
There is a morning session and an afternoon session with some pupils staying all day. At present the intake number is 63 and they are currently doing a literacy animal topic entitled ‘Bear Hunt’.
Mr Waters was keen to show me the new reading room that has been transformed from an old medical room.
Head of infants Mrs Ann-Marie Maloney was insitu with a group of pupils and it was her passion to change the room and even began painting the walls herself. “I was very lucky to have one of the
parents come in and paint some wonderful and interesting pictures on the walls to make it even more child friendly” said Mrs Maloney.
After the school day ends the building is used by the community.
The Girls Friendly Society, Brownies and (soon to be launched) a First Aid Club for parents and children to work in conjunction with St John Ambulance.
Since September there has been an innovative development during break and lunchtimes in the playground.
The Restorative Justice Team consists of eight members who are willing to listen to any disagreements or issues that may arise during those times and help to solve problems.
“Children feel more confident to talk to a member of the team,” said Mrs Kelly Cox, whose brainchild this scheme is. “And it means staff have more teaching time in the classrooms instead of sorting
out problems. It has proved a very big success for the children and has developed a sense of well-being.”
Another initiative set up is a team of ‘leaders’ trained by Medi James to teach children outdoor games and organise group activities. “It helps to promote respect and patience and teaches
co-operation and communication skills,” said Miss James.
“The leaders abide by a series of rules that are pre-taught in the classroom before they go on to the yard to practise these skills.” Miss James is currently developing Boxercise lessons and
recently did a demonstration via a video link with a school in China who in turn demonstrated tai chi.
After-school activities include bird watching; science; music; gardening; a Parents ICT Club; dodge ball club and chess club. There is also the usual range of seasonal sports clubs on offer
together with music clubs.
Mr Waters said that the Friends of Pontnewydd were incredibly supportive and had raised about £10,000 which had been used to buy outdoor play equipment including a pirate ship. “They are so
supportive and always help out at classroom assemblies with refreshments or at any other occasion when they are required. Their fundraising is astonishing.”
“I am also fortunate in having a strong board of governors who are very supportive of the school.”
School caretaker Gerry Hobbs is on duty from 8am every day and welcomes the children into school with a cheerful hello. He also manages the car parking facilities and is always there at the end of
the day to wish the children goodbye.
“He is definitely one of our un-sung heroes and a figurehead at the school,” said Mr Waters.
He said: “We want to be as innovative as possible here at Pontnewydd and strive to provide pupils with as wide a range of skills as possible.”
Head teacher: Kerry Waters
Deputy head teacher: Samantha Rowland
Number of teaching staff: 19 Support staff : 25 approx
Children on Roll: 428, nursery 63
Age range: Three to 11yrs
Chairman of governors: A Tait
THE latest inspection was done in November 2008. Findings included:
● Good standards that pupils are achieving result from very strong leadership, critical selfevaluation and high-quality teaching.
● Pupils’ skills in information and communication technology and problem-solving are outstanding.
● Pupils make good progress in their personal, spiritual, social, moral and wider development. Their behaviour and degree of respect they show for others is exceptional.