NAMED after the head of the Anglican Church, a Portskewett school has a strong Christian ethos – and its green-fingered youngsters are blooming. CATHERINE COOK reports.
ARCHBISHOP Rowan Williams Church in Wales Voluntary Aided Primary School is located in the village of Portskewett and was built in 2001 when head teacher Graham Murphy was appointed.
“It’s quite rare to have a school named after someone who is still living,” Mr Murphy said,“and we count ourselves extremely fortunate to have this link with Archbishop Rowan Williams.”
The Archbishop has often visited the school and pupils from Year 6 will be visiting Lambeth Palace before the Archbishop retires.
“We have massive amounts of communication with Archbishop Williams and the links will still continue after his retirement.”
The pupils have recently planted fruit trees which are indigenous to the surrounding area. “We have planted Worcester and Cox’s apples as well as plums, cherries, raspberries and gooseberries. The trees are planted in an avenue and we hope they will be here for many years to come. They are already becoming well established,” Mr Murphy said.
The school prides itself on its floral displays around the grounds and the allotments are bursting with produce.
“Every single plant has been planted by the children. I believe it is important to leave a legacy” said Mr Murphy “for future pupils and parents and anyone who has had links with our school.”
There are close links with Penhow and PW Halses garden centres which have donated tomato and bean plants, as well as flowers for the grounds.
The school has been fortunate to have been approached by Siemens UK which has volunteered to help with any groundwork.
“We had 120 tonnes of topsoil delivered and five tons of bark chippings to go on the top. All the children have spread the bark themselves.”
Continuing with the outside tour of the grounds I saw a recently erected bird hide, polytunnel and even a chicken run with four hens who laid eggs on a regular basis.
One area of the grounds has been left ‘wild’ “we only cut that area twice a year” Mr Murphy said. “As we are built on a Roman site we have developed plants synonymous with the Roman era. That’s why it looks so different to the rest of our school site.”
The latest inspection report stated that the school’s ‘strong Christian ethos very positively pervades all aspects of its life and work.’ This could be the reason why the school is oversubscribed as families want their children to be educated in such an environment.
“We have close links with the community and we are always thinking of ways to raise money for charity,”
Mr Murphy said. Pupils, staff and parents have raised £1,000 for Children with Meningitis, £300 for the Poppy Appeal and over £5,000 for pupil Eloise Lawn to name but a few causes. Four-year-old Eloise was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer in January but has since returned to school after receiving chemotherapy.
The school is occasionally used for private events and recently celebrated the Queen’s Jubilee. The school fields are used by the community and parents and Friends of the School have free use of the car park when attending church or the community hall nearby.
“The local Bluebell Nursery and a special needs unit use the grounds and we often do joint events,” said Mr Murphy.
The school has won an award for best pupil attendance in the whole of Wales.
Mr Murphy lives on a small holding with his wife and family.
He has dogs, sheep, chickens, ducks and donkeys on his ‘farm’. “I have brought the donkeys into school for the children to stroke and ride on and taken them to a service in St Mary’s Church, Caldicot.”
Year four performed with a mass choir at St David’s Hall with pupils from all over Gwent.
They have also attended a Celtic Music Festival at Tredegar Park. This year pupils and staff held an Olympic-type sports day and were supported by local sportsman David Broome who donated and presented prizes for the winners.
“I had to do the opening speech that was written for me by pupil Joseph Lloyd and school musicians performed the opening ceremony along with entertainment that included dancing and the school choir,” said Mr Murphy.
“The governing body and my staff show an absolute commitment to provide the best care and opportunity for the children. Our partnership with parents is paramount to our success and they are totally appreciative and supportive.”
Head Teacher: Graham Murphy
Inspectors give praise
INSPECTION report – July 2009
● Standards in pupils’ personal, social, moral, spiritual, and cultural development are outstanding.
● Excellent working relationships between members of staff and pupils are a feature of every class in the school.
● Shared values and expectations are a notable feature of the school.