FROM singing and playing musical instruments around a log circle to art lessons and running the healthy tuck shop, it’s a hive of activity when we arrive at Somerton Primary School in Newport.
Acting head Fiona Rutledge greets us at reception as the soothing sounds of classical singer Andrea Bocelli filter through the speaker system.
Mrs Rutledge beams with pride as we take a tour of the corridors and classrooms that are bursting with colourful artwork, hanging from the rafters and adorning the walls.
Mrs Rutledge, who has been acting head since the beginning of the term, is relishing her role at the school she describes as being at the heart of the community.
She said: “There is a buzz in the school and a real drive to keep moving the school forward.
“It’s a great place where the staff are second to none and put in 100 per cent, which has a wonderful impact on teaching and learning in the school.”
“There is always something happening in the school whether it’s a mini-beast hunt, collecting food parcels for the Harvest Festival or taking part in eco-week.”
The school’s mission statement ‘Learning, Playing and Growing Together’, which is translated into Welsh to read ‘Dysgu, chwarae, tyfu, gyda’n gilydd’.
The statement lies at the heart of the school’s values and is evident as pupils in the forest schools area play tambourines and maracas whilst singing together in the school’s log circle.
Their enthusiasm for learning both in and out of the classroom is evident. One class we visit is learning to be creative making artwork using recycled paper, whilst another is learning about healthy living and making fruit salads.
The pupils are encouraged to use their skills outside of the curriculum by running the school fruit tuck shop and have to let the teachers know when they need more fruit.
Mrs Rutledge said activities like this are giving them life skills and help with communication, confidence and thinking.
The school has several initiatives that reward pupils for their efforts. One is ‘Criw Cymraeg’ where those children who are heard speaking in Welsh have their names put into a raffle each week to win a prize.
“We choose a different Welsh phrase each week to promote the language and also hold a raffle for superb behaviour.”
“This week our phrase is ‘How is the weather’ which translates as ‘Sut mae’r tywydd.’ “If a teacher spots a child displaying good behaviour their name goes into a raffle on a Friday. We find it works really well.
“We have a rules, rewards, consequences policy which the teachers use in every classroom and reward a star pupil each week for good behaviour.”
The school also holds a talent assembly every Friday in which pupils talk about and demonstrate a talent that they have from playing the trumpet to the guitar or fishing.
“It builds their confidence and self-esteem and is proving a success,” said Mrs Rutledge.
A new initiative that stands out at the school is called Somerton Buddies. The buddies are pupils who look after the other children in the playground and wear a blue sash.
“It creates well-being and a supportive climate,” explained Mrs Rutledge.
“They each have a note book and write down how pupils are playing with each other and report back to assembly.”
“It encourages children to talk through their problems.”
It has been a busy term at the school having taken part in a healthy living and eco-week in which staff walked to school with the children in the form of a walking bus.
“We received funding for an artist and author in residence to be here during eco-week.
The children were thrilled to work with Suzanne Carpenter using recycled materials.
Year six pupils created hampers and food parcels for the Harvest Festival which they delivered locally with the help of the Parent and Teacher Association.
“Year Six have visited Lliswerry High School to experience a taster session in design technology and IT We’ve had a visit from the Mayor of Newport, John Guy and the choir took part in a citizenship ceremony at the Civic Centre.”
In sport, the pupils have had rugby training from the Welsh Rugby Union.
“We have fantastic support from our chairman of governors Sarah Morgan and the governing body as well as the PTA which fundraises all year round and is organising its first school disco this month.
There are many after-school clubs to choose from including cooking, singing, art, Welsh club, multi-sports and dodgeball run by sports development officer Ben Adams.
The school is celebrating, after its eco club was recently awarded a green flag and has revealed plans to create an eco greenhouse in the grounds next summer.
When asked what she hopes her pupils leave Somerton with Mrs Rutledge said: “I want them to have the ability to apply what they have been taught into the wider world.
“We want them to be life-long learners and to be able to cope with different situations.”
Reading initiatives are praised
THE last Estyn inspection took place in October 2011.
The inspection team, led by Eleri Hurley, found the performance of the school to be good with reading initiatives amongst its strengths.
In her findings Ms Hurley said many pupils communicate their ideas and opinions confidently and listen attentively in lessons. Pupils are very proud of their school and are well motivated and work conscientiously.
Teachers motivate pupils well to succeed and make progress in a caring, welcoming and orderly environment where every child is valued.