TWO weeks after the release of the annual school banding ratings, pupils at Pembroke Primary School pupils are singing Celebrate good times - and with good reason.
The school in Bulwark, Chepstow, was the only school in Monmouthshire to move up two categorisation in the colour-coded bandings from the Welsh Government.
The move up from red to yellow, the second-highest possible rating is an achievement which will live long in the memory for the school and its head teacher Helen Hampson, who has only been in the post for a year.
Moving from a deputy head teacher role in Lliswerry, Mrs Hampson, said that she felt an “immediate” connection with the school.
“When I first visited what struck me was the atmosphere, the respect from the children and the warmth everyone had,” she said.
“I knew then that I wanted the post and then luckily I got the job in the end.
“The school was already in a good place but it had gone through a tough leadership period.
Mrs Hampson added: “Since then the school has gone through significant improvement and everyone has been on board.”
The sense of togetherness at the school is palpable, and is reflected in its motto “Happy and secure, learning together”.
According to Mrs Hampson, who has been teaching for 15 years, the importance of working together is a key part to her own teaching ethos.
“Everything has got to be about wellbeing, trust, respect and teamwork,” said Mrs Hampson.
“It’s not about one person but everybody from the children, families, staff – everybody, but that takes time.
“Children don’t learn, and teachers don’t teach well unless they feel trusted and respected.”
The new rating has also meant that the school can open up to student teachers, an opportunity not afforded to red schools.
But the school are eager to build on their success and potentially aim for green status next year.
Pembroke Primary School hosts 264 children from the ages of three to 11, with a further 21 enrolled in its additional learning centre (ALC).
Pupils have been at the remodelled building on Fairfield Road since 2008, with the new build set on expansive grounds which also include a nursery, a playground and an outdoor classroom.
The youngsters enrolled at the school are just as acquainted with the outdoors as indoors, with Pembroke Primary one of hundreds of schools across the UK taking part in the Daily Mile - an initiative which aims to get children walking, jogging or running for 15 minutes each day.
Tucked away in the corner, the Forest School, is also a well-used feature of the school where pupils can get up close with nature through exploring themselves or through special guided tours with the Gwent Wildlife Trust.
Upon driving onto the school grounds, another of the school’s recent awards - the Eco School Platinum Flag Award - flies in plain view for visitors to see.
Inside the many classrooms named after some of Wales’ many mountains, children are enthusiastic, confident and creative.
The Creative Schools initiative, which is also employed at primary schools in Thornwell and Shirenewton, aims to get youngsters - namely young boys - writing creatively from a younger age.
The freedom given to the youngsters has led to one group of Year 4 pupils focusing on the history of Chepstow’s several bridge connections.
Using the Severn Crossings and the Wye Bridge as inspiration, the children have built a small bridge of their own in the corner of the playground with the help of caretaker Chris Pearce-Webb.
Jade Wakley, deputy head teacher, said: “We put the project in the hands of the children and this is what they’ve come up with.
“All of the writing in the planning aspect, the materials they had to find, all of that was done by them.
“They were also adamant that the bridge had to be wheelchair accessible for our disabled students.”
Such strides in pupil’s writing abilities were also recognised by the Welsh education inspectorate, Estyn, which recently completed a monitoring report of the school and saying that it had made “strong progress”.
Mrs Hampson says such recognition only adds to the feel-good atmosphere around the school at the moment. “Kelly Rennie, our chair of governors, has rallied everyone around and pulled us all together moving forward,” she said.
“Having the support of a great group of governors is a huge strength and only makes the job easier.”