Briery Hill Primary, in the heart of a community in the Ebbw Valley, is a hive of activity, as KATH SKELLON found out.

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BRIERY Hill Primary is a small school that lies at the heart of its community in the Ebbw Valley.

The school nestles on the hillside, providing its 82 pupils with panoramic views of Ebbw Vale town.

A Victorian bell from the Old Foundry School stands in the corridor of the modern building as a poignant reminder of its history.

The school is a hive of activity both in and out of the classroom.

This term, the children in years five and six have been learning about the night sky and watching BBC Stargazing Live with great enthusiasm.

Deputy head Lynne Wright said the television series encouraged the children to take part in science in the classroom, where they are currently working on a Space science fiction project.

Mrs Wright said while it is important for the children to learn about their local history, she is also keen to broaden their horizons by linking Briery Hill with a primary school in the Caribbean, 4,000 miles away.

The school has set up a teacher exchange programme as part of its global citizenship and was last year visited by Dellon Edwards, a teacher at St Joseph’s Roman Catholic School in Grenada.

“The children were fascinated to learn about the different ways of teaching over there and also by the different ways of speaking and the way people look,” said Mrs Wright.

Across the school, which is split over two levels, there is much activity. With the morning assembly over, the children queue up to buy their fruit.

“It’s about more than healthy eating,” explained Mrs Wright.

“The children who sell the fruit are responsible for taking and banking the money, which helps develop skills like maths.”

The school is taking part in the national UNICEF Rights Respecting Schools initiative, which aims to teach children to understand and respect their rights and responsibilities.

The children have set up a steering group and designed a large mural depicting a church, school and playground, to represent their right to practise their own religion, to have an education and to play.

“Each month, they take their own ideas and design a poster with their right of the month which is currently to ‘become the best you can’,” said Mrs Wright.

In the vast play area, the children have formed a gardening club and many pupils excel in sports such as football, rugby, netball and athletics.

There are several after-school clubs, including singing and dancing.

The dance group is working on a dance routine to Lady Gaga’s Born This Way, with the help of a professional dance teacher who visits the school regularly.

“The after-school classes and, particularly the dance really help to build their confidence,”

said Mrs Wright.

Every Thursday, the children can be heard learning to play musical instruments and singing in the choir, with the help of Gwent Music Services.

“They are learning to play violins, clarinet, flutes and samba drumming,” added Mrs Wright.

In 2010, Briery Hill and Willowtown Primary Schools became the first in Wales to create a federation scheme which joins the two schools together under one leadership team and single governing body.

The school’s motto, ‘Growing and Learning Together,’ and symbol of a dove is one which Mrs Wright says is at the core of the school’s values.

“It’s about building aspirations for our children and for them to know they can achieve anything they want with their life,” she explained.

When asked what she hopes the children will leave Briery Hill with, she replied: “I want the children to leave with the confidence and aspirations to go into secondary school and society to fulfil their potential.”

School has greatly improved of late

THE school was re-inspected in 2010 and removed from special measures that were placed on the school following a previous inspection in 2008.

The latest inspection found the school had made significant improvement and was being taken forward by the acting head and deputy head with a clear direction and vision.

This has had a positive impact on pupils’ attitude and work. Almost all pupils show good levels of interest in their work and make a good effort to do it to the best of their ability. Their behaviour and attitudes are excellent.


SCHOOL: Briery Hill Primary School, Woodside Crescent, Ebbw Vale, Blaenau Gwent. NP23 6BY

HEAD: Robert Gardiner

DEPUTY HEAD: Lynne Wright

PUPILS: 82 children aged 3-11.