RISCA Primary is a hub of learning for its enthusiastic pupils who embrace the school motto, as KATH SKELLON found out.

THE school motto-‘Inspiring, challenging, empowering, always doing our best,’ is clearly evident at Risca Primary School.

It’s a hive of activity when we arrive as the pupils eagerly wait to see the solar eclipse, watching television coverage from the safety of their classrooms.

In a nearby classroom their enthusiasm to learn is infectious as they gather around Eva the Ohbot- a robotic head that has facial recognition and can speak as though it is interacting with the children.

Year Five teacher, Kevin Barrago who also runs the ICT club explains that the school is one of five to be using the technology as part of a pilot project run by the University of Wales Newport.

“We have Eva (Electronic Visual Assistant) here for four weeks and when we return it we will give the university feedback on our findings,” he said.

“It teaches the children about computer programming rather than just using a laptop. They can programme it to have expressions when it speaks by using menu’s on a laptop to pull commands.”

“It’s got a camera that can recognise their face and has a sensor that can pick up sound.”

“It’s an exciting time,” added Mr Barrago.

Pupils strive to be the best they can and one shining example is seven-year-old Louix Passmore. The year three pupil, who has gained his grade four in violin and is working towards his grade five exam, came first in the string competition at the Regional Urdd Eisteddfod.

Deputy head, Andrea Brett-Harris said the school is immensely proud of him.

“We are so proud of Louix to get through the rounds and win. We have a peripatetic teacher who comes in to teach the children music and really try to do as much as we can,” she said.

Year six pupils Hannah Pitt and Brooke Cavan are celebrating winning bronze for the school in the primary maths challenge.

The duo are among 79,000 pupils in Britain to enter the challenge. Over 1,100 made it through to the bonus round after answering 25 multiple choice questions.

Every inch of the school is put to good use with computers, desks in the corridors as well as a brightly decorated reading corner featuring cushions and books.

The corridors and walls are decorated with artwork and projects by pupils and the school motto is written several walls.

When lessons are over the pupils are spoilt for choice when it comes to after school clubs with choices ranging from netball to football, chess, a newspaper club and sewing.

The school’s netball team is currently first in the Cluster League and is hoping to qualify for the final tournament.

There is an active school council and eco-club. The eco club has been working on ways to encourage parents to park safely around the school.

Year Two teacher, Robyn Wilford explained that there were problems with people parking dangerously around the school and on kerbs and, after monitoring the parking situation with their teachers, sent out questionnaires to parents about their concerns and decided to buy a number of green cones to place outside the school.

“Once the caretaker put the cones down the club wrote a letter to parents asking them not to park in those areas and it has been a real success,” explained Miss Wilford, who also runs the eco club.

They are now in the process of designing posters encouraging people using the road outside the school to slow down.

The club is also working towards its Green Flag platinum award.

Other initiatives includes ‘Tasty Tuesday’ in which pupils can try a variety of fruit and vegetables in the playground during break-times.

The school grounds provide plenty of space for play and learning and feature outdoor classrooms with wifi access to enable pupils to take their laptops outside to enhance their learning.

Mrs Brett-Harris explained that the school a literacy tool kit across the while school to ensure the standards in literacy lessons are high.

“All the teachers are very dedicated and have had training to deliver high quality lessons. In every class we challenge the children to do the best they can,” she added.

“Our results have shown an upward trend in the last six years and we are in the second quarter for maths and English across key stage five.”

Mrs Brett-Harris has been at the school for five year and said the school believes in celebrating the achievements and strengths of pupils, both inside and out of the classroom. Each Friday a celebration assembly is held and certificates awarded for things like good manners, behaviour and handwriting.

She said: “We encourage the children to bring in certificate or medals and to tell the school their story and success.

“No two days are the same here. We aspire to challenge the children as much as we can for them to reach their full potential. We have very bright children here and we are very proud of them.”

There is still plenty planned at the school before the end of the year including learning about Africa, celebrating Wales and visits from Welsh authors and illustrators as well as African drummers.

Among the school’s ambitious plans for the coming year is the launch of Risca Primary University where pupils will be able to sign up to a range of courses such as video animation and drama.

Last Estyn Inspection

The school was last inspected by Estyn in January 2013. The inspection team found that nearly all pupils made good progress in their learning and develop their literacy skills well.

The curriculum is broad and balanced and has a clear focus on the progressive development of pupils’ skills and that the overall quality of teaching throughout the school is good.

It is a happy and inclusive community where every pupil has equal access to the educational and social provision. The headteacher and senior management team provide clear leadership that creates a strong sense of purpose.

Fact File

Risca Primary School

Dan y Graig Road, Risca

Headteacher Jayne Arthur

Deputy head: Andrea Brett-Harris

Pupils on roll: 332

Chairman of governors: The Venerable John Blackburn.