CELEBRATING its tenth anniversary this year, Coed-y-Garn Primary School is one of the most improving schools in Blaenau Gwent.

With nearly 300 pupils from the age of four to 11 and around 45 members of staff, Coed-y-Garn has a busy atmosphere with a community feel.

Head teacher Andrew Brasington, who has been in his post since September 2013, said he is proud of the school and the improvements they have achieved together over the past couple of years.

“What I am proud about is how we don’t just drum in numeracy and literacy, which the Welsh Government want us to focus on, but we have been able to flesh out the curriculum a bit more and allow it to be a little more exciting for the children,” he said.

“We are a local school where the majority of our pupils are within walking distance and what we try to do, is no matter what a child’s background is and whether they have a limited upbringing, they can develop as children at our school which can make a big difference. What we do is focus on the small things.”

The school was built in 2006 on the site of the old Coed Cae Junior School and was an amalgamation of Coed Cae and nearby Garnfach Infant School. The building itself has been commemorated to local designer and builder Keith Morris.

In March 2014, the school achieved an adequate rating in its Estyn report but has since been pushing towards a good level.

Two years ago the structure of the school changed from being a two-form entry to mixing two year groups across three classes. This was done due to class sizes, which were no longer big enough to sustain two-form entry but too large for a single-form entry.

Mr Brasington added: “At first parents were wary about whether their children were being held back, as they may have gone from being in year three to year three/four but it has meant that the curriculum has had to be more flexible and we have seen an improvement on the whole.”

The biggest change in the school came three years ago when each pupil was provided with an iPad to use throughout the day, and that has seen a significant change in day-to-day life of the pupils.

IT skills are seen as essential for children in a modern school environment and the accommodation for the digital age means that there is plenty of time spent being creative on the devices.

On the school’s first floor, there is also a special green room with a green screen where groups of children can do group presentations and film themselves for various activities.

Deputy head teacher Fiona Lott said: “It has meant that children can cut down on their time spent looking at things or trying to find anything out as its there at the touch of the button. Classes have become more interactive and that can benefit a child’s learning.”

A group of six pupils in year six are the school’s ‘digital leaders’, who every Tuesday stay after school and help children in year one/two learn how to use an iPad and other technical devices.

Just for the six children to become the school’s digital leaders, they had to complete an application for the role as part of a school project, which included doing an interactive presentation showcasing their skills and telling peers of why they wanted to do it.

Eleven year-old’s Ryan Cecil, Aliesha Jones, Emelia Perry-Jones and head girl Elise Jefferies are all part of the digital leadership team and spoke with great enthusiasm about it.

Elise said: “Everyone in year six got a chance to show how good they are and what we can do on an iPad.”

Ryan added: “We make presentations on them and help the teachers and other pupils in the after-school club.”

Head teacher Mr Brasington added: “It’s amazing just how they can do on the iPad and they can make us look quite bad at times. Even when I spoke to a pupil earlier this week about how her school project went, she found out a lot of information on snakes through using her iPad and then got a picture which she used in a presentation.

“Previously you would have to go to a library, take a book out and bring it in, so it just shows how much quicker and easier the learning process can be. Another thing is how little we need our computer rooms these days.”

The school also has regular trips away for pupils to try and give them a more thorough, all round perspective and recently the year five and six kids went to the Harry Potter studio tour at Pinewood near London.

All the children got split into the four Hogwarts houses with a tie and they spoke enthusiastically about how much they enjoyed the trip.

This term, pupils have also been doing work creating their own song from the sixties by using one of several classics as a starting point. To go alongside this, the top floor of the school has been turned into a mock Abbey Road, with the floor resembling a zebra crossing and a big Abbey Road sign.

Furthermore, some pupils have been involved in the school’s production of Shakespeare’s classic ‘The Tempest’ and performed it at the nearby Beaufort Theatre.

Coed-y-Garn Primary School is 11th out of the 25 primary schools in Blaenau Gwent in terms of its school budget per pupil and a higher than average number of pupils receive free school meals at 40 per cent.

Twenty-seven per cent of its pupils have additional learning needs with 10 pupils having special educational needs. Children learn Welsh as a secondary language.

Head teacher Mr Brasington added: “We want children to enjoy being at school and feel enthusiastic about it and doing a range of activities makes there learning more fun and also a bit more real.

“On a Friday we have a top-table at lunch time where children that have done something special during the week, whether it’s a good piece of homework or shown some generosity can sit with myself and the deputy head for lunch and they get a chocolate roll and fruit juice, it’s not much but they absolutely love it.

“We also try and make the most of our school trips as we know that for many of the children, they won’t get a chance to visit these places except when with the school.”