CEFN Fforest Primary School is at the heart of the community and aims to instil morals and manners in its pupils. Niall Griffiths finds out more.

The current school was established in 2000 and is split across two bustling sites, catering for 325 pupils from ages three to 11.

Despite the demanding surroundings, including 33 percent of pupils on free school meals, headteacher Julie Farmer finds her role a fulfilling one.

She said: "It's a challenging job and a challenging area, with Cefn Fforest having many issues.

"So when we get it right with the community it's so rewarding."

While its primary task is to educate its pupils, staff and local volunteers offer extra-curricular services to support the small ward of Cefn Fforest.

The Little Angels Playgroup for rising threes operates from the school, supporting the early development of the emotional and social needs of local children.

A repurposed kitchen in the infant school building doubles as a classroom for community classes on subjects such as mental and sexual health.

These community outreach programmes also look to help families cope with parenting, domestic violence, learning difficulties and housing.

The school and its pupils also run a food co-op from the infant department, selling fresh fruit and vegetables for £3 per bag to the community.

"It's very popular with the pupils and families in the area," said Mrs Farmer.

"I feel we really are the centre of the community by supporting both parents and children."

Every door that is opened to visitors is held by a pupil, an indication of the morals and manners instilled in the pupils from a young age.

Across both sites there is a remarkable amount of space for pupils to roam, with different sections catering for different needs.

On the infant department site, pupils have access to several play areas where they can assemble structures with foam blocks.

There are also more “green areas” where pupils can get their fingers dirty by keeping an eye on their multiple “mini beast” habitats.

"Since we've put them in, they've become one of the most popular places in the playground," said Mrs Farmer.

Inside the colourful classrooms, pupils develop their basic skills by undertaking Jack and the Beanstalk-themed activities such as 'Jellybean Maths' and 'Castles in the Sky'.

Pupil replicas of work by famous painters Giuseppe Arcimboldo and Wassily Kandinsky cover the walls, a good indicator of their artistic side.

"Some of these kids are so creative, from such a young age," said Mrs Farmer.

"The detail they are putting into some of these drawings is just stunning."

Due to the built-up area around the school, the Welsh Assembly programme 'Kerbcraft' is an important part of pupils' learning.

Youngsters are told the safest way to cross the busy roads by volunteers from Caerphilly County Council.

Pupils demonstrate a great awareness as they identify where is safe to cross along a busy street filled with parked cars

Walking safely across the road to the junior school Mrs Farmer is keen to show off the school's 'Digital Leaders', a select group of Year 4 and 5 pupils who she is "immensely proud of".

The group are at the forefront of multimedia learning at the school, learning how to create apps, maintain blogs and learn basic coding skills.

In a classroom filled with brand new equipment, including 30 tablets and Mac desktop computers, with all of the pupils at Cefn Fforest Primary getting involved with ICT.

According to Mrs Farmer, the Digital Leaders gave a short presentation to University South Wales students at the Caerleon campus earlier in the year.

“More often than not it’s them teaching us, not the other way round,” said Mrs Farmer.

The selection process for the Digital Leaders was a unique one, with each applicant having to submit a "CV" to teachers.

Teaching such skills from a young age is seen by Mrs Farmer as being as "critical" to their development.

She said: "It's about preparing for them for real life situations.

"Applying for jobs is something that isn't really taught until much later, so they have a bit of a headstart."

Despite all of the challenges it faces, an Estyn report from 2014 rated the school's current performance as good and its prospects for improvement as good.

It is also recognised as a Fairtrade school and possesses one Eco School green flag, something which the school is keen to improve on.

With an encouraging recent report, it appears that the school exemplify their motto of "Living and Learning Together".

Cefn Fforest's successes are aided by what Mrs Farmer calls an "excellent" and supportive set of staff across both schools.

She added: "Everyone supports each other and we are all working together to move forward.

"I'm really lucky. I've got a good team here and we're making positive changes in the area."


Cefn Fforest Primary School, Cefn Fforest, Blackwood.

Motto: "Living and Learning Together"

Head: Julie Farmer

Number of pupils: 325

Age of pupils: four to 11-years-old

Last Inspection: February 2014

In the school’s last Estyn Inspection, the school's current performance was rated as good because nearly all pupils make good progress, often from low starting points as well as offering learning experiences that "stimulate the interest" of nearly all pupils.

The school's prospect's for improvements were also rated as good because the staff share a strong commitment for further improvement and its good track record of improving pupil outcomes.