DESPITE an uncertain future with the school facing closure, Abersychan’s Victoria Primary School sets itself the goal of creating an environment where all futures can flourish. Steven Prince reports

ON the road between Blaenavon and Pontypool, Victoria Primary School is an inviting piece of Victoriana where young minds are forged.

Children aged from three to 11, the majority of which come from the Abersychan area, are allowed to explore the curriculum while encouraged to pursue interests outside of the classrooms.

The school is home to talented sport stars, musical maestros and astounding artists, with the encouragement of the school staff.

In her 12 years at the school, head teacher Joy Dando has emphasised the role that she and her staff play in creating adults of the future.

The school recognises the importance that all children have different skills sets, and that all children should be encouraged to find what makes them great.

“Extra-curricular activities has to happen alongside the education. Practical learning is the best way for children to learn, with hands-on methods,” she said.

“We celebrate everything about a child and not just the core subjects. It’s children recognising where they strengths are.

“It is our job to celebrate those strengths and sometimes, expose those strengths as sometimes they don’t know that they are brilliant at something,” said Ms Dando.

From football to swimming, to brass bands and choirs, the school has created an environment were all are welcome, while not forgetting its educational aspects too.

"They haven’t been told that they are brilliant and we believe that is our job," said the head teacher.

“Our students should be rounded individuals. Little people who make really good decisions and can make a noticeable contribution while feeling good about themselves."

Supported by 17 members of staff – 14 full-time and 3 part-time – the teachers and learning support assistants are on board with Ms Dando’s vision.

But importantly, so are the children.

“This is a community school where everybody is involved and everyone’s contribution is valid, no matter how big or how small,” she said.

The staff are extremely dedicated. They all give up their time to do extra jobs and work at home or come in on late nights or at weekends. Whatever it takes to make it better for children. Without them, it wouldn’t happen.

“Our teacher assessment scores have gone up once again and it is right that the staff are recognised for the hard work that they do,” said the headteacher.

“The children come into the school in the good frame of mind. They run down the hill, they can’t wait to get through the door with their smiling faces and they can’t wait to start learning. The community is very lucky.”

Alongside the pupils and staff, the school’s parents and grandparents play an important role in the school, aiding the children’s development.

The school is located at the heart of the Abersychan ward, and many of the current crop of children have deep rooted family links to the school.

“Over 70 per cent of the children are from the immediate locality and when you look back through the families, the children’s parents came here, and their parents came here. It is almost like an institution,” said the head teacher.

“The school has been here for a long time, and has served the community well. We want that to continue.”

No matter what is happening in the background, the importance of focusing on the children remains key to all members of the staff.

“There is no hierarchy at the school. I work for the children and they are my boss,” said Ms Dando.

“It may look Victorian on the outside but from the inside, it feels far from that with the vibrant displays on the walls.

“I love it here and no matter how difficult the job can be at times, I only have to spend two minutes in any class and it feels like medicine. It is always about looking at the positive.”

Although the school was built in 1903, the staff are forward thinking and are considering future issues, while allowing the children to find things which are important to them and their futures.

“Our eco-committee has helped the school retain the Green Flag for six years and they are doing things like energy output studies which shames a number of the teachers who haven’t switched off the monitors at the end of the day,” said the head teacher.

“They are looking at issues which may impact them in the future, most notably their carbon footprint increases if they go to a different school in the future.”

She added that the school council has organised fundraising events for the wider community, all of their own back, but the children have an additional role within the school.

“The pupils are also involved in interviewing staff. The children will decide on questions which they would like to ask and they ask the teachers who come for interview,” said Ms Dando.

“It gives you great insight into the children. They see things which we as staff do not. The children’s view is more straight-forward than perhaps ours is.

“They see it as it was good and I have understood what I was being taught. I enjoyed the activity. We were watching an observation and one child said ‘I’d just like to say thank you for that. I hope and I think you’ll make a very good teacher’.

“We just want the children to feel valued here. And we offer that to them. Every single one of them is special to us,” added Ms Dando.

The school is reviewing its club, which are adapted and altered depending on the wishes of the staff, which also helps the children to find skills that they were not previously aware of.

On educational level too, Victoria is preparing for changes in the curriculums which will affect schools in Wales.

“We are looking to increase our musical programmes and sport at the school. Our school clubs are changing due to the preferences of the staff, but it’s good to have a change up now and again,” said Ms Dando.

“There are obviously huge changes in terms of the curriculum due to the Donaldson Report and we are ready to start with those.”

Head – Joy Dando

Deputy –Anne Britten

Pupils – 216

Ages – 3-11 – reception to year six

Staff – 14 full time staff and 3 part time - 17

Motto – Learning is for everyone (LIFE)

Chair of Governors – Rita Wilkins