Cwmbran’s Henllys Church in Wales Primary School is a small, but lively school. ALICE ROSE reports.

LOCATED in Cwmbran, Henllys Church in Wales Primary School is a small school in a quiet residential area.

With just seven classrooms and 15 teaching staff, the school has 202 pupils currently on roll aged from four to 11 years old.

Mark Durbin has been head teacher for 18 years and has worked in various schools in different areas of Newport, including Duffryn and Glasllwch, during his career.

He believes having a strong religious link makes the school a caring environment.

Mr Durbin said: “It was interesting coming to the school for the first time. We had our first Eucharist service in the hall and it was fantastic, it blew me away.

“We bless all the children in the ceremonies and soon children who are baptised can be committed to communion, so we are getting ready to prepare children and parents for that.”

With the school being fairly small, Mr Durbin believes that its size adds to its charm and helps pupils and teachers build strong relationships.

“It is the fact it’s a faith school which is something which is incredible,” he said.

“It’s the children that make it great for me,” he said. “At every lunchtime I’m always in the hall and finding out what’s going on in their lives or what they’ve done that day.”

“It is them that make it so great to be here.”

According to Mr Durbin, Henllys has possibly the lowest rate of children eligible for free meals in South East Wales, with only six pupils claiming them.

Although this poses challenges in terms of funding, Mr Durbin praised his staff as “excellently organised” and “prepared” to work with financial difficulties.

The school also has a strong relationship with local residents across Torfaen and the County Borough Council.

“We are always striving to raise standards in our school,” said Mr Durbin.

“We work closely with the education achievement service and the county borough council.”

The school describes itself as providing a “rich and stimulating environment” for its children and is used by the education achievement service to showcase good Welsh and outdoor learning in the foundation phase.

“Those two things we are very keen on and we aim to develop them as far as we can,” said Mr Durbin.

“We are very pleased with those successes.”

Youngsters are also able to take part in a range of clubs, including Bible club and Welsh club, where they can develop their learning and faith even further.

The school is currently in the process of recruiting new staff, with Mr Durbin said was a very thorough process, with a strong focus on finding people who will fit into the school and enjoy working there.

But Mr Durbin said the main element which sets the school apart from any other in Torfaen is its relationships between staff and pupils.

He said: “While it’s important that schools strive to raise standards and get the best set of children, it isn’t just about that, it’s about the caring, the nurturing, children wanting to come to school because it’s a happy and warming environment.

“If you put the love of children and the teaching of children and seeing them develop, with that of strong faith and the involvement of the church, bringing those two together is very powerful.

“It creates a wonderful atmosphere.”

The school is 25 years old this year, and will be organising a big celebration in the spring term, including contacting former pupils through social media to find out what they are doing now and to see if they can come back to celebrate.

After this celebration Mr Durbin is hopeful a past pupils’ association can be set up and similar events – including an awards ceremony – can take place throughout the school year.

He added wellbeing of both teachers and pupils was a major focus at the school, with a particular focus on preventing staff and youngsters burning out.

He said: “It’s about caring for one another, and teachers work absolutely ever so hard these days.

“It’s all about trying to get a work life balance and their wellbeing is so important.

“You will hear the same story at other schools that people work harder than they ever have, so we try to avoid burnouts.”

Mr Durbin said the school creates a warm family atmosphere and said many staff members stay late after school to work and chat.

However, he believes the most important part of Henllys Church in Wales is the way it seeks to create lifetime relationships with pupils.

He said: “With all that goes on in the world these days I always think that we must not lose sight of how caring our school is, because it’s very important. “Because we are such a small school everybody knows everybody, which provides a great relationship.“The children aren’t here with us that long before they go to secondary school really, so we want to make sure their experience is one that they will remember for a long time.”


Motto: Living and Learning through the Love of Christ

Headteacher: Mark Durbin

Chair of governors: Reverend Victoria Ashley

Number of pupils: 202

Age of pupils: 4 to 11

Last Estyn inspection: June 2010