SET in the rural surroundings of Monmouthshire, Cross Ash primary school is a busy school that has a special ethos that is aimed at developing well rounded pupils.

ANGHARAD WILLIAMS took a tour of the school to find out what makes it so special.

THERE are few schools that are set in such scenic surroundings as Cross Ash primary school.

Deep in the Monmouthshire countryside between Abergavenny and Monmouth, the school is surrounded by fields and hills. A warm welcome can be found as soon as you step into the reception and visitors will hear a range of sounds when they come in, from a child playing a trumpet in the well-equipped music room to children rehearsing their upcoming play.

There’s a certain energy to the place that comes from the children and teaching staff who encourage the children in their lessons and the huge range of activities on offer.

Head teacher Laura Perrett, who has been at the school for two years, is very proud of Cross Ash primary and the 196 pupils. “We provide the best education and opportunities for all the pupils,” she said. “Our motto is ‘Caring, committed and challenging’ and we take ownership of that. It’s on the children’s sweatshirt and they understand that we care for each other, we are committed to them and they have to be committed to their learning and we challenge each other and so we are learning all the time. That underpins us.”

Community is central to the school which has a catchment area that stretches from Monmouth town to Abergavenny. The school opened when six local schools amalgamated in 1991 and celebrated its 25th anniversary last year.

“We have a large mix of children,” Mrs Perrett said. “Buses bring the children to the school which is a hub for the area. There are agricultural families and we have a lot of new families who have moved into the area.

“We are a central part of the community. There is a project to get defibrillators into rural areas and thanks to British Heart Foundation, Abergavenny Round Table and our local authority we have the community defibrillator here. So we have had a parent and resident training staff and now we will have a community event in the village hall to promote it.

“We have been involved in the Llantilio Crossenny Festival for many years and the children link up with Pen-y-Cwm school in Ebbw Vale and a parent comes in and works with the children on a joint opera for the festival. We are also involved in the Grosmont Cycling Festival and last year our choir and samba band performed and the children did a range of work about bicycles which was on display. We are doing the same thing this year and the children will be reading poems in the church at the night.”

Walking the corridors of the school it’s easy to see the range of work that goes on in the school, from the various clubs and teams to the different roles the children take including running clubs for some of the younger children. The children bring in their achievements and these are celebrated in a weekly newsletter.

“These can be anything from sheep handling to gymnastics,” Mrs Perrett said. “We want to celebrate everyone’s achievements. We also keep a record of our charity work in the foyer. We have clubs, teams a choir and a samba band in the school. When we raised money from our musical extravaganza last spring we raised enough to get the samba band up and running by June.”

One display shows the rights that young people have and it’s central to the school that the pupils understand these.

“The children are taught about rights and the fact that they have rights. They learn about the rights all children should have and that unfortunately some children don’t receive them. However, the children are taught that they have to make promises. For example they have the right to play but their promise must be that they share and look after the toys.

“Each month we have a right of the month and we look at it during assembly and it becomes part of their work within the curriculum and it becomes part of the Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) work which focuses on the social and emotional aspects of learning.

“Each class at the start of the year will write their class charter. That is basically their class rules, but they take ownership them and should they break their promises then there are consequences to in place.”

Year six pupils have a high level of responsibility at the school with the roles of castle captains and vice captains, council leaders, prefect, librarians and foundation phase support. If you visit the school you could be shown around by one of these pupils who also take leads in assemblies, run clubs for younger pupils and run the tuck shop.

The grounds are something that sets Cross Ash primary school apart from many others. Outside the class rooms are the grounds which house a pond and forest schools, playing fields, a running track, gardening areas and an orchard. The parents, teachers and friends association spent £10,000 on building a sheltered outside area for the children to use which means the pupils can learn outside without getting affected by the Welsh weather.

Mrs Perrett added: “The children will put the wet weather gear on the children and they’re outside all the time.”

When children leave school most head to Monmouth for their secondary education, although some will attend to Abergavenny and others will go across the border to England.

“We have a really good cluster working relationship with schools in Monmouth,” Mrs Perrett explained. “For the past two years we have worked as a network creating a vision and a three year and annual action plan focused on school improvement and development.

“Even though the nine schools we work with are very spread out we share good practice, support each other’s self-evaluation with peer reviews, joint training, creating a cluster teaching and learning policy, and we will get together for community events.

“We see ourselves as nine heads, but one school.”

In the school you might find the odd ex-pupil volunteering. “I welcome them back," she added. “They ring up and ask if they can they volunteer or if they come with ideas and I say ‘Please do.’ It’s the ethos we want. We are here to serve the community and the pupils are the adults of the future.”