A SCHOOL which prides itself on keeping a close link with its local community and creating a family atmosphere, Waunfawr Primary School in Cross Keys aims to get children to learn in a fun and friendly environment.

Head teacher Joanne Cueto joined the school at the beginning of 2013 and set out to transform it with a more modern open-plan style layout.

A £37,500 grant was used to change the outside yard into a sports facility and now there are a wide variety of activities and clubs for children to take part in.

Children are always encouraged to take part in learning and come up with inventive ideas.

Recently, Mrs Cueto said, children requested a change of uniform and asked for a shirt and tie rather than the current white polo T-shirt and red jumper.

She said that the children then discussed this idea in a professional manner.

She said: “They had a chat between themselves and said ‘yes that will be good we will look really smart’.

“I sent them away and said ‘if you know somebody in high school ask them what it feels like to wear a shirt and tie, particularly on hot days that we have had.’

“A few came back and said people they knew preferred a polo shirt. However, they had the opportunity to explore this and they came to their own conclusion.”

Children getting to discuss and chat about school issues such as uniform and lunches is something Mrs Cueto tries to encourage, as she believes it is important for them to learn how to conduct themselves during these kind of debates.

As well as discussing matters such as uniform students can also collaborate with staff on what they want to learn about in class.

“The teacher has of course got their planned skills but within that particular topic, he or she can allow some flexibility within what aspects they want to look at,” said Mrs Cueto.

“Because of that, they have a lot of choice and I think you can see that within the school and in the confidence the children have got.”

Going around the school, it is obvious to see how the open-plan arrangement brings a relaxed atmosphere to the pupils.

Along with having flexibility regarding learning and being encouraged to come up with their own ideas, it is plain to see why the children enjoy being a part of the school. Waunfawr Primary was inspected this year in March 2017 and was rated ‘good’. And head teacher Mrs Cueto even came back early from her maternity leave to be at the school for when the inspection took place.

“We were really, really pleased with the inspection,” she said.

“For us, our vision and mission statements are the same so we are talking about unlocking excellence and we want our children to be happy, confident children and have good childhood experiences.

“We want to let them be children.”

In the report, the inspector said that standards of reading across the school were rated as ‘good’ and “teachers have positive working relationships with pupils and manage their behaviour well”.

The school was also said to have a “clear emphasis on respect and celebrating diversity in promoting tolerant attitudes towards others” and “treats all pupils with respect”.

Speaking about the report, Mrs Cueto said: “In a nutshell that is what we are about, to ensure each child has the best learning experience as possible, regardless of any needs that they have, regardless of any behavioural difficulties that they have.

“We want them to all have the best.”

With the latest Estyn inspection completed, the school is now looking to widen its already wide variety of after-school clubs and other activities and also get a little more involved in arts and drama.

Mrs Cueto said she is hoping to engage with the Arts Council of Wales and get some funding for some creative projects.

“We have put lots of investment into the academic side of things, but arts and culture is next for us really,” she said.

“We do bits and pieces, we’ve been to the theatre and we have had musicians come in but this is the next bit.”

As the curriculum is changing due to the Donaldson report, Mrs Cueto said this will bring in more “exciting opportunities” for the school and will open up more routes for the children in terms of learning.

She said: “Some of the constraints that have been there previously have been removed and so by 2021 there will be a new curriculum in place.”

Over the next 12 months to two years the school plans to take a deeper look into its current curriculum and change the way of teaching.

It will look to change from the traditional teaching method of one hour lessons of maths, English, science and other subjects to incorporating them together.

“This means there won’t be such a rigid timetable and there will be more flexibility,” said Mrs Cueto.

“I think the children will respond to things better that way because it will give them more of a chance to really get engaged in a theme or a project rather than have to stop and change to something else.”

Speaking of what the school means to her, Mrs Cueto said one of the most important things to her is seeing the children’s faces every day.

She said: “It’s about seeing those happy faces coming into school ready to learn, wanting to be challenged and wanting to do their best. And seeing them moving on then.

“The Year 6s are moving on to High School now and it is sad to see them go because they have been here such a long time but it’s an exciting time for them.

“For me, it’s about making sure those children are as prepared as possible to move on from us having had a happy and successful primary education.”