A SCHOOL which is located in a small village but has plenty of heart. ALICE ROSE went along to Cwmcarn Primary School to chat to head teacher Nick Saunders and find out what the school offers.

A VIBRANT school filled with energy and opportunities.

Cwmcarn Primary School is on the main street in Cwmcarn, a small village in Caerphilly.

The school is in an old Victorian style building all on one floor. However, once you enter the school it is more spacious than it appears.

There are several large classrooms, as well as two halls and a couple of playgrounds and outdoor areas.

Head teacher Nick Saunders has been the head at the school since 2014 and before that was the deputy head. He has been at the school for nearly ten years and said he is pleased with how far it seems to have come since he joined.

The school is very interactive with the local community and regularly gets involved with them to raise money for different causes.

Mr Saunders said: “The school does a lot for the village as a community, we continually raise quite a lot of money and we have raised money to fund the Christmas lights. Last year, we did a mini enterprise week where we designed, made and sold items.

“We raised nearly £700 which went towards the light fund, and this means we will have lights in Cwmcarn for Christmas.”

As well as raising money for Christmas lights in the village, the school gets involved with the British Legion to promote the poppy appeal each year. They recently did a charity dress down day to collect money for the upcoming year’s appeal where poppies will be placed all the way along the street.

“I’m just happy to celebrate anything in the school where the community benefits from what we do,” Mr Saunders said.

The foundation phase yard has been developed over the past few years and has added a climbing wall and designs on the floor which children can play on.

Although the school is situated in the heart of the countryside and not far from Cwmcarn Forest, there is no grass or greenery in the school’s outdoor areas; which is why Mr Saunders said he wanted to place more things in the yard.

He said: “We have developed outdoor play here a lot because you’ve got beautiful surrounds but we are a very tarmac based school. It is awful in some ways because you can see it (the countryside) but can’t quite touch it.

“But we have done a lot with playtimes – getting the children out to different areas, the juniors have climbing walls and things like that. What I do here is try and make the most of what we’ve got.”

The designs on the yard includes markings for hop scotch and other things to keep the children engaged in their play and ensure they can relax and have fun with their friends away from the classroom.

This, says Mr Saunders, will help the children to keep themselves occupied at break and lunch times before they go back to class. He said it will also help them concentrate.

Mr Saunders, who currently resides in Cwmcarn, has two children of his own in Year 5 and Year 1 in Cwmbran. And as his wife is a primary teacher, Mr Saunders said he “lives primary life.”

He said: “I know as a father it’s so important that they (the children) get on because if they get on they’ll learn in class. If they bring in problems off the yard into the class they won’t work properly.”

Although he is head teacher, Mr Saunders teaches reading and writing to the children in Year 2 and his deputy head teacher Helen Robbins teaches maths to the Year 6 class.

“As leaders of the school we feel strongly that we need to be involved with the school and see it as well,” he said.

“I don’t want to be in an office for the next ten years, I want to be hands on and it (the school) develops so much better if you are a part of it.”

One of the most prominent things that stands out in Cwmcarn Primary is the focus on improving the children’s learning.

Reading and writing in the school is one of the things that has seen a significant improvement over the years, with Mr Saunders bringing read writing to the school when he started.

The read writing used to run throughout the entire primary school, but now focuses on children in the infants.

The reason for this, Mr Saunders says, is so children won’t struggle and get the support they need before moving up in the school.

He said: “The reading has now improved throughout the school which is such a key thing. It has been a real success to get all of our children reading as we used to find when they came up to the juniors they couldn’t read, they didn’t enjoy lessons and they would disrupt them.

“It was quite disruptive before but now it is aligned and calm. It has been lovely for us and it has allowed all the staff in the foundation phase to teach such as teaching assistants. They have been fantastic and a massive part of it,” he added.

Another addition to the school is a variety of clubs such as gardening, arts and crafts, rugby and IT. These clubs enable the children to take part in extra-curricular activities.

“There are clubs on every single night,” said Mr Saunders.

“It’s that provision that I think helps the children as well and parents also appreciate it.”

The school also has a Special Needs Resource Base (SNRB) which is described as the “life and body of the school”.

“It gives the other children the ability to show acceptance and tolerance but it also allows the children in the base to integrate with the other classes and it prepares them for secondary school settings,” Mr Saunders said.

“They are involved in everything that we do and they will all go to bases such as the one in Risca.”

This year there are six Year 6 children in the base who come from all different areas in Caerphilly, with none of them coming from the local area.

The children visit a variety of places, including trips to the beach and museums. They also go swimming each week.

Overall, the school has a warm and friendly feeling. It is obvious to see that the children are well educated and enjoy where they are.

One of the other things that stands out is wellbeing. Mr Saunders and the rest of the staff take their time to ensure every child is looked after and happy in the school environment.