WHEN travelling along Henllys Way, one of the road’s most recognisable landmarks is the three bears of Ysgol Gymraeg Cwmbran.

The bears – named Lucy’s bears – hold no significance to the school itself, only one lasting remnant of the old St Dials Infant School, from which the Welsh-medium establishment grew out from.

Since 1992, the school has experienced a meteoric rise and recently achieved a green rating in the Welsh Government’s colour-coded ratings.

At the helm is Catrin Evans, who became the head teacher in January 2016 after spending 15 years at the school as a teacher.

The school is keen to find new and modern ways of helping to enhance the pupils’ learning of the Welsh language, while highlighting the importance of bilingualism.

“With the new Donaldson report and the new curriculum, there’s a lot of drama and music workshops. We firmly believe in enriching the curriculum by getting a number of outside agencies in,” she said.

“That extends to good charitable causes too – we had the Dogs Trust come in before half-term.

“We have to move with the times. We have invited a rap artist and beatboxer into the school - Mr Phormula - to help compile a school rap or song involving all the pupils.

“Each class or year group have had responsibility for a different verse.

He is actually a prime example of somebody who is bilingual and successful in both Welsh and English.

“It is something that is current – we can teach them traditional Welsh songs but they will respond to something like this.

“It may not appear that way at first glance, but the rap is a great way of building their vocabulary.

“It gives the children ownership of something. It is their creation and it is not us teaching. They have helped him to write it.”

With the Welsh Government's target of having one million Welsh speakers by 2050, Ysgol Gymraeg Cwmbran will be taking on a leading role to help develop the language.

"The voice of pupils is very important at this school – we have the standard eco-committee and council – but then we are one of the leading schools in terms of Welsh medium education within the EAS consortium," said the head teacher.

"We are one of hub schools of the Charter Iaith – the Welsh Language Charter. That is linked to raising the number of Welsh speakers in Wales by 2050.

"To develop that, we have things like band of the week or the Welsh language pattern of the week. Our Twitter page is always encouraging our pupils towards Welsh TV programmes and getting more parental involvement.

"The children are no longer seeing Welsh as a language that they use for their school, but a language they use in the broader community.

"One of our staff members is responsible for co-ordinating the Welsh language charter in 12 other schools. Elin Davies PPA planning preparation assessment

"Every Welsh medium school has to try and win the accreditation for that and she is responsible for going around and helping them in their education, sharing good practice for example of work we have done here."

Ms Evans added that the support the school has received from parents will be helpful for the development of Welsh speakers, particularly in a region historically low for the language.

"As a school, we are very fortunate in that we have a very good relationship with the parents. They can see the benefits of Welsh-medium," she said.

"That is evidence in the fact that the numbers of have grown in terms of the pupil roll and we are full to capacity.

"They are supportive of any initiatives. They welcome the fact their children can speak another language and are fluent after a year submerged in the language.

"We have reached the point, since the school was launched in 1992 for a unit at the old St Dials primary, that we are teaching some of the founder pupils of Ysgol Gymraeg Cwmbran.

They have gone through Welsh-medium themselves and are now sending their children and it won’t be long until the grandchildren of our founding pupils will be coming here."

At the core of the school though is a celebration of Wales' identity.

"The children are also very proud of their cultural identity. They love all aspects of it – the Welsh history and the Welsh rugby team on a basic level for example," said Ms Evans.

"We do what we can to bring that into their learning. Our classes are named after famous figures from Welsh history – from Owain Glyndwr to Gareth Edwards.

"Everything is done with the idea of promoting the Welsh language. The whole feeling of being Welsh is an important strand to school life.

"As the children transfer from class to class when they move up the school, they get to learn about that particular character.

"We ensure that the whole school through assemblies learn about them too, so each character has their own moment in the spotlight.

"It just broadens their knowledge to have a mix of historical figures and contemporary examples."