AT the heart of a community you’ll find a school that offers a welcoming and inclusive environment for learning. ANGHARAD WILLIAMS pays a visit to George Street Primary School in Pontypool

THERE is a school at the heart of a community which is embracing the challenge of inclusive education.

Just a short walk from the centre of Pontypool is George Street Primary School. The multi-floor school is hidden in a street away from the busy roads between the town and Blaenavon and inside this environment the pupils’ imagination comes to life.

Acting head teacher Karen Davies is holding the fort while head Julie Wood is on secondment for a year as part of her role as principal challenge advisor for Caerphilly.

Mrs Davies is from Pontypool and has worked at the school since 2001. She says because they use distributed leadership at the school there has been little disruption and they have continued to improve standards.

Recently the school was rated as being in the green category in the colour coded performance ratings given to all schools by the Welsh Government.

Mrs Davies said: “We never stand still and we always look to improving. We’re never bored and never do the same thing twice and we are now working towards authentic learning, successful futures and the new curriculum.”

Due to the closure of local schools the school has grown from having 250 children to 480 children in five years.

“It has been a challenge,” Mrs Davies said, “but because our children are so welcoming and friendly and our staff are so dedicated that it hasn’t been a problem and people have taken on the changes.”

The school’s motto is ‘Together we live, learn and value’ and every year they examine the motto and decide if they want to continue to use it. This is a collaboration between pupils, staff, governors and parents.

The school offers an inclusive environment and children from a range of backgrounds are educated at the school. Its location is central to the town, but also at the centre of the community it serves.

“We are a school focused on togetherness,” Mrs Davies said. “We want to be the heart of the community and we want this to be a warm and welcoming place.

In line with their community focus, the school is working with the ambulance station, which is situated opposite the school, to look at ways to solve parking issues in the area. Year 6 pupils have been given the task of finding a solution.

The school has many achievements to be proud of.

ESTYN have recognised the school for the excellence they show in their foundation phase. The Welsh Government filmed their work to showcase to other schools. The film will also be shown at the launch of the excellence in foundation phase and some of the children will attend the launch.

Last year twenty-six Year 5 pupils from George Street Primary School have gained the Arts Award Explore which is an Entry Level 3 qualification on the Regulated Qualifications Framework.

Amanda Jones is the only coastal school trained teacher in south Wales and as part of her work children are taken to Rest Bay and learn about the coast.

“We start from Year 2,” Mrs Davies said, “and every child has had a coastal visit. Mrs Jones takes them regularly and the whole school will have been to the sea.”

Sport is another area that the school excels in. The football team have had a very successful year and they represented Newport County in UK competitions.

They have a strong gymnastics team and pupils have an opportunity to play a range of sports including rugby.

The aim is to get children active and encourage them to have a go at something new and build up their confidence.

Most of the classes have access to the outdoor areas and this year they will introduce outdoor learning facilities for Year 5 and 6. They recently had an outdoor classroom built and a lot of outdoor learning happens on site.

As well as developing literacy and numeracy skills, the pupils have embraced the challenge of developing their ICT skills by using the new Digital Competence Framework. Pupils have access to a wide range of technology and are able to choose how and when to use technology to enhance their learning.

One of the popular and fun additions is the Sphero robots that help pupils develop their knowledge of coding.

The school have been able to work collaboratively to establish a radio station, which is now used to give news reports, play music and deliver key information across the school.

The aim is to transmit to the public. The children are currently getting used to the equipment and have broadcast around the school.

Year 6 pupils Laney, Kobi, Leah-Marie, Dylan, Lewys, Alec, Nathan, Elle and Holly-May took on the challenge of writing their own article for the Argus. Here is some of their work:

The children in George Street are very proud to be part of such a successful school. Head Boy Dylan Walker said, “Our teachers are brilliant. They give us so many opportunities to experience new and exciting things.”

He went on to explain that as well as having a well-established pupil leadership team, there are a wide range of roles that are allocated to pupils who then help to manage the school.

Prefects, digital leaders, eco warriors, meta-magicians and school councillors and many more pupil voice teams often come together make up the school’s pupil parliament.

Deputy head boy Wayne Thomas added:“I feel exceptionally proud to be deputy head boy because I feel like I have developed as a young leader.

"I love working with the teachers in the school to help make important decisions. “I am now more confident about talking to important visitors and welcoming new pupils to our school.”

Mrs Davies said: “Pupil autonomy is a fundamental part of school life; children have the self-confidence to accept challenges and are able to act and think for themselves.”

“We want our pupils to remember their school days fondly but also develop the skills they need to be able to succeed as they become young adults and valued members of society.”