Coed Eva Primary School is a school that prides itself on putting the children in the driving seat. Executive head teacher Gill Ellis sat down with THOMAS MOODY to explain how this has benefitted the school

LAST term, Coed Eva Primary School celebrated after receiving praise in their latest Estyn report.

The Cwmbran-based school was used as a case study after the report found their efforts to put pupils at the heart of the school’s decisions was having a positive impact on standards of behaviour and wellbeing, and had improved teaching and learning.

The school is part of a federation with nearby Blenheim Road, with the schools sharing an executive head teacher, governors and values.

Gill Ellis is the executive head teacher for both schools, and she said that they try to place the children at the centre of all the decisions that are made at the school.

South Wales Argus:

Members of the Elite Committee at Coed Eva Primary.

“We are very strong here on pupil voice, and believe we should put children in the driving seat,” she said.

“It’s not just for their learning, but so they can achieve the very best they can in life.”

This is highlighted by the school’s pupil leadership groups. These are seven groups in which children of all ages and abilities can make their voices heard about the running of the school.

These groups include the Pupil Leadership Team (PLT), Eco Committee, Action Research Team, Editorial Team, Criw Cymraeg, Digital Leaders and the School Council.

South Wales Argus:

Nursery building skills at Coed Eva Primary who are school of the week.

Overseeing the groups is the Elite Committee, which is formed of two members from each of the Pupil Participation Groups.

Mrs Ellis explained: “We created the groups across the schools, but we needed to join them together. We asked them for two representatives from each group to come together and form the Elite Committee.

“In September, they helped to organise our Health and Happiness conference.

“Around 40 schools attended the conference, and the education minister Kirsty Williams also came, and the children were able to do a Q and A with her.

“The conference was organised by children, for children.”

"We like to make sure that the children can be involved. They have come to governing body meetings and made presentations about what is being done at the school, and they give their views on what the school can improve.

"For meetings with parents, we invite them in to school during the day, rather than in the evening. The children are there with their parents and teachers at the meeting, so they can all talk about how the children can improve."

Members of the Elite Committee explained their roles in helping the school run smoothly.

"We all make sure that the school is doing everything that it is supposed to," they said.

South Wales Argus:

Mr Butcher with L-R Finley Phillips, Agnes Bandelaire-Scarfe, Cayden Jones and Savanah Williams from reception class at Coed Eva Primary who are school of the week.

"When we start learning about a topic, we all go away, look it up and decide what we would like to learn about. The teachers then take these ideas and put them to a vote, and the best ideas are used to help the teachers plan their lessons.

"We also help prepare and design the conferences held at school.

"At the conference in September, we had workshops running in the classrooms and there were stalls outside.

"One of the teachers was riding a juice bike. The bike had a blender attached to its back wheel, so you had to ride the bike to make the juice."

Mrs Ellis explained that the school was a “values-based school.”

“We believe very strongly in creating a calm environment for our children to achieve their very best, and our values are very important to us,” she said.

“We teach our children values such as respect, friendship and cooperation.

"Each month, we have a new 'value of the month' that we have to work on.

"This month, the value of the month is 'quality'.

"So over this month, the children are trying to really focus on the quality of their work and the quality of their friendships.

South Wales Argus:

Chalk writing for L-R Minnie Childs, Peter Murphy and Jasper Ryan from reception at Coed Eva Primary.

"At the end of the month, we show everyone the work we have done and look back on that month's value.

"We find if you are using your values, you are most likely to improve.”

The school have developed a number of metacognition characters, designed by the students, who have relevant values attached to them, for example: ‘Self-believing Sam’, ‘Resilient Ruby’ or ‘Evan Effort’.

Each character is introduced half termly via a whole school assembly, where the story is shared and the pupils have an opportunity to reflect on how they are going to use the characters learning traits within their lessons.

Members of the Elite Committee explained how these values are put in to practice to help them get the most out of their learning.

“They are characters that we have created,” the group said. “They are inspirational for us. When you say: “I can’t do it”, you are encouraged to say: “I can’t do it yet”.

“You then use the characters to help you find a way to solve your problem.

“At the end of term, the teachers award a certificate to a pupil they have noticed has shown a particular characteristic.

“There is also the learning pit, which is when you are can’t solve a problem.

“You get out of the learning pit by asking three people and then the teacher if you’re still stuck in the pit.

“It helps you learn independently.”

This approach seems to be working with the children, as the latest Estyn report praised the engagement of pupils.

It said: "Pupils remain motivated and engaged as they have a say in what and how they learn.

“Nearly all pupils are active participants within lessons, which, allows them to be reflective and understand what they need to do to continually improve.”

Fact File:

  • The school is part of the Federation of Blenheim Road Community and Coed Eva Primary Schools.
  • Mrs Ellis had been head teacher at Coed Eva for 10 years and has been Executive head teacher at the federation for five years.
  • The school has 487 pupils, aged three to 11 years old.
  • The school’s motto is: Inspire, Believe, Achieve.