PENYGARN Community Primary School has seen a lot of changes over the past couple of years, with a £4 million transformation thanks to the Welsh Government's 21st Century Schools project the icing on top of the cake.

The Pontypool school recently invited education minister Kirsty Williams AM to open its new-look extension, which includes new classrooms, a new hall, and library and IT facilities.

Headteacher Louisa Sellars said the school is almost unrecognisable from when she started in January 2014.

South Wales Argus:

(Mosaic artists at Penygarn Community Primary who are school of the week.

"One of the main parts of the 21st Century Schools project was our new innovation centre, which houses our library and IT facilities," she said.

"We have invested heavily in upgrading our ICT equipment throughout the school, so we have new laptops, iPads and Chromebooks. We also bought 12 Spheros, which are used help the children to develop their coding skills.

"The furniture in the innovation centre is flexible, meaning that the teachers can adapt the spaces to needs of their class.

"The centre is timetabled in for a week at a time, giving the children a chance to go into greater detail with their projects.

"It is one of our moves towards the new curriculum with the emphasis on developing life-long learning skills.

"We are hoping to develop it further with a 3D printer.

"Two pupils and our assistant head are going to Cardiff for the launch event of band B for the 21st century schools project and we are sharing what it has meant for us so far."


As well as investing in learning inside the classroom, the school is looking to offer more to its pupils outside the classroom too. The 'Forest Skills' programme helps to improve children's practical learning skills in an outdoor environment, by completing tasks such as creating shelters.

"Forest skills has come out of the development of the new curriculum," explained Miss Sellars. "It’s about giving the children the chance to apply and learn new skills. We are lucky that we have been able to use our grant funding to bring in Miss Squirrel, who runs the class.

"The children recently presented at an outdoor learning conference about the experiences that they have had and what they enjoy about it.

"It’s another way of engaging our children with learning in as many ways as we can."

South Wales Argus:

(Building a shelter in the forest school at Penygarn Community Primary who are school of the week.

The school is also aiming to increase its outreach with the community.

"There is lots of learning going on inside the school and outside in the community," said Miss Sellars. "Our students have been taking part in the digital heroes project, linking up with older members of the community and developing their digital skills.

"We are also heavily involved in local litter picks at the American Gardens.

"The community is really important to us and we are always looking for ways to get out and engage with them."

South Wales Argus:

(Up Beat music lesson at Penygarn Community Primary who are school of the week.

This year's school bandings had Penygarn Community Primary School categorised as green.

"It feels like the culmination of five years of hard work," said Miss Sellars. "The school is unrecognisable in terms of the quality of provision we now provide.

"There has been a real, significant journey.

"It feels like that was the cherry on top of the icing on top of the cake. The green categorisation is something we have worked towards since I have been here.

"We have also become a lead network school, which means we can now go out and share our practices with other schools and also learn from them.

"I am keen to be seen as somewhere that can be learned from, and also somewhere that is open to taking new ideas on board at every level."

South Wales Argus:

(Attendance Heroes at Penygarn Community Primary who are school of the week.

One measure of improvement that is particularly pleasing for the headteacher is the rise in attendance. For the first time, the school now has an average attendance of more than 95 per cent.

"Our attendance heroes have been vital in helping get our attendance over 95 per cent for the first time," said Miss Sellars. "They have held assemblies to get everyone involved and have even done a presentation to the governors about what they have been doing in school.

"It is something I am proud of. We have risen by more than three percent in a year."

South Wales Argus:

(Learning about construction in the nursery at Penygarn Community Primary who are school of the week.

Miss Sellars said that the teachers played a key role in developing students, not just through lessons, but by demonstrating how the skills that they are taught can be applied in adult life.

"We are all learners here," she said. "All adults in schools are role models and we need to demonstrate life-long learning.

"Our mission statement sums it up: We nurture the hearts and minds of the future.

"The children are the heart of everything we do.

"We will continue to strive to prepare children for jobs that we don’t we know will exist yet in the future. But it is giving them those transferable, practical, life-long skills that they can apply to anything.

"I have a fantastic team. Everyone in the school goes above and beyond.

"I am incredibly proud of the school and what we have achieved together and I am keen to see where we can move this on to."

Fact file:

  • Headteacher Louisa Sellars has been in charge since January 2014.
  • The school has 479 pupils.
  • The school caters for children aged three to 11.
  • The school motto is "Nurturing the hearts and minds of the future."