Practical learning takes a central role in this village school which even boasts a pupil-run Bistro. TOM MOODY went along to find out more

PRACTICAL learning plays a central role in all that happens at Tyn y Wern Primary School in Caerphilly County Borough.

The school looks to give pupils a more stimulating learning experience by embracing a more hands-on approach, with pupils developing life skills which can be applied outside the classroom.

One of the school’s biggest projects is its Bistro – a pupil run community enterprise which sees pupils prepare food and then sell it to the public.


Headteacher Sophie Goodliffe said: “It’s a real hub of the community. It’s open every Wednesday to the public and is manned by our Year Fives.

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The Bistro L-R Brodee Thomas, Morgn Davies, Lee McShane and Lilly Allen at Tyn-y-Wern Primary. Picture:

“The Bistro teaches them about handling money in a real-life environment, as well as interacting with the public.

“They do all the preparation of the food, sell it, serve the customers, and even do the dishes.

“The Bistro also hosts community groups, including a Sugarcraft group and a Knit and Natter group, who earlier this month knitted poppies to decorate the school.

“It’s nice as we have The Grove sheltered housing nearby and they come down once a week, and our pupils go to the home and sing for them.

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Selling cakes in the Bistro L-R Morgan Davies, Lee McShane, Brodee Thomas and Lilly Allen at Tyn-y-Wern Primary. Picture:

“You will have them come in and talk about what they would eat when they were younger, and then the next week we will have prepared that for them to give them a taste down memory lane.

“Our PTA are also based in the Bistro. They are invaluable and have raised the funds for a number of projects at the school.”

Two projects the school has recently started are uniform and sports kit recycling.

“In the Bistro we have started doing uniform recycling and have just started doing sports kit and boots recycling,” said Mrs Goodliffe.

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Tyn-y-Wern Primary. Picture:

“We hope to make sport accessible to all.

“One of our parents heard about the Boot Room project in Swansea, which saw children recycling football boots to help those who couldn’t afford them.

“When they suggested it, we decided to start the project here.”

As well as the Bistro, practical learning is visible throughout the school’s curriculum.

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Simran Sing and Miley Norman with some of the recycled uniforms at Tyn-y-Wern Primary. Picture:

“We have spent a lot of money redoing our ICT suite and we have just taken ownership of a radio station,” said Mrs Goodliffe. “We hope that can help the children’s oratory skills.

“We are very keen on the blend of heritage and 21st century learning.

“We have ploughed a lot of money into our STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects. Every class has enough iPads for at least one between two and we have VR headsets and drones for the pupils to use.

“It’s not easy in an old building but we want to make it as 21st century as possible.

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The First Lego League team Tyn-y-Wern Turtles at Tyn-y-Wern Primary. Picture:

“We have a Lego League project, where the children are coding and building robots out of Lego. We took part last year and came third, and will be doing it again this year.”

Caroline ap Hywel, the school’s history and eco co-ordinator has also led history projects for the school’s 10 Welsh Heritage Schools Initiative Awards, the latest of which was for a project which saw year threes and fours dressing up, visiting the Winding House in New Tredegar and experiencing a day in the life of a Victorian schoolchild.

“We try to do as many trips and get as many visitors in to school as we can to broaden our children’s horizons and raise their aspirations," she said.

“It’s very much about giving the children practical experiences. A lot of the children wouldn’t be able to get these kinds of experiences outside of school, so its our place to give them those experiences.

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Reading in the Wellbeing room L-R Sophie Grist, Cariad Chamberlain and Aran Lynch at Tyn-y-Wern Primary. Picture:

“For example, our juniors are putting on a performance of Cinderella and Rockerfella for their Christmas production at the Miners’ Institute.

“We hope having it at the Miners’ Institute gives the children a real sense of being part of a production – not just performing, but experiencing the backstage roles – such as lighting or costumes.”

The school has been named as a Green Flag Eco-schools Platinum Award, and the children are taught about environmental issues in class.

“One of the biggest strengths in the school is our awareness of environmental issues,” said Mrs Goodliffe. “This is a topic we are focusing on across the whole school. Our annual arts display is open to the public and this year we have an environmental theme.

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DJs Hollie Crane and John Dimond operating the new radio station at Tyn-y-Wern Primary. Picture:

“Our whole school topic this term is ‘Our World, Our Future’, focusing on the environment.

“We have conservation rangers coming in to school to work with the children.

“We have a lovely green area at the school, with raised plant beds for each class, a fire pit and a pond. We really value the importance of outdoor learning on the emotional wellbeing of the children.”

As well as focusing on environmental issues, the school are keen to encourage their pupils to be active.

“We were chosen to take part in the Sustrans Active Journeys Programme and as such are an Active Journeys School,” said Mrs Goodliffe. “That means we are one of three schools chosen to host events at school working closely with the charity Sustrans.


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Musicians at Tyn-y-Wern Primary. Picture:

“For example we closed off the road in front of the school for a street party, and encouraged the children to ride their scooters and bikes. There was also a juice bike, and lots of information around for the children and their parents.

“It’s the link between mental wellbeing and getting the children outside that we find important.

“We set the children a monthly active homework to get the out and about. For example, this month’s homework was to climb a big hill and take pictures of it.”

The pupils’ mental health is something which Tyn y Wern takes very seriously. As part of the Thrive project, they have developed a safe space at the school where the children can focus on learning about their emotions and social development.

“It helps with teaching the children social skills and teaches them about emotional wellbeing and development,” said Mrs Goodliffe. “It’s something we are very keen on. We are very much a big family here, and this helps us look after each other.

“We developed this safe space where they can come and learn about different emotions. We try to make the learning environment a safe place with soft furnishings.

“It’s trying to create a home from home.”


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Headteacher: Sophie Goodliffe (above), who has been at the school since September 2018.

School motto: 'Kind hands and clever minds make our school'.

Pupils: 233, aged three to 11.