A PROJECT set up for pupils who have difficulties learning in mainstream classes helped a Newport school to achieve its best ever grades this summer.

This year’s group of 17 year 11 students aim to build on Newport High School’s record results, which soared by 24 per cent to 75 per cent.

The project, which is based at community charity Bettws in Bloom’s offices, was set up just over two years ago by Newport High’s head of alternative provision, Mark Price.

It aims to help pupils with inconsistent attendance records to achieve the benchmark GCSE pass rate of five A* to C grades - by providing them with a more attractive learning environment and smaller class size.

Last year, 20 out of 23 students achieved the pass rate, a feat Mr Price said only around five would have managed in mainstream education, and 18 are now in further education, training or employment.

The centre is kitted out with comfortable red sofas and round tables to prevent it feeling like school.

Students start their mornings with a cup of tea and toast and do not wear school uniform, because they feel more comfortable in their own clothes.

Most of the students are referred to the centre by staff at Newport High School, but some join from other schools, including Llantarnam and Bassaleg Schools.

Teacher Dewi Lloyd sets pupils tasks to do at their own pace and offers more one-on-one tuition and pastoral care than mainstream education can provide.

All pupils learn English and mathematics and can choose options in science, travel and tourism, business and IT.

Ryan Donovan, 15, from Malpas started at the centre three weeks ago and says he prefers the more relaxed environment and smaller class.

Ryan said: "The teacher’s got more time to spend with you because he’s not having to go round a big class."

Mr Price said: "The benefits of having five GCSEs are immense because they open up more employment and education opportunities."

He feels improved academic achievement in Bettws will benefit the estate, because pupils will get better, higher-earning jobs and set an example to their own children.

In the project’s first year, 11 of the 14 students achieved the benchmark and Mr Price hopes this will rise to 100 percent in the near future.