Taking primary school back to its roots

After a year spent indoors, the support of local businesses and the community has allowed pupils of St Michael’s Catholic Primary School in Pontypridd to take their lessons beyond the classroom.

Lockdowns have hit us all over the past year, especially young children who endured months of being stuck indoors and away from school friends. For those who were able to attend hub schools, like St Michaels in Pontypridd, social distancing continued to hamper the playground fun.

So, in June 2020, when St Michaels was allowed to open as a ‘Hub’, staff decided it was time to take a new approach by taking the classroom outdoors, and the launched a forest school.

The forest school had an immediate positive effect on all pupils, with many stating the sessions were the best part of their day. So, in January 2021 teachers and pupils decided to take the initiative to the next level and set about creating a new outdoor learning space.

The new alfresco classroom is attended by chickens, registration can take place around the campfire, and the lunch menu could one day include vegetables pupils have grown themselves.

Garden Lead, Miss Lauren Davies, said: "The idea for the garden began with the Covid Hubs. For us that started in June 2021 when faith school hubs were introduced, so we could reopen.

"Some of our staff are fully trained in forest schools, which means we can spend a large amount of time learning outside. We chose to carry into the hub and being able to learn in an open space has helped with social distancing.

"The feedback from the hub was that was it was the most enjoyable part of the children’s experience, and we found it the most helpful activity for the children to maintain normality during the pandemic. From this we knew we needed to continue our outdoor area with more of a wellbeing aspect."

Donations from local businesses and construction companies have allowed Miss Davies and a committed team of pupils and staff to create ‘The Axiom Garden’, complete with vegetable patches and a chicken coop named “Cluckingham Palace”, which is home to five hand-reared residents.

One of the businesses to support the garden’s creation is Newbridge-based electronics manufacturer, Axiom Manufacturing Services.

David Davies, managing director at Axiom, said: “The past year has been hard on us all, but especially young children. Schools like St Michaels have been evermore crucial to pupils and their families during this time and when dedicated, forward thinking teachers are working even harder to care for our children, it’s our duty to support them.

“The new garden has clearly been a labour of love for all those who have had a hand in creating it. Everyone at Axiom is proud to have played a small part in helping to give these pupils a new space to learn about sustainability, the environment, and safely enjoy being together once again.”

It's eventually hoped the school will also develop some ‘farm cart’, a small version of a farm shop, to allow pupils to learn business skills as they sell the fruits of their labours.

Mrs Joanna Taylor, headteacher, said: “We are very fortunate to have such wonderful grounds as part of our school environment. The staff and pupils have enjoyed creating the forest school and this activity played an important role when we opened as a hub school. Pupils said it was the best part of their day.

“I was so pleased when Lauren suggested creating a garden to enhance our wellbeing opportunities for all pupils. This garden is now here forever creating memories and teaching new skills to all.”

Taking primary school back to its roots

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