Feel-good factors worth a medal

former head Hilary Farley gained a reputation as a real Mrs Motivator during her time at the helm of Gladstone primary school in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan.

Not one of her 400-plus pupils could be labelled a couch potato because she made sure that they did some physical activity every day. Even more remarkable is that most of them enjoyed it, come rain or shine.

Mrs Farley believed exercise helped pupils feel good, raising their self-esteem and their academic performance. Her philosophy helped the school win a special sport's award.

Now she is celebrating another honour - an MBE for services to education.

According to Jim Fletcher, retired police officer and governor at the school, enthusiasm made her stand out from the rest, winning Gladstone award after award.

"You name it, we've got it," he said. "It is down to Mrs Farley's enthusiasm for anything that benefited the children."

In a less-than-leafy suburb, the school stands out for its brightly coloured playground and murals. In 2004, 20 per cent of pupils were entitled to free school meals.

In the school's last inspection under Mrs Farley's leadership, inspection agency Estyn praised the "talented and enthusiastic" staff. Inspectors said it was well-led and managed, giving pupils an excellent climate in which to learn. In these areas it was outstanding.

Mrs Farley's reaction on being awarded the MBE neatly illustrates her "school first' philosophy.

"It's very good for the school and for the staff, who were a wonderful team," she says.

Brought up in the Vale of Glamorgan, Mrs Farley spent 16 years as head of Gladstone before retiring last summer. She had been head of Windsor Clive infant school in Cardiff for seven years previously.

Her husband Mike retired at the same time from his job as careers adviser at St Joseph's RC high school, in Newport.

Mrs Farley was a member of the Basic Skills Agency's Welsh steering group, and Gladstone became one of the first schools in the Vale of Glamorgan to be awarded the agency's much sought-after quality mark. She was proud of her pupil's achievements, saying she was all too aware of the problems associated with deprivation in the tough neighbourhood.

"The family unit is so vital," said Mrs Farley. "Some children are brought up with no routine or boundaries and poor housing.

"It's hard to imagine what some of them have gone through before they arrive at the school gates."

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