AN INSPECTION team has given a secondary school in the UK's smallest city praise for overcoming "desperate" accommodation problems.
Ysgol Dewi Sant in Pembroke-shire has leaky roofs, faulty heating systems and no indoor PE facility. But "the unstinting commitment" of teachers and outstanding leadership has made up for conditions that just about meet curriculum needs, says the post-inspection report from Estyn.
The school was awarded a grade 1 in seven key areas, the highest possible score.
The 460-pupil school is located in scenic St Davids, said to be the birthplace of Wales's patron saint. It has 24 full-time and 14 part-time staff under the headship of Ray Bevan, who took over in April. Only 13 per cent of its pupils are entitled to free school meals and there is good support from parents.
However, the report says the school presents a "tired, over-used look with parts of the exterior in desperate need of repair, maintenance and decoration".
The plight of some of Wales's dilapidated schools was highlighted by TES Cymru last month when it was reported that Carmarthen-shire has taken out a huge mortgage-style loan of pound;73 million to tackle worsening conditions.
"The best part of the school was built in 1895," Mr Bevan says. "We have a small assembly hall with low roofs that doubles up as a gym and a drama studio. It is only really suitable for table-tennis but it means we do well in this sport.
"Our achievements in PE are outstanding and it is all down to the resourcefulness of the staff."
Despite its lack of facilities, the school has a high number of sports teams and individual pupils competing at county and international level. Self defence activities, basketball and dance all received good write-ups in the report. All pupils were said to have an understanding of healthy lifestyles.
Academic achievement is also outstanding in most areas, says the report. In the 78-pupil sixth form, pupils have achieved 100 per cent grades A-E in A levels over the past three years, with an average point score of 27 seven higher than the Welsh average. The number of pupils achieving five or more GCSE grades A*-C is also in the top quarter of similar schools.
The only subject with room for improvement was ICT. But pupils' grasp of the complexities of Hitler's rise to power in A-level history got a special mention.
Eleri Griffiths, a Year 12 pupil, says: "Although we are lacking facilities, it doesn't take away from the quality of the education."
The only recommendations are to improve ICT skills, and to work with Pembrokeshire county council to improve accommodation.
A spokesperson for the county council said: "During this financial year, the authority plans to spend pound;11m on school improvements. This equates to pound;93.62 per head of population and is the fourth highest in Wales (average pound;63.71).