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Shared love of rugby gets dads on side

Dads used to feel intimidated inside the school gates of Upper Rhymney Primary near Tredegar

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But not any more, according to head Jonathan Lloyd, who came up with an idea to get them more involved in their sons' education . by taking them to see the rugby.

Since the school set up outings to see the Ospreys in action, fathers have started to show their faces in school a lot more - and have even invited the head out for a pint.

Mr Lloyd said men used to be uncomfortable in the school, which is 95 per cent female. But since setting up the "dads and lads" club, they have become less reluctant to drop off their children and chat to teachers. Dads have even joined in assemblies, and one recently joined the governing body.

According to Mr Lloyd, sport - especially the love of rugby in Wales - has been a real icebreaker.

"There has been a visible improvement," said Mr Lloyd. "Our Year 6 boys now love coming to school and love their male pastoral care worker. His work with them is excellent and they really value it."

Positive male role models are important at the school because many of its pupils come from deprived backgrounds. "Those children who don't have dads at home also need support," said Mr Lloyd. "One father who is particularly good with ICT now volunteers in school after taking part in the group."

Last month, Estyn recognised the school's efforts to close the gap between boys' and girls' achievement.

Inspectors said partnerships with parents were outstanding and awarded the school five grade 1s and two grade 2s.

Mr Lloyd firmly believes changes in the curriculum are benefiting boys, especially moves towards more play-led learning. "Over the past 15 years, the curriculum has been very female-dominated, whereas the new one is skills-based," said Mr Lloyd. "Girls also benefit."

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