A blooming positive change

11th August 2006 at 01:00
In the 10 years that she has been in charge, Lynn Ball has striven to create a new image for Talgarth junior school, positioning it as a forward-thinking establishment, yet one that is firmly rooted within its community.

"A decade ago the perception of the school was negative, but we have all worked very hard to turn things around," she says.

"But changes don't happen overnight, they have to be firmly embedded in the ethos of the school if they are to be sustainable. We want everyone - staff, parents, pupils - to work together, so we try to be inclusive, not authoritarian, and we ensure that we don't impose changes upon people."

The school's approach to well-being has secured it the healthy schools award in this summer's 2006 teaching awards.

The judges described Talgarth, which is near Brecon, as having a "groundbreaking" approach to health, and commended it on successfully engaging the entire school in the process.

Projects include a garden where vegetables are grown - these are used to make the cawl (Welsh stew) that is served at the school's harvest festival community gathering. The produce is nurtured by the contents of the school composting bin, and pupils can take the surplus home to fertilise the family garden.

The whole school joined forces in the design of the play trail within the grounds, and helped with the selection of the apparatus. Talgarth has secured an eco-award for its approach to energy conservation and recycling - a paper bin outside the school is used by parents and the wider community.

And a corner of the school grounds is now a dedicated wildlife zone.

Lynn Ball feels children should be encouraged to enjoy nutritious food from an early age, so fizzy drinks, crisps and sweets have been banned from the premises, and a "fruity Friday" tuck shop promotes healthy eating.

Nutritious packed lunches are also encouraged, although Mrs Ball doesn't want to preach to parents on this subject.

Emotional well-being is recognised as being of equal importance to physical vigour, and a "worry box" is provided so that pupils can articulate any concerns they may have, safe in the knowledge that the information is confidential.

Although Talgarth is a rural school (and home to just 69 pupils), road safety is still an issue, and the school has developed safe cycling routes for the children.

And last term, a parents' health week, where alternative therapies were laid on, proved very popular. Now there are plans afoot to dedicate a week during the autumn term to dads' health.

"We are trying to cater for the needs and interests of all parents," says Mrs Ball.

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