Fantasy island creativity

21st March 2008 at 00:00
Racial harmony is a key factor in how a Cardiff primary school achieved seven top grades in its inspection

The creativity of its pupils is central to the ethos of the thriving multicultural environment that is Mount Stuart Primary School in Cardiff. And with 95 per cent of its pupils from ethnic-minority backgrounds, appreciation of different cultures is also all-important.

With both these things in mind, Year 5 teacher Shubnam Aziz, who doubles up as art and creativity co-ordinator, decided to scrap normal life and let little imaginations run wild.

All of last week, the pupils lived on a fantasy island called Illuzia. Each of the 10 classes represented a different town with its own laws and traditions.

"All the activities were child-led," said Ms Aziz. "It involved all parts of the curriculum.

"They created flags and costumes by looking at those of other countries and we explored maths through currency. We even made it relevant to local places. Our town was by the docks so we related it to Cardiff Bay."

The school makes the most of the cultures already represented in the school and multilingual signs in Arabic and Somali, as well as Welsh, hang on classroom doors.

Racial harmony and innovative practice may help to explain why Mount Stuart was awarded seven grade 1s by Estyn inspectors, who said pupils were "happy, well cared for and well taught".

Around four-fifths of pupils do not speak English as a first language when they arrive at the nursery and more than half are eligible for free school meals - well above national and local averages. But staff won't use these statistics as excuses for low achievement.

"We don't accept that there is a challenge that can't be overcome," said headteacher Sharon Randall-Smith. "Everyone has high expectations of each child."

The school's high FSM ratio makes it eligible for RAISE funding, which has helped train teachers for literacy and maths intervention programmes at key stage 1. This has boosted children's achievement from an early stage.

Year 6 teacher Lynne Berriman says: "We have a lot of support staff and put great emphasis on speaking and listening. Parents are also very supportive."

Community involvement is crucial to Mount Stuart and parents are encouraged to take part in their children's learning.

An active PTA group raises money. Many of the parents do not speak English as a first language, and they are strongly supported by the school's bilingual service and through courses such as computing.

As well as successfully supporting pupils who need extra help, whether with special educational needs or language provision, the staff also stretch gifted and able children.

"We place no limit on what each child can achieve," said Mrs Randall-Smith. "We are very inventive with our curriculum and try to make learning as challenging, exciting and fun as possible."

She adds that the school is always developing new plans.

"We don't live on our reputation - we're always looking for new ways to improve."

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