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Painting a Brighter Future with Dulux Trade

Brighter Futures for Hafod

When the Smarter Spaces team at Dulux Trade heard about an innovative school in Wales that had created a visually stimulating learning environment using Dulux Trade paints, we simply had to see for ourselves. With our own memories of drab school walls, parquet floors and strip lighting, nothing could prepare us for what we saw at Hafod; a school that is full of colour, adventure and inspiration for its pupils and the wider community. It is an understatement to say we were absolutely blown away by what we saw.

Hafod Primary School is situated in the Lower Swansea Valley, a 1.5 mile stones-throw from the city centre, at the heart of a tightly-knit community. Like most post-industrial towns, Hafod is struggling with unemployment – its population is a mixture of long established local families, with roots embedded in Swansea's industrial development and a large number of families who have English as an additional language.

“In a school of 21 languages, 6 faiths and a multitude of cultures our job is to create a place where everyone is included, feels safe, valued and heard. A place where they want to come to that inspires them to want to learn and feel hopeful for the future,” says Rachel Webb, the flame-haired headmistress who in look and demeanor is the polar opposite of what you’d expect a headmistress to be. But then again, her school is not what you’d expect either - a magical, colourful world away from Dylan Thomas’s “lovely, ugly town” of Swansea and drab colours of the primary schools of yesteryear.

Hafod Primary school is awash with colour, murals and pictures; words of wisdom, values and learning adorn the walls. Everywhere you look, from the staffroom to the canteen, is a feast for the eyes.

As pupils move through the school they are exposed to a range of murals depicting characters from stories, myths and legends as well as different environments such as beaches and woods that many of those being taught here will have limited experience of. Every wall is a learning wall, encouraging exploration and curiosity. The Early Years’ corridor is utilised for both the teaching of nursery rhymes and philosophy. Rachael Webb says, “Our vision is to provide a rich, varied, balanced and well-resourced curriculum which will stimulate the natural curiosity and enquiring mind of every child, regardless of ability race or gender. We want each and every child to reach his or her true potential. You can’t do that so well in a drab environment.”

“Our aim is that the lives of all who leave Hafod Primary School will have been enhanced by their experience with us, and that each child will leave equipped with the ability and eagerness to learn more and be ready to meet the challenges of adolescent and adult life. That aim starts with the environment in which the pupil finds themselves.”

And what an environment it is. The school is a product of all the efforts of the staff, overseen by Rachael Webb and her equally passionate Deputy Head, Karen Hopkins. When you first step through the front doors you are greeted by a rainbow that wraps around the school, found in every classroom – a continual reminder to all about the unity between major world religions and links to the school’s work on Peace Mala (a Swansea-based organisation dedicated to fostering inter-cultural and inter-faith tolerance).

When the school was completely destroyed in March 1992, it gave Rachael Webb an opportunity to redesign the school around the pupils and their particular requirements. Everything from the facilities to the size of classrooms, the colour and the layout of the staffroom was redesigned to reinforce the school’s mission statement of ‘learning, laughing and living together’.

The new school, opened in spring of 1995 over two floors and consists of five double teaching classrooms supporting two classes and equipped with a practical area, withdrawal area and computer bay. The school hall serves as an Art Gallery and canteen and is equipped with a stage area for assemblies and drama productions. There’s a brightly coloured Leonardo Da Vinci library, where all the children have creative sessions every week, a community gym and a roof top garden which has yet to reap the rewards of a makeover, but not for long if 10 year old Bessie Jenkins has anything to do with it.

Bessie explains, “My ideas are to make the rooftop garden a prayer room or a chill out room. Also we need a mini staff room for Year Six only!” Take a trip up the Welsh Stairwell, past a visual celebration of Welsh heritage and culture, to the upper floor and you’ll find great thinkers, such as Socrates, peering down from the walls of the philosophy room. Here the children have weekly philosophy sessions and it’s reported to be their favourite room having been designed exclusively by the pupils with an Alice in Wonderland theme to encourage exploration and wonder.

Further along the Foundation Phase/space corridor, the science laboratory introduces pupils to a timeline of famous scientists; varying aspects of the science curriculum are painted on the walls.

“Since science is an inquiry based subject there are many questions on the walls which promote thinking skills and inquiry based learning.” explains Hopkins.

The pièce de résistance and Rachael Webb’s favourite area is the Phoenix Gallery where the works of the great artists are displayed in a timeline of art history, from cave paintings to Jackson Pollock, alongside those painted by the children. How many of us can say our work hangs alongside that of Da Vince or Van Gogh? Hafod’s pupils can and it allows them to experience and imitate paintings they wouldn’t ordinarily experience every day; a source of inspiration the gallery stimulates passion for learning through art and creativity. Deputy Head, Mrs. Hopkins says, “Light, colour, aesthetics all play an important part in how we feel about and respond to our environment which is why we carefully considered what