Carol previously worked at Sandfields Comprehensive, one of the four schools that merged to create Ysgol Bae Baglan.
She tells us about how the new facility has changed her P.E. curriculum and impacted the local community.
Hi Carol, first of all, can you tell us how you felt about your school merging?
Sandfields was built in the 60’s, so it was old and very tired. I had a lovely environment there for P.E, but you come over here and the facilities are brand new. It gives the children a new lease of life and makes them want to participate in sport.
The indoor facilities here help us push pupils to excel, and outside we’ve got ground for all kinds of sports; there’s so much opportunity.
In terms of breathing new life, how are pupils responding to their new space?
I think the real difference here is that it drives the kids to keep doing extracurricular activity up into secondary school.
We’re a big P.E department of seven, so we can offer a wealth of activities and there’s lots of outside initiatives involved with the school. It’s added a real community feel to the area and we’ve got a lot of start-up clubs using our facilities now. Hockey was dying a death in our old school, but we now have a club running out of Ysgol Bae Baglan.
How does the sports community compare now to before?
It’s bigger. I’ve got more quality here because I’m seeing children from three secondary schools come together; we’ve always had talent, but now it has been pooled. For example, in netball we are now county champions across years 7, 8, 9 and 10. That’s a huge achievement and we are competing with schools that are top of their game.
The teachers have also come together brilliantly. We all knew each other beforehand so the change has been fairly smooth and everybody accepts what their role is, so there hasn’t been any animosity.
It probably helps having such a diverse talent amongst our staff, every possible activity you can think of, we’ve got somebody who can take control of it.
Have you noticed anything else?
More children are joining clubs outside of school hours and that’s impacted on their downtime, which I think has a knock on effect on their health, fitness and wellbeing. It’s all positives.
Initially they were pretty much tied to their friends from their previous schools. But there’s been a gradual integration. I’m surprised how smoothly they have managed it.
It could have been a really difficult situation. For instance, take a netball team that were the best players in their school. All these girls had to come together and it was absolutely crazy, we had to run three to four teams last year to keep everyone happy.
Naturally, there’s been a fall off, but having these facilities has allowed us to offer a space for everyone to play if they want to. We are going on tour to Devon this year and we are able to take 24 kids. There’s a place for everyone.
Was there anything like this that existed beforehand?
All of our schools were pretty much community schools, used every night of the week. But here, the space is driven by community, it brings everyone in and you can sense that when you come here in the evening.
Can you tell us more about what it’s like here in the evening?
There are flood lights on, bodies everywhere and there’s a real sense that we are bringing sport into the community. There’s also ceramic classes, dance, pottery, music, drama going on. It’s busy, there’s a buzz about the place until nine/ten o’clock at night.
Is there anything you think could be improved?
Naturally there are some things that haven’t quite worked for us. In terms of the children getting ready for P.E., the changing rooms are quite small and it would make more sense to have them next to the sports hall.
And finally, can you sum up how the new building makes you feel?
I love it. It’s nice to come and work here, we’ve got brilliant spaces, the room sizes are uplifting and the kids are getting a fab curriculum.