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How Tonyrefail Community School is developing its Community Focused Schools approaches.

First published:
15 November 2023
Last updated:

School context

  • Tonyrefail Community School, Rhondda Cynon Taf local authority
  • 1623 pupils on roll (2022)
  • 24.8% of learners eligible for free school meals over a three-year average (2022)
  • 3 to 19 

Community Focused School approaches taken

 Tonyrefail Community School recognised the deep history and pride in their local community and saw the opportunity for the school to work together for the benefit of the children. Headteacher, Heather Nicholas, understood that communication was vital, giving everyone a voice and improving the school and the community as a whole. Establishing relationships was crucial to achieving this and the school worked hard to engage all sectors within the community.

The school reached out to the community, asking how the school and other community agencies could support each other.

The Headteacher said:

We looked at what the needs of the community were and realised that we could not do this alone and that we didn't have the skill sets and expertise to tackle the wide range of areas that we felt our community either needed or wanted support with from their school.

To support this development the school liaised with as many people as possible including: 

  • The Chamber of Trade 
  • local police 
  • community support workers 
  • high street vendors 
  • care homes

The headteacher holds regular meetings with these parties, planning for beneficial outcomes for all involved:

When we've got an issue, we can clearly define what that is. We can then share it with people that we think may be able to help. So, then we meet about it and discuss the best ways forward.

Specific approaches to support community engagement

In order to bring together all of the community, an inter-school football tournament was introduced. Teams consisted of players from different schools. Playing together they developed friendships as well as an understanding of one another. This in-school tournament also supported positive relationships outside of school.

By working with representatives from the community the school became aware of some of the wider challenges young people were facing. For example, young people felt they didn’t have a space in the community that was ‘theirs’. In response, the school worked with local councillors to gain funding for a local skatepark, with young people helping to design the park.

Alongside this it was identified that children also needed a place to call their own in school in order to be able to self-regulate and reflect. Designated outside space was identified. 'Pods' were erected so that the space could be used in all weathers. The school also introduced rabbits into the space with the aim of further enhancing the children's wellbeing and providing a calming influence.

In addition, the school has a specialist youth worker on-site, ensuring young people can speak about any issues they may be facing, knowing they’ll be heard and can be open, while in a safe space.

Positive impacts of Community Focused School approaches taken

Tonyrefail Community School have seen great impacts from the initiatives and work that has been done including:

  • lower exclusion rates
  • higher attendance
  • less anti-social behaviour in the wider community
  • a greater overall sense of inclusion and respect for all

The Headteacher commented:

This is all about shared learning as a community, getting confidence from one another. Speaking to children, to parents, to shop owners, the rugby club. Getting a collective voice and moving forward together.

Next steps as a Community Focused School

The school understands the benefit of offering children support outside of traditional school hours. The school is currently working with staff to identify how to take this forward without creating burden and extra workload, while still being able to meet the needs of the community.