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Top of the class for inspirational woodland teaching
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Pencoed School in Bridgend and Ferryside School V.C.P School near Carmarthen have won Gold and Silver respectively in the Royal Forestry Society's 2015 Excellence in Forestry Schools Awards.

They beat off stiff competition from across Wales to impress judges - Sue Williams who heads up the Education, Learning and Sector Skills Team for Natural Resources Wales, and Phil Tanner, Education Manager of the Royal Forestry Society (RFS).

Pencoed School has around 570 pupils and has its own woodland which was planted 24 years ago by students and staff as a resource for learning opportunities not just for the students attending the school but the whole community.

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Winning Gold: Pencoed School in Bridgend

Judge Phil Tanner said: "This inspirational work to ensure that Pencoed School is more than just a school is supported by both the school staff and the parents of the children. Leading the school's engagement programme is local resident Julie Jenkins whose enthusiastic approach to providing outdoor learning opportunities is at the heart of the school's success."

Head teacher Ms Sarjeant said: "At Pencoed Primary School we strive to promote family involvement and to support and create partnerships with the families in our school. Using our Forest School Area for this has been a key aspect of our development this year. Showing the value of using woodland areas for all aspects of learning has inspired and motivated many of our families to get outside and enjoy nature!

"The award will help us promote this resource further and ensure it is sustained for future generations. I am thrilled that the hard work and dedication of all involved has been recognised."

Silver Award winner Ferryside V.C.P School has formed a partnership with a local woodland co-operative. This gives the children the opportunity to visit a woodland within their local community that is managed by coppice rotations for the production of charcoal, helping them to understand and appreciate woodlands within their local community. Project work has increased their knowledge of woodlands on a global scale where they learn about the value of the world’s forests.

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Winning Silver: Ferryside School near Carmarthen

Judge Phil Tanner says: " Projects on ash dieback and the wood processing cycle demonstrate the importance Ferryside School placed on pupils being aware of the importance of trees and wood products within their daily life.

"The value of Ferryside's woodland education is evident within the school and the local community. Winning silver in the RFS Excellence in Forestry schools award provides Ferryside with the recognition that their efforts to provide first class woodland based outdoor learning deserve!"

Headteacher Jayne Davies said: "I feel immensely proud of our success in this highly-esteemed national competition and grateful to all the staff, pupils, governors and members of the local community who have worked so diligently during the past year to establish Panteg Woodland in Ferryside as an inspirational learning tool.

"Physical, practical, hands-on experience in the beautiful outdoors has led to a positive improvement in pupils’ enthusiasm for learning and has impacted upon cognitive skills, raising standards in all areas of the curriculum. The outstanding work undertaken as a whole school has raised awareness of the natural world on a local and global level."

There were also three Highly Commended Schools:

  • Builth Wells High School
  • Portfield School, Haverfordwest
  • St Christopher's School, Wrexham