Arts Council of Wales | Ysgol Deganwy, Conwy

Ysgol Deganwy, Conwy

A creative approach to developing Welsh language and culture in education

Ysgol Deganwy is a primary school in the village of Deganwy, Conwy, and became involved with the Lead Creative Schools Scheme two years ago as the school wanted to find creative techniques to improve pupils’ literacy and numeracy skills with a focus on the Welsh language and understanding of Welsh culture.

As part of the scheme, popular Welsh artists, musician Gai Thomas, actor Gwion Aled and actor and author Rhian Cadwaladr, came on board as creative practitioners alongside teaching staff at Ysgol Deganwy. They worked with 45 year two pupils to explore how creating rhymes and games can establish sentence patterns that will be integrated into the every-day language. They used a range of creative techniques and spaces to bring to life Welsh language and culture, such as outdoor games, rap music, story telling, film making and digital skills.

Wendy Williams, deputy head-teacher and project coordinator at Ysgol Deganwy explains how the project not only helped in the development of the children’s Welsh language, but also their self-esteem and confidence. She explains how this positive impact came about and how they plan to make the project sustainable.

"A small minority of our pupils have a Welsh language background. We have always tried to embed the Welsh language in the pupils’ education, but for those who don’t speak Welsh as their first language, it can be difficult to pick up. Working creatively using the five creative habits of mind, not only allowed us to find new techniques to help the children learn Welsh and get a better understanding of Welsh culture, but also encouraged them to use other skills such as problem-solving, working as a team and taking a lead in their own learning and development – even at as young as six and seven years old!"

"We wanted to utilise our outdoor facilities so a wooden ship, willow tunnel and the garden area all offered a base for learning. The pupils really immersed themselves in the activities, and the outcomes were very impressive. Children who had little or no Welsh language are now persevering within school, and taking what they’ve learnt home to teach parents and siblings. They’re also teaching other pupils in the school to capitalise on what they’ve learnt and help others who might be struggling with their Welsh.

"As well as academic developments, we also saw pupils grow in confidence, self-belief and self-empowerment. Some were quite nervous to begin with but by the end of the project were putting themselves forward to get involved, and using their-own voice to influence their own learning.

"In terms of teaching methods across the entire school curriculum, we got a lot more from the Lead Creative Schools Scheme than we initially expected. We spent time with the creative practitioners, Gai and Gwion co-planning and co-evaluating, and they taught us a lot of new skills, which we are integrating into current and future teaching practices. The effects of this project will be long-lasting at Ysgol Deganwy."

Rhian Cadwaldr added:

"My role has been to act as a support between the creative practitioners, Gai and Gwion and the school. I’ve worked with young people for over 12 years, but haven’t seen a creative education scheme quite as impactful as Lead Creative Schools. Each of the creative practices used were well thought through to ensure that they embodied the skills necessary to help children learn and develop as individuals. Using singing, role-play, games and other creative techniques encouraged the pupils to use their imaginations, work collaboratively and continue to persist until they got it right. The pupils were very engaged, and this extended to their parents, most of whom came to the showcase event at the end of the project, and some are planning on taking their families to the Tate event in April."

Registered Charity Number 1034245