Hay Festival

During late May, the English department hosted a reward trip to the Hay Festival. Selected pupils from Year Seven to Ten were invited by their English teachers. The Hay Festival is an annual literature and arts event, encouraging young people to read more books. Visitors from all across the country visit Hay-on-Wye to attend the festival.

Blog Squad making the most of every photo opportunity

Heolddu wasn’t the only school lucky enough to attend the event. The venue was jam-packed with school students eager to see what was on offer. Visitors had plenty to do, with a long list of guest speakers hosting different exhibitions and interviews. Some included Stacey Dooley, a documentary presenter; Ade Adepitan, a former Paralympian and BBC presenter and David Baddiel, who many of you know as one of the creators of Football’s Coming Home.

One of our favourite events at the festival was delivered by Mae Martin. The Canadian Comedian was interviewed by Stephanie Merritt, both big advocates for the LGBTQ+ community. They discussed Mae’s latest book, CAN EVERYONE PLEASE CALM DOWN? A GUIDE TO 21ST CENTURY SEXUALITY. After an informative conversation about sexual fluidity and identity, they then welcomed questions from the audience. The room quickly became emotional when brave students asked hard-hitting questions such as ‘how do I tell my traditional parents I’m gay?’ and ‘how do I get my peers to accept me for who I am?’ Mae Martin left the auditorium stage with a huge round of applause.

Mae Martin’s discussion on sexual fluidity

The festival has something for everyone. It is widely enjoyable for schools, families and adults. Although the organisers are yet to announce 2020’s dates, we hope to attend the next year’s festival.

                                   By Jacob Ball

Introducing Blog Squad!

Heolddu’s Blog Squad is an extracurricular provision, taking place every Tuesday afterschool. The English club targets those identified as ‘more able and talented’ from within our year nine cohort. Its primary purpose is to increase engagement with writing, whilst also providing authentic and meaningful learning experiences for those involved.

Blog Squad exploring Cardiff Bay whilst on a visit to the ITV studios

Participants of the club hold weekly meetings with a teacher from Heolddu’s English department. Participants brainstorm the latest news from within the local area, later discussing possible pieces to cover and publish. Articles can cover anything from urgent school news to useful tips and guides for students. Each member of the Blog Squad is given one article to work on a week.

Blog Squad’s most successful piece reported on period poverty within Heolddu Comprehensive School. Olivia, a year nine student, was passionate about this often-stigmatised topic. She made it her mission to do something about it and make a change within the school. Olivia interviewed her female peers; researched what was being done in the Caerphilly area and worked closely with the senior management team to inform her final piece. As a result, Olivia’s passion and sustained effort introduced Heolddu to the campaign #PeriodDignity and kick-started much-needed change. The school is now home to a Red Box, referring to a collection of essential sanitary products free to any schoolgirls. The scheme helps to improve attendance by eradicating the effects of period poverty. 

Mrs Davies collecting Heolddu’s Red Box

Members of the Blog Squad also attend exciting and exclusive school trips. Most recently, they were invited to Cardiff Bay’s ITV studios to spend an afternoon in the life of a journalist. They were lucky enough to go on a tour around the studios; help produce and edit that afternoon’s news segment; meet with ITV Wales’ reporter and weather presenter, and even take home a bag full of goodies! Jacob, member of Blog Squad, said ‘this is the best trip ever! I never thought I’d actually see how they make the news.’ 

Blog Squad currently have a long list of ideas, including a report into mental health amongst young people and a weekly feature interviewing different teachers of Heolddu. The extracurricular provision is also hoping to expand its reach, by inviting MAT students from other year groups. It is clear that Heolddu’s Blog Squad is having a positive impact on its participants as it has increased engagement with writing, whilst also providing authentic and meaningful learning experiences. To support Heolddu’s Blog Squad, please visit https://heolddublogsquad.wordpress.com

What is Heolddu doing to tackle period poverty?

Previously, Blog Squad explored what period poverty is and brought light to the effects this issue has on school girls (see https://heolddublogsquad.wordpress.com/2019/03/31/half-of-girls-miss-school-because-of-period-poverty/ ). Now, we have one vital question to ask.

What is Heolddu doing about it?

Following our previous article, I have conducted research within the school. I interviewed Mrs Bowd, deputy head at Heolddu, and my findings were invaluable. Mrs Bowd is leading the school’s fight against period poverty and has informed me there is currently lots being done in a bid to eradicate this problem.

From my online research on period poverty in the local area, I have learned that the Welsh Assembly Government has recently funded a large amount of money into the project. It has been working in partnership with a number of representatives of schools in the Caerphilly area.

The project is being led by Phillipa Marse, Executive Member for Education. The Welsh Assembly Government secured the funding to raise awareness of period poverty. A research project was conducted and surveys were distributed to pupils within the Caerphilly area. They found that young people felt the best use of the funding would be to purchase and distribute the ‘red boxes’.

What are the ‘red boxes’?

Each school receives a red box, packed with vital period products. School girls can access free sanitary towels, tampons, changes of underwear and brown bags for privacy and disposal of products. These products were not chosen by the Welsh Assembly. Instead, members of the Sanitary Protection Working Party had say over what was included. This party is made up of pupils from Heolddu, St. Cenydd and Lewis Girls.

It was originally intended that only these three schools would receive a red box. However, the Welsh Assembly Government has now decided to distribute them to primary and secondary schools, as well as local youth clubs.

Anyone within these locations in need of sanitary products can access these red boxes. You can take as little or as much as you need to get you through your period. You just need to ask a member of staff about the red box and they’ll point you in the right direction.

To finish, please don’t be embarrassed by your period. It is one of the most natural things to occur to us. Secondly, if you require any products, don’t be afraid to seek help from a member of staff. We girls are in this together.


By Olivia Evans

A beginner’s guide to revision

The dreaded examination season is upon us and both students and teachers are stressing out over this daunting time of the academic year. It can be really tough but here are my top five tips for revising effectively to help you get the best grades possible.

The Pomodoro Method

The Pomodoro Method recommends you take regular breaks in between short bursts of revision

This method of revision and time management is extremely useful for people, like me, who get distracted easily. Basically, the Pomodoro Method recommends you revise for a solid twenty five minutes, then take intermittent five minute breaks. After every twenty five minute slot of revision, your break gets longer and longer. This allows the brain to rest, increasing productivity.


Rewriting Notes

Rewriting notes can be particularly useful for visual learners

This method may not sound ground breaking but it is effective. Rather than skimming over your year’s worth of notes in your exercise book, it is much more productive to adopt this type of revision. This method requires you to thoroughly read through your work or a text book and identify the vital information. Then, depending on whether you’re a visual learner, you can rewrite your notes with bright colours and images to maximise the chances of you remembering them.

Mind Maps

A mind map based on a GCSE English Literature text

I’m pretty sure everyone knows what mind maps are but they are actually more useful than they first appear. A mind map allows you to rewrite your notes, but in a fun and visual way. This helps motivate me as it allows me to not only retain vital information, but express myself creatively. This revision method is especially useful when revising for subjects such as English, history, religious studies and other writing-based subjects. Why? Because it allows you to organise your information thematically.

Doing Past Papers

Past papers are a useful way of familiarising yourself with the layout of the exam

Practice makes perfect right? Therefore, testing your knowledge of a subject can help you improve the quality of your responses. Past papers are an useful way of familiarising yourself with the layout of the examination so you don’t get any nasty surprises on the big day. When completing past papers, ensure you either ask your teacher to mark your responses or use a mark scheme to assess your work.

Apps and Websites

Related image
Quizlet is a useful revision app

With exams looming over us, it can become difficult to revise everything within such a little time space. However, phone applications are an easy and practical way to revise on the go! One app I particularly enjoy is Quizlet. It offers various revision methods, such as flash cards, quick tests and games, all in the palm of your hand. Quizlet enables you to make your own resources, whilst also offering a search bar to find a particular topic.

Similarly, a website I regularly use is Mathswatch. Although you may be apprehensive about this particular revision platform as your teacher has most likely nagged you to use it, but it is extremely effective. It offers hundreds of videos based on a huge variety of topics within mathematics. This allows you to revisit something you found particularly difficult in class.

These are just a few of the countless revision methods. Do whatever is the best for you. Ensure you make the most of every opportunity by attending every revision session put on by your teachers. Blog Squad wish you luck in all of your upcoming examinations. Remember that the best things in life aren’t easy, but they’re definitely worth it.

By Iola Vaughan

An interview with Mr. Sims

What has been your biggest success at Heolddu?

‘I would say developing the staff and changing the culture of the school. I think it’s a really positive school. You never believe us when we say this but anyone that visits always comments on the school’s lovely environment and calm working atmosphere. Our opening line in our Estyn inspection if you remember is children are proud to belong to Heolddu Comprehensive School. So I think my biggest success would be breaking a culture that was relatively negative five years ago, and to now where I think it is going to thrive.’

What is your favourite thing to order from the canteen?

‘Spicy chicken wings are amazing, and depending on the curry because sometimes they have a nice spicy masala curry with a little bit of rice. Lovely!’

Do you have a favourite memory at Heolddu?

‘I was really proud of the assembly yesterday, the Dementia Friendly award. It has been brilliant for the school… really important. I think it would be really unfair for me to pinpoint one person for my favourite memory, but I’ll always remember Megan. When she was in Year Eight, she gave me a tour of the school during my application for Headship. She showed me around and I could see the real potential in the school. She’s just started her degree so that shows how long ago that was! But goodness gracious me, that is a powerful memory.’

You have been head teacher here for five years. How do you feel to be saying goodbye?

‘Slightly melancholy, slightly sad, but very excited. I’m looking forwarded to be challenged. I’m moving on to a new school in Chepstow. I have committed five years to Heolddu to improve it. But yeah, I have mixed emotions. I’m extremely confident in the new Head. She has the skills required to take the school forward. I’m so happy for you guys and excited to see what Heolddu has in its future.’

What will you miss most about this school and why?

‘Definitely the kids. Previous to here I was a deputy head at a school with similar students. This is quite a small school compared to most others so I will miss being able to walk around and talk to all the students. I will also really miss working with a lot of the staff and parents of the students.’

What and where is your new job?

‘My new job is in a school in Chepstow. It’s a slightly larger school with about nine hundred kids. It’s very different. It’s facing a lot of difficulties. For example, in August the staff went on strike and they are under Estyn review. They are potentially going in a category. Very similar to what I took on five years ago here. So I feel I have the skills required to improve the school. To answer one of your past questions, I think Mrs Davies will achieve more than if I stayed here because I have been “Heolddised”. I may miss what a fresh eyed person will spot straight away.’

What has been your biggest challenge at Heolddu?

‘I think the biggest challenge has been to overcome the confidence in the school because there was a lack in confidence in the community because they didn’t understand why you’d send your kids here. It was originally a school that was failing. So I think my biggest challenge was breaking that culture and stigma.’

Is there anything you want to say to the staff and students at Heolddu?

‘Yes there is. I think we all need a tap on the back. Not just the pupils… not just the staff… but everyone associated with the school. So, just a big thank you as these past five years have been a win win situation not only for me selfishly for my professional development, but for the entire community. I came here having never been a Head teacher before, so I could have got it all wrong. But I didn’t get it wrong. The staff has developed. The leadership team has developed immensely. You have a fantastic SLT here. We have brought in a lot of staff over the last five years, some really good teachers. So back to that culture, it’s just the change of the culture that we have managed to overcome together.’

“Kids belong in the pantomime, not the theatre.”

On Thursday 21st March, Year Nine students were lucky enough to visit Cardiff Millennium Centre to see a popular performance of the famous play Macbeth, by William Shakespeare. We were extremely excited as it was some of our first times visiting the theatre. That was until we overhead a group of women discussing whether teenagers should be allowed to watch the performance. Shockingly, one woman told her friend “kids belong in a pantomime, not the theatre.” Now clearly, she was referring to the childish nature of the pantomime stage and fun story lines. As a teenager, I am embarrassed that she has such a negative perspective of young people.

There were a number of reasons why we attended the renowned show. Firstly, Shakespeare, particularly Macbeth, wrote a number of popular texts studied in English Literature for GCSEs and A Levels. The trip was planned in order to prepare us for our upcoming Year Ten studies.

Also, theatre trips help students jump out of their typical comfort range and explore something completely different to what they’re used to. It develops them culturally and socially.

Lastly, it develops a love of literature among young people. The majority of us that attended were in awe of Shakespeare’s gripping story line. We couldn’t believe what was happening. It’s made us even more excited to start our GCSE English Literature studies!

From a teenager’s perspective, there are always going to be young people that mess around a lot, causing trouble for themselves and disrupting the public. Due to this small minority, all teenagers are then put under the same umbrella and stereotyped as rude and selfish.

In light of our theatre trip, I would just like to get the point out that not all teenagers are immature and ill-mannered. It is important to remember that everyone is different in their own way. There are rude young people but there are also ill-manner adults. Blog Squad would like to raise awareness about the way in which young people are stereotyped and thought of. We are not all the same. Don’t punish the majority of us as a result of the rudeness of a small minority.

By Ffion Postians

Welcome to our new sensory facilities!

On April 11th 2019, Heolddu officially opened its new sensory room and garden. There was a huge audience to see the ribbon being cut. Some of those in attendance included the school management team, governors and of course representatives of our supporting charity ‘Wooden Spoon’, that helped fund the project.

Just some of the huge audience of the opening

The sensory room and garden was built for a very important purpose. Mrs Leggett, our Higher Learning Teaching Assistant here at Heolddu, said “this area was created to act as a safe space for our most vulnerable students to come and relax during stressful times. They can come here to access the support required and to identify which strategies help them best.”

Mrs Horley, a Teaching Assistant who has worked at Heolddu for 15 years, said “our most vulnerable pupils struggle coping with going outside and interacting in big groups. The garden allows them to conquer these anxieties and interact in smaller groups. When I first started here, this space was down in the A Block, and was just a little room with board games. It’s developed over time into this amazing facility. We are all so proud.”

The rugby based charity Wooden Spoon helped fund these amazing facilities. Huw, a representative for Wooden Spoon, gave an inspiring speech to the huge crowd. He emphasised the importance of the charity, as its primary purpose is to “raise money for disadvantaged children who need the support.” Mrs Phillips, ALNCO at Heolddu, thanked Huw for mentoring the school throughout the entire process.

Brinley Groves, former Chairman of the charity, said “it’s a privilege to come here and see these wonderful projects. One of the beauties of these events is being able to bring our supporters who have put their hands in their pockets. Seeing is believing. We get to show them where their money is going and it makes it all worthwhile.”

Ollie Phillips, former winger for England 7s, is one of many celebrity supporters of the charity. He cut the ribbon to mark the official opening of the sensory garden. He said “the Wooden Spoon charity approached me about this new facility at Heolddu. I am excited and proud to open the new sensory garden. It it an area to help the most vulnerable students congregate and socialise in a nice and safe environment.”

Ollie Phillips, former winger for England 7s

So what exactly is a sensory garden and room?

Well, these two spaces are used to relax the most vulnerable children (usually those with ASD). They do this using sensory stimulation. These types of spaces help people to calm down and destress in times of need.

Miss Crandon and Mrs Wilkinson playing Giant Jenga against some of our students

The sensory garden, also known as The Wooden Spoon Grand Slam Garden, is made of artificial grass, offering students a private, outdoor space just for them. It has plenty of benches so you can sit and relax with friends. There is a water fountain, used for sound relaxation. Students can choose from a huge range of games to play with their friends, including Giant Jenga. Most importantly, the garden holds a stunning selection of painted stones stuck in the ground, all boasting inspiring messages painted by some of our pupils. The garden also has a small patch to grow fruit and vegetables.

There are lots of people to thank for helping build our new sensory garden. Year Seven pupils helped out by painting the inspirational stones in bright colours to boost a positive mindset. Other pupils also helped out by planting fruit and vegetables in the vegetable patches. Trinity, a Year Seven pupil here at Heolddu, said “it’s a place to relax. I’ve enjoyed helping build the new space. The stones are my favourite part of the garden. They make it bright and colourful!”

“We love you the way you are”, painted by one of our students

The sensory room, also known as The Wooden Spoon Tŷ Cwtsh, holds more opportunities for visual relaxation with an all white interior and comfortable seating area. The room also has pretty string lights to fidget with; a projector showcasing calming images and a huge lava lamp allowing for visual sensory stimulation.

Our mesmerising lava lamp in the sensory room

Mrs Davies, Heolddu’s new Headteacher, said “this is an amazing facility and I’m excited to come and work here. There’s so many things I love about this new space! I particularly like the water feature in the garden, as it really helps with sound relaxation. I’m also blown away by the vegetables patches, as this will help feed families in the local area. I want to say a huge thank you to the amazing people that made this happen.”

Everyone here at Heolddu is extremely proud of the development of these extraordinary facilities. We are excited to see the spaces help destress vulnerable pupils in the future!

By Iola Vaughan

Heolddu Triathlon

The PE department at Heolddu Comprehensive School are soon going to be facilitating a triathlon. The exciting event will take place on Wednesday 10th April 2019 at Heolddu Leisure Centre.

Firstly, the competitors will begin in the swimming pool. They will then have the option to quickly dry off before undertaking the next part of the challenge. Swimming will be followed by a session in the spin bike room. Finally, they’ll undertake a challenging run on the top rugby field.

Competitors will choose between three levels of difficulty:

Level 1 – 6 widths in pool, 5 minutes on spin bike, run on top feild.

Level 2 – 3 lengths in pool, 5 minutes on spin bike, run on top feild

Level 3 – 7 lengths in pool, 5 minutes on spin bike, run on top feild.

The length of the run will also vary depending on the level of difficulty.

There will also be a tag team event. Members of any teams will undertake 5 lengths in the pool, followed by a 5 minute bike session, rounded off by a run on the rugby field.

If you wish to participate in the triathlon, you must collect and return a permission letter from Mr Evans. For any further information, please contact the PE department.

By Ryan Purdy

The subway’s new look

During the late winter months, Heolddu Comprehensive School asked the graffiti art company Peaceful Progress to redecorate the previously unloved school subway. Pupils in Year Nine who were thinking of taking art for GCSE were selected to help one of their graffiti artists (Bryce) generate ideas for the subway. After taking in all of the many ideas from pupils, it was decided that subway’s makeover would be based on the theme of ocean plastics.

On the far entrance of the subway, the outside walls demonstrate a floral theme where huge flowers seem to cleverly “grow” out of the ground. This floral theme represents nature and its importance. Next to those flowers, there’s a large area with Heolddu written in pale green.

On the inside of the subway, the graffiti artist used an illusion, making passersby feel as if they are inside the ocean, surrounding by sea creatures and water. On the left entrance of the subway, there is a large wave and the tail of a whale splashing out of the water.

Heolddu in front of the beautiful floral design

Peaceful Progress’ hard work has really paid off and it has given the subway a new lease of life.

By Iola Vaughan

Blog Squad questions top University students

Heolddu’s Blog Squad recently took part in Oxford University’s ‘Big Questions’ project. It is run by the University’s innovative digital outreach portal, cleverly titled Oxplore. ‘Big Questions’ aims to engage secondary school students, with debates and ideas that go beyond what is covered in the classroom. It strives to help young people ‘realise aspirations, promote broader thinking and stimulate intellectual curiosity.’

Members of the Blog Squad tuned into a live debate, hosted by Oxford tutor and ‘Naked Mathematician’ Tom Crawford. The Oxford and Cambridge graduate, also known as Tom Rocks Maths, posed questions sent in by us viewers to three University students. The panel included Esther who students PPE (philosophy, politics and economics); Felix who studies physics and maths and Oliver who studies history.

The ‘Big Questions’ panel

Members of the Blog Squad tuned in and participated using the school’s Chromebooks. Viewers had the opportunity to send in their own questions, as well as responding to other students via the online web chat. There was a whirlwind of thought-provoking questions, such as ‘how do we go about solving climate change?’ and ‘what is life itself?’ These big questions left us with plenty to think about on a Friday afternoon!

You can watch this year’s ‘Big Questions’ at https://livestream.com/oxuni/Oxplore-50/videos/189312742

By Jacob Ball