IT’S been a tough couple of years for schools, but three primaries in Carmarthenshire may have a spring in their step after strong reports by Welsh Government education inspectors.

Estyn inspections of Cross Hands, Drefach and Llandybie primaries published this month have cited many positive aspects, although recommendations for improvement were made.

Children at Cross Hands Community Primary found out how many litres of milk a cow could produce during a virtual interview with a farmer about life on the land. They also discovered what their class’s favourite flavour of milkshake was, and learned about the effect of a healthy diet on the planet.

Inspectors described the school, which has 143 pupils on its roll, as happy and caring.

Pupils’ reading and writing skills were developing well, said the report, with older ones applying their skills successfully in Welsh and English.

“Teachers plan a rich range of activities that nurture increasing independence among the pupils,” it said.

Nearly all pupils behaved well, treated their peers and staff with respect, and had a positive attitude towards lessons. They baked cakes to raise money for children in wartorn Ukraine. Some older ones led physical sessions.

Estyn said staff intervened skilfully to move learning forward, explained new concepts effectively, and successfully promoted the importance of good behaviour, courtesy and respect – but it added that an appropriate level of challenge was not consistent for all pupil groups.

The school has partnerships with outside groups, including a club for the elderly which helped pupils learn about the history of the area.

Estyn has recommended that the school ensures an appropriate level of challenge for all pupils, and improves their oral Welsh skills.

The school shares resources with the smaller Ysgol Gynradd Drefach, which inspectors found to have many of the same attributes. The same two recommendations were also made.

Drefach pupils, said Estyn, tended to have lower than expected skills on entering the school, but once there, they made appropriate progress.

A task to write a diary from the perspective of a war-time soldier demonstrated sound English writing skills, while most pupils by Year 2 could programme a device to create a simple animation.

Most Drefach pupils were well behaved, listened attentively in class and understood the need to keep fit and eat healthily. Tennis and swimming lessons were available for older children.

Pupils campaigned to collect for a charity in Ukraine, and most developed a sound understanding of the importance of being moral citizens.

The report said leaders, teachers and assistants shared a clear vision to develop the Drefach and Cross Hands school federation.

“All staff work well together to create a caring community and a safe learning environment,” it said.

Llandybie community primary, meanwhile, was described as caring and friendly, with pupils having a strong voice on life at the school.

By Year 6 they communicated confidently in Welsh and English, and most pupils created imaginative pieces of work, for example when writing a monologue from the perspective of one of the survivors of the Aberfan disaster.

Across the school, the standard of most pupils’ numeracy was “robustly good”, with problem-solving activities for older ones including discovering how much time it would take for different materials to lose their radiation.

Estyn said nearly all pupils behaved exceptionally well in lessons and were mature and responsible on the playground. Care for others was shown by raising money for people and children in Ukraine.

The school, which has 239 enrolled pupils, has been advised to expand opportunities for pupils to apply their basic and creative skills inside and outside the classroom, and ensure that all pupils in Years 1 and 2 had consistent access to stimulating learning.

Estyn said Llandybie’s head teacher provided “robust leadership”, fostering a culture of continuous improvement throughout the school.

“As a result, nearly all have high expectations of themselves, each other and of pupils’ standards of achievement,” it said.