A SCHOOL with thousands of pupils might seem a recipe for disaster – one where pupils and staff are lost, fall behind or are forgotten.

Not so at Stanwell School, Penarth.

Shown around by deputy head Clare Kynaston, I quickly noticed the love, care and attention provided to every child.

There are around 2000 pupils in the school, and more than 100 dedicated, qualified teaching staff.

Pupils were greeted by name in every corridor.

Staff and students shouted hello to each other in the halls, sharing stories of exam trials and revision preparation.

The staff know and care for their pupils, and this attention to detail shines through in every aspect of Stanwell.

The comprehensive and sixth form college, with pupils from Years 7 through to 13, grew out of Penarth Grammar School.

Its long past is reflected in the warren of buildings and corridors, with some dating from the early 1900s, and others as recent as 2012.

Entire education blocks were tucked away in the school – each hidden treasure more impressive than the last.

Every inch of the art department was covered in paintings, drawing and sculptures, the IT departments were stacked with rows of modern machines, and the recently refurbished sports pitches are home to professional teams.

Head teacher Trevor Brown took over at Stanwell in September 2018. Although a relative newcomer to the site, having previously taught in Newport, it is clear he is immensely proud of the students and staff.

“Visitors to the school often comment on the warm, friendly and purposeful environment that exists at Stanwell and, despite its size, they see how the school cares about the individual child and their progress,” he said.

“The school’s Mission Statement is summarised as ‘Learning to Excel’ and this is the vision for every child, whatever their starting points, interests or talents. The school thrives because we have a fantastic team of teachers, teaching assistants, support staff, parents and governors who help make this vision a reality.

“This is what makes the school so successful because everybody gives so much.”

Wandering through a theatre the school uses to put on assemblies and biannual productions, Mrs Kynaston pointed out a section of floor that moved away to create an orchestral pit. The production value afforded to every department – theatre, maths, sports, English – was astounding.

“We try to give our pupils the very best,” said Mrs Kynaston. “We want them to truly reach their potential. To excel.”

Mr Brown agreed. “Our amazing staff believe in every young person’s potential to succeed and really do go the ‘extra mile’ for pupils,” he said. “Our pupils flourish academically but also as well rounded, confident young people ready to contribute to society.

The extra-curricular provision at the school is broad and this really helps to develop our students' confidence and skills beyond the classroom setting.”

That extra-curricular provision is a key focus for the school.

Lessons finish at 2.55pm, earlier in the day than most other schools, but that affords pupils plenty of time to take on other pursuits.

The school offers a huge number of activities, ranging from the expected - rugby, football, hockey, theatre and orchestra - to the esoteric, like German Film Club or Cipher Club.

School trips in recent years have taken students to such exotic destinations as Costa Rica, Iceland, Borneo, Morocco, Spain, Germany, France, and Italy, allowing students to soak in culture both at home and abroad.

Clearly, a huge pupil base allows for a huge number of options.

The school’s ability to bring such a population to the table, and keep them focussed, has produced excellent results.

In the last fifty years alone, it has produced Olympians, rugby internationals, Members of Parliament and television presenters.

It has ties to Nasa, and men who walked on the moon have visited the school for talks.

Its most curious claim to fame comes in the form of a mascot painted on a wall.

Emma Davies, a former pupil of the school, had a design chosen as the official Welsh Wenlock – the Olympic mascot for the London 2012 games.

But Stanwell flourishes academically, as well.

In its 2018 GCSE results, 98 per cent of Stanwell pupils achieved at least their expected grades, compared to 90 per cent of the rest of Wales. The same story went for maths, with 98 per cent again hitting their expected target or better, against 91 per cent of Wales.

At A level, 37 per cent of all grades were A* or A, with 83 per cent of the year group achieving A* to C overall.

A level results put Stanwell students amongst the top performers in Wales, with many individuals securing exceptional grades. 61 of them (26 per cent) achieved the equivalent of three A grades or better.

Three of its pupils went to Oxford University last year, while another earned a place at Cambridge University.

Mr Brown said: “We place a large emphasis on listening to our learners and and our pupils make a difference as leaders in the school, whether it’s through well established groups such as our school council, eco-committee or charity committee, or in aspects of teaching and learning where we have subject prefects and learner voice groups.

“They help us evaluate our work as a school and plan for the future.

“What always comes through is how proud they are of their school.”

Rightly so.