IT may have been a dull and drizzly day, but the positivity of Evenlode Primary School lights the place up regardless.

Evenlode Primary is a community school tucked away in the western suburbs of Penarth, serving the lower Penarth catchment area.

It is one of the main feeder primaries for Stanwell School.

Located on Evenlode Avenue, it currently houses 450 pupils, ranging in age from four to 11.

Head teacher Stephen Rees joined Evenlode in 2009. A former head of two other schools in Gwent, he is clearly proud of his school and all they have accomplished.

“It’s a wonderful school and everyone here has worked so hard to make it that way,” he said. “But it does face challenges.”

Like other head teachers in Penarth, Mr Rees had signed the open letter to the Welsh Government calling for fairer funding for Vale schools earlier this year. He had discussed coming in to the school on weekends to clean the toilets himself to help balance budgets. But he is firmly optimistic.

“Between kind donations and fundraising efforts from our PTA, renting out the school hall, and younger members of staff taking on some extra burdens we are just about able to balance our budgets,” he said. “To be honest, next year might start looking grim, but we’re keeping our heads high.

“With that said, we’ve been working hard on incorporating new initiatives and the new curriculum, we have a great crop of pupils and staff morale is high. We are very positive here.

“It’s also our 50th anniversary this year, so we have loads of ex-staff and pupils coming through the doors to say hello, a celebratory PTA barbecue and more planned.”

Taking a tour around the school, this positivity is reflected in students and staff alike. Children seem genuinely excited to learn, smiling, waving and saying hello to Mr Rees.

Evenlode Primary School itself has an interesting history.

It was opened in 1969 as the first open plan primary school in South East Wales.

The population of the school has risen dramatically over the last 25 years, from 240 on roll in 1986 to the present 450.

The building itself, a maze of classrooms and corridors plastered in colours, has also changed to accommodate more pupils.

Much of the semi-open plan design has disappeared, making way for more conventional classrooms.

The school benefits from having a superb site with two playgrounds as well as a large playing field, a designated play area for Reception children, a wildlife area, open access to the local tennis club facilities, a newly constructed ‘outside classroom’ and adventure trail.

One of the first stops was a hall used by its ‘Saplings’ Out of School Care, the pre and after-school club for children.

Saplings provides childcare for around 90 children from all year groups, providing breakfast in the morning and looking after children from 7.30am to 6pm when needed.

There, the children can access a wide range of activities, switched up on a regular basis.

These have included cooking, gardening, art, crafts, sporting activities, outdoor play and plenty more.

A couple of pupils, part of the Saplings, are called through. They happily talk about their favourite part of the clubs. One says arts and crafts; another, going outside and playing sport; four more say the food.

Saplings isn’t the only place the students can indulge in a little food.

Pupils have set up a fruit tuck shop in the school yard, a group endeavour that students control all aspects of - from placing orders for snacks, selecting the products, handling finances and, of course, selling to their friends.

A small group of budding merchants were excited to show me their wares, selling oranges and bananas at break time.

There was plenty more to do outside, as well.

Mr Rees himself taught fire-making lessons in their fire pit, while the school also made use of rope courses, and a newly refurbished gazebo.

Bike racks could be found at the front and back of the site, with students encouraged to cycle to school.

Sport is very high on the school’s agenda.

“We have kids from the school representing us in cricket, rugby and tennis at a county level,” said Mr Rees. “We’re also fielding regular football, rugby and netball teams, and we are pushing plenty of other outdoor activities - like our new ropes and outdoor assault course.

“We’re lucky to have parents in this area who are incredibly supportive of sports, and we have some shining examples of sporting prowess in our children.

“We think it’s a very important part of being a rounded and healthy individual.”

The school doesn’t just focus on sport - they aim to nurture minds and souls too.

“Expressive arts is a major area of focus at the moment,” said Mr Rees. “We’re lucky enough to have a drama specialist supporting us, helping coach the children through both acting and production.

“We are even working with the Welsh Government on a production of H.G. Well’s The Time Machine, to be held in our school hall.”

The hall had been built with money raised from selling off surplus land, with a further loan from the Vale council.

It is tidy, modern, and neatly decorated, with a sophisticated looking lighting system - built with help from parents.

“We’re very proud of the relationship we have with parents here,” said Mr Rees. “They have been enormously helpful with our budgetary concerns.”

Evenlode is a school with a cheerful outlook, a happy student body and a strong working relationship between staff, students and parent alike.

It deserves to go far.