Pupils hoping for jam tomorrow at school fighting for its future


July 19, 2021

Budding entrepreneurs from a small primary school that’s fighting for its survival have earned national acclaim after cooking up a treat.

Parents and governors at Ysgol Llannefydd, in Conwy, have launched a campaign to attract new pupils from nearby communities to safeguard the Welsh-medium school’s future.

Now six enterprising students have underlined the depth of talent on its books by launching a successful business venture called Blas y Llan (Taste of the Village) selling jars of jam and syrup using rhubarb they grew themselves.

The youngsters competed against far bigger primary schools from across Wales in this year’s Enterprise Troopers competition.

They made the final shortlist of 10 contenders and then defied the odds to claim second place out of the whole of Wales.

According to the parents, it’s a “brilliant” school that provides an excellent education in an idyllic rural setting.

While there’s no imminent threat of closure, there is increasing concern because the number of pupils has dropped to 11.

If the school roll goes under 10 it will trigger an automatic review of the school’s future.

The campaign team have now launched a recruitment drive in nearby St Asaph and Bodelwyddan where primary education with Welsh as the first language is not available.

They point to the success of the Blas y Llan team as yet another example of how the school is providing valuable all-round education.

The youngsters from key stage two saw the potential in the rhubarb grown in its gardens, turning it into delicious jars of jam and syrup.

Displaying business acumen that makes them contenders to one day grace Dragons’ Den, the team spent time developing and marketing their product and they returned a neat profit.

The success represented a welcome parting gift for pupil Hawys Owen-Casey, who is preparing to move to Ysgol Glan Clwyd in St Asaph in September.

Hawys, of Henllan, was prominently involved in the project and was delighted that the team achieved a top-two placing.

“I’m really pleased,” said Hawys, 11. “I never even thought we would get through the first round, so to come second is great.

“We’ve tried out what we made and it tasted nice.”

Reflecting on her time at Ysgol Llannefydd, Hawys said: “I have really liked being at this school.

“I would never have thought I could get opportunities like this at a big school with hundreds of pupils.

“It’s very nice we can get to do this because we are such a small school.”

The team proved something of a family affair. It included Megan Wright, ten, and her eight-year-old sister, Elwen.

Their mother, childminder Kate Wright, provided items including aprons for the team to increase the professionalism of the operation.

The only boy in the team was Carl May, nine, whose sisters Lydia, 10, and Destiny, eight, were also involved.

“I’ve enjoyed it,” said Carl, of Llannefydd. “I’ve done lots lots of different things as part of it.

“I’m very pleased we did so well.”

Almost 100 jars were sold to the public as demand outstripped supply, with members of the community savouring the sweet taste of what the pupils created.

The venture proved so successful that a hefty profit of £160 was returned.

Funds raised are set to go back into the business, as the school looks to enjoy further success in the competition next year.

The business-savvy pupils spent several weeks working diligently on the project,

This included spending time in the kitchen ensuring they had the perfect recipe for the jam and syrup, as well as making a slick video showcasing their venture.

The project was overseen by key stage two teacher Sioned Jones.

She said: “We have a lovely garden containing a massive crop of rhubarbs, so the pupils wanted to do something with it.

“There has been a great team spirit from the pupils. They have worked very hard.

“As a school we are extremely proud of what the children have achieved.

“For such a small school to come second out of the whole of Wales is an amazing achievement.”

The enterprising pupils received praise for their eco-friendly approach, having held their nerve when making presentations over Zoom during the final to earn their silver success.

“The pupils have used many different skills,” said Mrs Jones.

“They found the ingredients and the information and recipes they needed.

“They had to think of things such as the packaging, the costs and the profits. They built up links with organisations around Llannefydd who have been very helpful in terms of providing tips and sponsoring them.

“The pupils also produced a very good video, which can be viewed on our Twitter page.

Created by the Welsh Government’s Big Ideas Wales programme, Enterprise Troopers encourages primary school youngsters to display their entrepreneurial talents.

Ysgol Llannefydd team’s bid was boosted by a number of organisations providing sponsorship, advice or equipment.

These included Llaeth y Llan, Siwgr a Sbeis in Llanrwst, Kate Wright Childminding Services and Llannefydd Community Council, with the school grateful to them and everyone who purchased the products.

Headteacher Gari Evans congratulated the pupils on their achievement and voiced his pride over their success.

He said: “The whole school community is very proud of the pupils.

“I think a few of the pupils have got the bug for being entrepreneurs and would like to do things like this again in the future.”

The success has highlighted the talent among the pupils at the school, which compensates for its low numbers by offering a service described as being “like private education but without the fees”.

“It hopefully highlights that, no matter the size of the school, the education the pupils receive and the opportunities they get here are greater than in a lot of other schools,” he said.

“They can get immediate feedback and an enthusiastic member of staff can work closely with them on something like this, which pupils in a larger school may not get.

“These are skills that are being developed that can help them in the future.

“It’s preparing them not only for high school education, but for the work that may be available to them in the future.”