My inbox receives occasional invites to events and if I’m free and have time around my day job I always try to say ‘yes’. The invite to the Fairwater High School awards evening at the Parkway Hotel caught my attention as I left as a pupil in 1995.
But it wasn’t until Mark Crozier, my old PE teacher, stood up in front of the 100s of pupils and parents and said: “This is the last ever Fairwater awards evening” that I realised the importance of the event. This was going to be an emotional evening to see awards given out to Fairwater pupils for the final time after 40 years.
Fairwater High School and Llantarnam School close this term and merge into Cwmbran High School. This was the end of an era.
Rose Seabourne, chair of governors, said: “We have had seven continuous years of improvement but none as fast as the last three years. We can’t wait until this year’s exam results. We look forward to the story and journey of Cwmbran High School.”
Helen Coulson, headteacher, said: “This is the end of an era and beginning of a new one.” She said that result, standards, behaviours and aspirations had taken “major steps forward” in recent years. This was down to: “The sheer hard work and determination of our pupils and dedicated staff and governors who have worked as a team. I’m excited to create a brand new school in the heart of Cwmbran.”
The Huw Llewellyn (Memorial) Cup
It was an emotional moment as Bernie Smith presented the Huw Llewellyn (Memorial) Cup to Aaron Herbert. Mr Llewellyn was a teacher at the school but died in May 2014 after suffering from cancer. Mr Smith told Aaron that Mr Llewelyn would have been proud of him and what he has achieved.
The 1996 Olympic silver medalist was the perfect choice of guest speaker. The word ‘aspiration’ came up a lot and his entire talk revolved around inspiring the pupils to be the best they can be.
Did you know he grew up in Cwmbran and as a child lived in what is now the Cwrt Henllys pub? It was thanks to the encouragement of his headteacher at Henllys Village Primary School (now closed) that he joined Newport Harriers athletics club
Jamie told pupils: “I learned along the way that you can do extraordinary things. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or who you are. If you really believe in yourself that’s what matters. There are lots of people who will come your way and say you’re never going to make it.
“I’m only 5ft 8in from Cwmbran racing the 6ft 4in guys from Jamaican, from America, those serous athletes, and I still beat them because I believed I could do it. You guys in this room today, don’t ever stop believing, don’t ever believe that you can’t because you can.”
His reaction to a USA rival during the 1996 Olympics 4 x 400m relay final was funny and inspiring. He said: “That’s what you get for disrespecting Cwmbran, you’re better than everyone else.”
To enjoy those stories and some others watch the video I recorded and posted on YouTube.
The awards winners
Here are all the pupils who won awards.
Good luck to all the Fairwater and Llantarnam pupils as they say goodbye to their schools and come together as one in September.