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School name: Llanfaes C P School
Headteacher: Mrs Karen Lawrence
Number of pupils: 240
A PRIMARY school in Powys is being celebrated for being the first in the county to work with Dementia Wales towards recognition as a dementia-friendly school.
Ysgol Llanfaes said it had previously, like many other schools, taken the choir to sing at the local hospital and residential home, but headteacher Mrs Karen Lawrence said this did not deepen understanding or consider how they could proactively be involved in improving awareness.
“Following an approach from the local ‘dementia champion’ (who was also one of our grandparents) she provided awareness training to all stakeholders – staff, parents, governors and most importantly our pupils.”
In the autumn term of 2014 an awareness session was held for staff and governors and then parents. This was followed by a session for pupils in Years 5 & 6. In addition the school has hosted awareness sessions for the local community.
Mrs Lawrence said the children’s response was outstanding. “They decided to increase the scope of raising awareness by designing posters, leaflets and models to explain dementia which they shared at the next school coffee morning. Residents from the local residential home were invited along.”
Subsequently, a meeting was held between the school, care home and dementia champion and it was agreed to begin an intergenerational project.
The focus now is on the creating a sensory garden for the home which has been designed by pupils after speaking to residents Dementia Wales have funded a sensory horticulturist to work alongside the pupils and residents.
Each week, a group of 10 Year 6 children visit the home and work with the residents, planting seeds, plants, vegetables and working on the plot.
“In my 30-years of teaching these are some of the most inspirational sessions I have had the privilege to be part of,” said Mrs Lawrence.
“The children and residents talk incessantly, as the memories remain strong for the elderly about their own gardening experiences.
It was reported to us that after the children visit, the staff are amazed at the level of conversation between the residents at mealtimes which they do not see at any other time.
“The well being of the children and residents is unquestionably being enhanced. Whilst the work at the care home continues, in school we incorporated National Dementia Awareness week into our school Healthy Living Week.
"During this we were visited by the deputy Welsh Government’s commissioner for older people who was able to see the children from Reception class to Year 6 working on a variety of activities to continually develop understanding.
"The next steps are to use our Year 5 pupils to work in another local infant school to begin awareness sessions.
“In a short space of time, much has been achieved. But it is not a project with an end. As a school we believe in the importance of this work, and it will be built into our yearly timetable of activities.”
The work with the Care Home will be part of the natural community work that Year 6 do.
When crops are ready to harvest pupils will assist and then have cooking sessions with the residents.
There will also be an annual cycle of activities including themed teas, concerts, links to support topic work.
“There are so many benefits to the pupils as this project offers the opportunity to develop and use in a real life manner many skills communicating, presenting, organising, using IT skills, literacy and numeracy, self esteem, well being, teamwork, problem solving to name but a few,” said Mrs Lawrence.
“Moreover, the residents are benefiting. There is no hard data but the enthusiasm of the pupils and ladies and gentlemen of the home says it all.
“The overall aim – to create a generation who are dementia friendly – is a long way off, but we know we are sparking that fire and will continue to do so.
"We believe this contributes immeasurably to our children valuing the experiences and knowledge the elderly have and of becoming caring citizens of the future.”
"By sharing this on the ERW website, we hope that it will stimulate interest in others and continue to raise awareness on a wider scale.
"ERW is a supportive consortium, able to recognise that much of the most effective learning in schools is not necessarily identified by data alone."
• There will be 1 million people with dementia in the UK by 2025.
• Two thirds of people with dementia are women.
• The proportion of people with dementia doubles for every five-year age group.
• One in six people aged 80 and over have dementia.
• 60,000 deaths a year are directly attributable to dementia.
• Delaying the onset of dementia by five years would reduce deaths directly attributable to dementia by 30,000 a year.
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