The Headteacher's Blog
Welcome to Lydgate Junior School.
We aim to ensure that all children receive a high quality, enjoyable and exciting education.
We feel that our school is a true reflection of the community we serve. Lydgate children are well motivated and come from a range of social and cultural backgrounds. Within the school community we appreciate the richness of experience that the children bring to school. This enhances the learning experiences of everyone and it also gives all pupils the opportunity to develop respect and tolerance for each other by working and playing together. We want your child's time at Lydgate to be memorable for the right reasons - that is, a happy, fulfilling and successful period of his/her childhood.
Welcome to Year 3!
The Y3 teachers are Mrs Dutton & Mrs de Brouwer (3D/deB), Mrs Holden (3SH), Mrs Noble & Miss Roberts (3N/R) and Miss Wall (3AW). We have three Teaching Assistants who work within the team: Mrs Allen, Mrs Dawes and Mrs Proctor.
We will use this blog to keep you up-to-date with all the exciting things that we do in Year 3, share some of the things that the children learn and show you some of their fantastic work. We hope you enjoy reading it!
The Y3 team.
Welcome to the Year 5 Blog page.
The Year 5 teaching team includes our class teachers, Mrs Loosley (5NL), Mrs Rougvie and Mrs Jones (5RJ), Mrs Webb and Mrs Ridsdale (5WR) and Miss Cunningham (5EC). Many children are supported by Mrs Hill, Mr Swain and Ms Kania (the Year 5 Teaching Assistants) who work with children across the 4 classes. Our Year 5 teaching team aims to create a stimulating learning environment that is safe, happy, exciting and challenging, where each pupil is encouraged to achieve their full potential.
As a parent or carer, you play a massively important role in your child's development and we'd love to work closely with you. Please feel free to make an appointment to see us if you want to discuss your child's attitude to learning, their progress, attainment or anything else that might be on your mind. We'd also love to hear from you if you have any skills that we could use to make our Year 5 curriculum even more exciting. Are you an avid reader, a talented sportsman, a budding artist, a mad scientist or a natural mathematician? Would you be willing to listen to children read on a regular basis? If so, please contact your child’s class teacher. Similarly, if you have a good idea, a resource, a 'contact' or any other way of supporting our learning in year 5, please let us know.
We are working very hard to ensure your child has a successful year 5, please help us with this by ensuring your child completes and returns any homework they are given each week. If there are any issues regarding homework or your child finds a particular piece of homework challenging, then please do not hesitate to come and speak to us. In order to help improve your child’s reading skills, increase their vocabulary and develop their comprehension skills, we also ask that you listen to your child read and ask them questions to ensure they have understood what they have read.
We look forward to keeping you up to date on the exciting things that we do in year 5 through our year group blog.
The Year 5 Team
We are the children in Y6 at Lydgate Junior School. There are 120 of us and our teachers are: Mrs Shaw and Mrs Watkinson (Y6S/W), Mr Bradshaw (until Mrs Parker returns) in Y6AP), Mrs Phillips (Y6CP) and Miss Norris (Y6HN). Also teaching in Year 6 is Miss Lee (Monday - Y6AP, Tuesday - Y6HN and Wednesday - Y6S/W) and Mrs Grimsley (Tuesday -Y6CP).We are also very lucky to be helped by Mrs Ainsworth and Mrs Biggs. We use this space to share all of the great things that are happening in our classrooms. Join us each week on our learning journey....
The number one challenge for our school remains the continued pressure for space. I have used (over-used?) one phrase continually in the last 12 months –we are a school with 484 pupils using a site and building facilities built for 360 only. We are 34% over capacity and it shows every single day.
While we do make a fantastically varied provision of high quality activity, and teaching and learning, each is impacted by this pressure for space.
Examples this (four-day) week:
The brilliant Year 4 performance (The Emerald Crown) had an audience of over 200 adults, quite a few of whom had to stand round the back of the hall as we can only store chairs for 160. Laying out the hall as we did, so that the backdrop for the stage looked much better, meant that sunlight through the skylight windows fell on parts of the audience (rather than on the actors / dancers on stage). Replacing blinds simply isn’t justified as an expense when we have much higher priority daily demands, but maybe it is something our PTA (FOLA) might look at funding.
Thursday morning’s Yoga class had to be held in a classroom as the chairs were already out for the performance. We have just the one hall, and no specialist sports hall or dance studio. The hall had been used on Wednesday after school for a briefing for Year 6 pupils’ parents about the fast-approaching end of key stage assessments. One hall, incredibly efficiently and frequently used.
Our policy and practice over pupils’ mobile phones (Bring one if you really must, but turn it off and hand it in at the start of the day. Don’t use it one site, and collect it at the end of the day.) means we have few issues except the volume being brought. If teachers keep them in class or a store cupboard they can be too close to the owner and too easily accessed by the wrong people. If they are handed in at the office then we get a huge swell of numbers going there at exactly the time parents and other visitors want the help of admin staff. If we hand in at the classroom but store the trays securely in the office we need yet more ‘monitors’ out of class sending and fetching at either end of the day (more timeout of class and learning time lost). The simple equation here is more children = more phones = more hand-ins and more fetching.
Mud at either side of every path – numbers mean that paths cannot cope and so the passage of people swells out either side. With weather like we have the verges are under pressure and grass is becoming mud, and carpets are becoming filthy, too.
Sensory overload. Some children cope easier than others with sensory input –the sort of incidental sensory input from working in an open-plan base, for example, with 59 other children, three of four adults, two lessons going on, pupil movement and active learning. Throw in high winds, the occasional bell, movement of whole classes or groups of children, singing and musical instrument lessons, chat and social interactions and some children find this really hard to manage. They need access to quiet, calm spaces; these are very hard for us to provide while also providing the exact opposite for the other 480 or so pupils who thrive on that provision.
Don’t be misled though –this is not a negative report at all; I think we do brilliantly and creatively to use every space as fully and effectively as we can. A small room might be used for teacher’s planning, for a small group activity, a parent meeting, SEN assessment, therapeutic counselling, peripatetic music tuition, phone calls, cool-down space and storage, all on the same morning. A large room trebles up at times as an out of hours venue, a classroom and then a staff training base. The hall is used for gymnastics, PE, assembly, lunch, more PE, an after-school activity and apparent meeting. Playgrounds, even, are used for three of four things in a day – holding pupils on site who have arrived early, PE lessons, outdoor learning, breaks and lunch, after-school sports, after-school care use and pupil collection by parents / carers. (On training days the top playground doubles as a car park.)
None of us can be precious and jealous of ‘our’ spaces as they have to be in multi-purpose us each week. By this we manage to meet almost all pupils needs almost all the time.
pka (or ‘properly known as’) School financial value standards
Following on from last week’s Blog, we are about to present the annual SFVS self-evaluation to Governors. Nothing stays the same for long as it is in a new format this year. Front section is all Yes / No / In part answers to question. These are all worded slightly differently to previous versions and so a simple ‘copy and paste’ will not do.
The back provides (another) set of comparative data fields. These will allow or encourage Governors to discuss their aims in setting and targeting a budget. It will allow us to consider if we spend our income where we want to in order to achieve what we are after.
The problem is that anomalies are not easily removed, income cannot be easily or significantly raised and some data is simply contradictory. It is all true, no doubt, but not at all simple.
That we spend 55% of income on teacher costs puts us in the top 10% of ‘similar’ schools. Two points here – who says that that’s a bad thing, seeing as we get results in the top 20% of schools? And how are we to reduce teacher costs by 5% to get to average; by losing two teachers?
The number of senior leaders (two) for a school of our size (480 plus pupils) puts us in the very low end of things. But to increase the team would certainly increase that percentage spent on teachers!
There is a novel calculation, an expression of pupil contact for each teacher, made by dividing the number of classes by the full-time equivalent number of teachers. Our figure is so high it is flagged as a risk, and requires investigation and action. So we either need fewer classes (bigger classes if we have the same number of pupils) or more teachers, and we know what that would do to the percentage spend on teacher costs!
Our average class size puts us in the top 20% as well (which is not where you want to be, in fact, but it does suggest financial efficiency) but with the ludicrous figure of 30.2 pupils per class. 0.2 indeed! To reduce the class size to the average for ‘similar’ schools we would need to have 4 fewer pupils or 0.13 classes more. Both of these are impossible – I try my best to avoid the admission of any extra pupils over admission number but Appeal Panels sometimes place children with us. How would we run a class for just 4 hours a week?
This odd state of affairs comes about really from two factors: we are currently the lowest funded (per pupil) school in Sheffield, and we have a very, very stable staff who are, me included, at the top of the pay range. Recognising the issues does not make a solution any easier – it is no simple thing to increase our income by £100,000 per year, nor to suddenly employ eight newly qualified teachers when we have none currently.
It’ll make for an interesting discussion when presented, but won’t lead to any significant changes: we have no vacancies to fill cheaply, and we have no room for extra pupils.
Are there any? any schools like ours?
You’d think, like I did, that schools in our local area would be pretty much the same as us. Being in the same postcode area, S10, and in the same Parliamentary Constituency, Hallam, and in the same city, Sheffield, surely seven schools nearby have more in common than separates us?
We do have an interest in finding similar schools, and we are in fact urged to do so by bodies such as Ofsted and the DfE. By looking at a ‘similar’ school, how it spends its money and then its school performance, we can ask questions about whether we are efficient and effective, or not.
In the olden days (aka the 1990’s) Ofsted made a simple judgement in Inspection about ‘value for money’. It sounded a bit too commercial for most of us, like comparing schools with a loaf of artisan bread, perhaps, but it did say something both profound and simple at the same time.
Last week we got notice about the publication of the most up to date (but still a full year old) dashboard, the ‘Benchmarking Report Card’. It gives a few headline scores on the ways schools spend their resources – things like percentage of funds spent on teachers, and pupil : teacher ratio.
Schools like ours, then.
The Report Card finds five schools most like Lydgate Junior School; English Martyrs’ RC Primary School, 35 miles away in Leeds; High Ham C of E Primary School, 168 miles away in Somerset; Saint Alban and St Stephen Catholic Junior School, 123 miles away in St Albans; St Luke’s Halsall C of E Primary School, 63 miles away in Liverpool and Warrender Primary School, 133 miles away in Ruislip, Middlesex.
Normally we compare ourselves with schools just a mile or two away, and that’s how the national performance tables like to present things. Parents make informed choices based on information presented geographically based on a search point centered round a postcode. Yet what the DfE’s own Benchmark Report Card suggests is that our Division of the League table should be much wider spread!
So here is our own league table, formed round these five schools and our point of interest this year, greater depth writing scores:
Percentage of pupils achieving at a higher standard in reading, writing and maths
Lydgate Junior School
English Martyrs’ RC Primary School
High Ham C of E Primary School
Saint Alban and St Stephen Catholic Junior School
St Luke’s Halsall C of E Primary School
Warrender Primary School
The Report Card suggest we question why we spend 55% of our budget on teaching staff (above the average of our statistical neighbours, while running a pupil : teacher ratio above all bar one) but the school performance tables suggest we are doing rather well, even in an area where we are looking to improve further. Whoever we are like, we really do appear to be doing rather well by our pupils.
There's a public version of benchmarking available here. https://schools-financial-benchmarking.service.gov.uk/?utm_source=BRC_maintained_19&utm_medium=email
I want to write detail on the announcement this morning from DfE and phs of the plan to address school-age period poverty by providing free period products in every school in England.
Except that the content of the press release is all I have. I have scoured the usual main news feeds and only picked up rehashed versions of the same story, all built on the press release and an older DfE feed:
What I am told is that we (schools) will receive an email on Monday inviting us to sign up for the scheme (as if we would say ‘no’ to an opportunity to provide what, on surface at least, appears to be a Universal Benefit).
How it will work if we don’t contract our sanitary disposal with phs I don’t know.
Whether it will actually be ‘Universal’ I don’t know.
How we will overcome anticipated resistance I don’t know either.
And, crucially, some sources are quoting some numbers that throw huge doubts on the scheme’s intended reach – an annual cost of less than £18 million and an uptake by 1.1 million ‘students’.
These are far, far too small to indicate ‘Universal’ uptake or access. There are around 720,000 pupils in each school year group in the UK; approximately 9 million ‘students’ in total in England’s schools. Half of them are girls and we might assume we need to make provision from Years 6 to 13 – leading to a total of at least 2.25 million children. How is the target of 1.1 million derived?
Are we about to see some screening and in a very well-meaning scheme some sort of block installed that becomes the next barrier to overcome? Is it actually going to be funded at the rate of free school meals in the schools, perhaps? Just under 20% of pupils in Year 3 and above are eligible nationally for FSM (only 4% in our school), and that equates to around the 1 million mark nationally.
So if this is how it works (the free part of provision), how will schools manage this? There is simply no way we are means testing children or holding period products in First Aid or the Office or in the teachers’ drawer and then applying a FSM test to distribution. Surely all schools will want to make access simple and possible or they will be working contrary to the whole idea of the scheme. What we will then be pushed to do is to provide, at school cost, free period products for all. It’s that, ‘at school cost’ bit that troubles me, as we will receive no funding top-up to do it (and what a wasteful money-go-round that would be anyway; give us money for us to give to a company the Government has selected to run the scheme).
I absolutely agree – period products ARE too expensive and VAT charging on them, even at the current 5% rate, is outrageous. The single most effective way to deliver a benefit though is to make it universally free at the point of access. Want to eradicate period poverty? Make access to period products free for all.
I’ll raise it with School Governors at the earliest opportunity (the Thursday after the invitation email arrives in school).
I called in on Cooking Club after school. They were just pouring their cake mix (Chocolate and Raspberry Cake) into the baking trays when I arrived.
I offered to lick out the bowls, but being as health conscious as they are the children themselves warned me about the inherent risk of food poisoning from eating uncooked eggs.
Now the activity leaders and I know that the Food Standards Agency advice on eggs has been updated recently, and is that they can, once again, be considered salmonella free and safe to eat soft boiled or even raw!
Since 4:30 I have been trying to think of a way to use this as an analogy for some part of education policy shift, and all I can come up with is the movement suggested in Ofsted’s Inspection of schools previously judged to be Outstanding.
It appears that these schools, up to 2,000 of them, some not Inspected since 2006, will soon face the prospect of a visit once every five years, just like the rest of schools. And a jolly good thing too, I say. It is patently obvious that many of these schools will still be performing really well, but some will have changed significantly in that period and will now need support and direction from external sources to return to their previous effectiveness.
We have also seen this week a suggestion by no less than the head of Ofsted that the organisation should stop ‘inspecting’ schools that are struggling to improve (they more have had successive poor or low Inspection outcomes over a number of years) and instead try supporting them.
You see, the similarity is that policy changes in all areas over time. Eggs were good, uncooked eggs were bad, and now uncooked eggs are good again.
Very, very few schools were once upon a time inspected by Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Schools, then all schools were Inspected, then only those not Outstanding were Inspected, now all schools will be Inspected again.
What I actually would like to see matches something I was told by a now retired Deputy Head in Doncaster. Ofsted, he said, is about proving not improving. For those schools in the most difficult circumstances, where, try as they might over years and years, they cannot overcome all the difficulties of community and context, Ofsted should be a long-term dedicated partner in school development and not the bearer of a big stick. Let’s have an Inspection regime that actually suggests how to change things around and stays around long enough to help it happen, perhaps shaping Government policy to help these schools and communities, rather than jumping in, wielding a big stick and running off with little responsibility.
Back when I was Student Union President, I did use a free range egg as a visual aid in a ‘Welcome to Sheffield City Polytechnic’ speech to new first year students on each of the then five sites of the Poly. I described how the exterior and badging of the egg could only tell you so much. To really appreciate all the egg had to offer you had to crack it open and get stuck in. The same, I said, applied to the Student Union movement and services. Eggs make good analogies, but I’m not sure cake mix does in this case.