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The Headteacher's Blog

Introduction

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.

Yours sincerely,
Stuart Jones

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Introduction

Welcome to Year 3!

The Y3 Team includes Mrs Dutton & Mrs de Brouwer (3D/deB), Miss Cunningham (3EC), Mrs Webb & Mrs Watkinson (3W/W) and Miss Roberts & Mrs Noble (3AR). We have three Teaching Assistants who work with small groups and help across the four classes: Mrs Dale, Ms Kania and Mr Swain. Mrs Proctor, one of our regular volunteers, also helps out in all four classes.

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.

 

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Introduction

Welcome to the Y4 blog. We know that the question that children are mostly asked as they leave school is 'What did you do today?' The response is often 'nothing'! Well, here is where you can find what 'nothing' looks like. In our weekly blogs we will share with you what your children have been getting up to and all of the wonderful work that they have been doing. The Y4 team consists of the following teachers: Mrs Shaw and Mrs Drury in Y4S/D, Mrs Smith and Mrs Smith (this is not a typo!) in Y4S/S, Miss Norris in Y4HN and Miss Wall in Y4AW. The children are supported by our teaching assistants too, including Mrs Biggs, Mr Jenkinson and Mrs Tandy. We also have help from Miss Lee, Mrs Cooper, Mrs Flynn and Mrs Wolff. Some of the children are lucky enough to spend time in The Hub too with Mrs Tandy. What a team!

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Introduction

Welcome to the Year 5 Blog page.

The Year 5 teaching team includes our class teachers, Mrs Parker (5AP), Mrs Rougvie and Mrs Jones (5RJ), Miss Reasbeck and Mrs Ridsdale (5RR) and Mrs Holden (5SH). . Many children are supported by Mrs Hill and Mrs Allen (the Year 5Teaching 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

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Introduction

We are the children in Y6 at Lydgate Junior School. There are 120 of us and our teachers are: Mrs Purdom, Mrs Phillips, Mrs Loosley and Mrs Wymer. Our Monday and Thursday morning teachers are Mrs Farrell, Miss Lee and Mr Jones.We are also very lucky to be helped by Mrs Ainsworth, Mrs Cooper, Mr Jenkinson, Mrs Biggs and Mrs Dawes. 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....

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25 Jul 2019

Fantasy Funding – Spending the Dream

The new Prime Minister, Mr Johnson, promised something new in his first Downing Street speech. He promised to ‘level up school funding’ and during his campaign talked of schools receiving at least £5,000 per year for every pupil, immediately doing away with every differential.

Wonderful news, as we got £3,604 per pupil in 2018.

Obviously we won’t spend this before we get it (or get official notice of when we will receive it) but for a school like ours we had better have a plan ready to spend such a huge amount. Because, if it turns out to be for real and as stated - £5,000 per pupil per year into school (not averaged across the country or county and to include DfE costs) – then we have to have a plan to spend an extra 37% of our current budget – a total of £647,000 extra EVERY year!

My Fantasy Funding Spending List looks like this:

Premises improvements

Carpets, curtains and cupboards; blinds, bookcases and borders; wall coverings, water fountains and Wi-Fi; tables, tiling and temporary building conversion; playgrounds, paintwork and PE equipment; ceilings, security and staff facilities.

In the recent parent survey a few contributions said that the school looked a bit of ‘a state’ and hadn’t changed in twenty years. New buildings and smart buildings do not improve academic standards but they do give a more pleasant experience for all school members.

Instead of the £10,000 we spend each year now we could increase this to £60,000, and make a ‘Wow’ difference!

Premises Team increase

And then we’d like to make it shine and keep it shiny, showing that is cleaner and healthier and better looked after. This won’t improve standards and is unlikely to improve attendance (at nearly 98% there is very little absence occurring because illness or accident at school causes children to be off and so very little difference will be made in this way), but it may improve pride and a feeling of well-being.

We could add an extra full-time, full year, cleaner to the team at a cost of £25,000, including some for materials, training, equipment and support, and make a second ‘Wow’ difference!

In-class teaching assistant increase

All the research says that having a teaching assistant in class does very little for pupil outcomes. What it does do is make people feel better, and allow classes and lessons to work differently. Jobs get done, messages get delivered, bags get found, displays get changed, readers are heard read, spellings get practised, attention can be given, supervision increases, opportunities to run interventions increase.

If we increased our TA numbers from 4.2 full-time equivalents to 16 fte, so that we had, like parents think we should have, one per class full time, we would need to spend about £207,000 extra, but make a ‘Wow’ difference!

Dedicated Special Needs support

The level of SEND in our school is much lower than national or local average, but it is an area in which it seems impossible to ever meet demand. We have unmet calls for meetings, assessments, advice and learning, pastoral and behaviour support. We already provide one to one and other direct support and intervention for these pupils from our budget, but we recognise that, as a group who probably shouldn’t be grouped together, they have outcomes lower than their year group peers both in attainment and progress scores.

We probably need better skills, more hours and increased management.

To double our SEND provision would cost £55,000 per year, making a ‘Wow’ difference!

Teacher release to improve planning and outcomes

Teachers at this school all get at least 10% release, known as PPA, each week. International comparisons with some of the highest achieving countries show that this may be totally inadequate. Some systems have it at nearer 50%.

Doubling PPA for every teacher, with a focus on planning even more effective lessons, would cost £45,000 if we used Higher Level Teaching Assistants as we do now. It might reduce teacher stress and workload, improve teaching and learning, and make a ‘Wow’ difference!

Management and leadership of above staffing increases

Having just taken on 18 new staff we should probably put in some, limited, management capacity to support and direct them. This could be done, perhaps, by increasing senior leadership time by two days per week, and appointing an HLTA post (from within the posts above) with responsibility for line-managing TAs.

Total cost: £20,000, with the difference actually being made by the people listed above, but accounted for by these post holders.

Staff training

We spend so little on continuing professional development that it rounds to 0% of the annual budget, and comes to something like £8 per pupil per year. (Schools never account for the staff time involved in daily mentoring or management activity, so it really is a false figure – it tends to reflect course and consultant fees only, and not attending weekly professional development meetings).

But we should be developing staff better, making the most of their talents, interests and abilities, and gaining sustainability for the school.

If we gave every member of this newly expanded staff two days of training each year, it would only cost £20,000 in releasing a trainer and a trainee.

Curriculum support (including specialist teaching)

We do have areas of the vast Primary curriculum that we struggle to deliver well, and could really do with training (see above) or support with areas such as a Modern Foreign Language. PE and school sport has benefited from dedicated funding for three years, now at nearly £18,000 per year. Computing, MFL, Science and Music might all benefit from similar input, through staffing, training and resources. We could probably increase the quality of teaching and learning though such work. £36,000 should do it, and make a ‘Wow’ difference!

Reducing the costs to parents via voluntary contributions

Like most schools, we have effectively passed the costs of many school activities to parents, either through charging, fund-raising or voluntary contribution collection. Using increased school funding to meet these costs would have absolutely no direct impact on pupils. Parents would be less annoyed by being asked for so much, perhaps, and a little bit better off so they might be able to afford more at home.

What could we afford to do? The Edale Residential for Year 6 pupils (deposit of 20% just paid by school for 2020 even though we haven’t advertised it to parents yet and so have received absolutely no compensating income) costs £20,000. If we put that much into each year group (massively more than we actually ask for, for Year 3 to 5) it would cost £80,000.


Adding up all the above, and subtracting from the Fantasy Funding increase, we are left with:

£647,000 – £50,000 – £25,000 – £207,000 – £55,000 – £45,000 – £20,000 – £20,000 – £36,000 – £80,000 = £109,000!

We would be left with £109,000 every year!

Fun as that that bit of Fantasy Finding spending was, I really will be waiting to see it in black and white from DfE before actually consulting on how to spend any windfall or permanent increase in funding. I also wonder how it can be achieved for the estimated £50 million a year, as there are 22 Primary schools within 3 miles of this school that are funded below £5,000 per pupil per year. The lowest funded six will need to gain £2.98 million between them. In Sheffield 3 out of 4 Primary Schools are funded below £5,000 per pupil. There are more than 14,000 Primary Schools in the country. My knowledge is incomplete but I estimate it might cost £350 million per year.

Dare to dream, but don’t hold your breath - I assume someone will do the maths and realise the problem with what has been said. I suspect 'clarification' will follow sooner than the money does.

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21 Jul 2019

Tramlines and Standards in Public Life

I had a day ticket for Saturday down at Tramlines and I took my buddy along. Both being local we played a round of ‘who can spot most people they know’.

With both of us being teachers we found the ‘spots’ soon racking up.

We shared a few, as we would, with shared friends and acquaintances, but he led by a few as it is more a venue and event for groups of teenagers to go by themselves (Liam works in a Secondary School).

Where it got interesting was watching, and joining in with The Everley Pregnant Brothers. Liam once worked with Big Shaun, and ‘the nicest man in Yorkshire', Richard Bailey (Bails), was a contemporary of mine at Sheffield City Polytechnic in the late 1980s. If you were there, or if you know the band and their music, you know that there can be some adult language in their set.

Is it appropriate for Liam and me to be seen, in public, belting out all the lyrics? Is that behaviour in contravention of the Standards in Public Life? Does it contravene the Teacher Standards, and potentially form a breach of Contract?

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03 Jul 2019

Can it be explained away?

I think I can predict the common responses to our recently received report from the Year 6 height and weights checks. I think this because the results are very similar to last year and I heard attempts then to explain it away. From those two figures a report is produced by individual school, for Sheffield as a whole, the region and nationally that says what proportion of the Reception year and Year 6 population is in which weight category, from underweight to obese.

School Food Standards were introduced quite some time ago. Sports and PE Premium funding is intended to increase physical activity at school for all pupils. This year schools have received funding named 'Healthy Pupils Capital', coming from the 'Sugar Tax' on fizzy drinks and the like.

The measuring programme is necessary to measure the impact of the many interventions in place, and to show the scale of the remaining issue.

Some will say it is that the threshold is too low.

Some will say it is just 'puppy fat'.

Some will say that their child is as active as they can be, so what else could they do?

Some will say it is simply not a problem.

Some will say it is the parents' right to choose their child's diet and nothing to do with the state (the 'nanny state' answer).

Some will assume it is not their child.

Some will blame fast food and changing society.

Some will say that we are doing a massive amount already and there is nothing else we could do.

Whatever the response, the data for this current report says that 26.7% of our Year 6 children were calculated as being overweight or obese, 14.3% as obese. 2% as being underweight. That would be 8 pupils in each class, over 30 in a year group, and maybe 125 in the whole school. Even accounting for a margin of error that is a number that is unacceptably large.

Our interventions over the last four years have not reduced that proportion in our school. 

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22 Jun 2019

What do they teach them in schools these days!

It appears that Ofsted Inspectors, in testing out the new Inspection Framework, like to ask children about their learning in a very Secondary School subject structure: ’Can you tell me what you have learnt in history?’, or ‘Do you think you have learnt a lot in geography this year?’

Painfully for some schools the frequent response is a blank look, as children don’t seem to recognise that they have done any learning in subjects they might not recognise if they have ‘Topic’ instead.

This week, when our soon-to-be Year 3s visited for assembly and break, I posed the question, ‘What do we learn at school?’ on large whiteboard at the front of the Hall.

I was aiming to collect responses rich in ‘soft skills’, such as; how to be friends, to be kind, to try hard, that reading is fun, how to be healthy, that sort of thing.

In fact the first six answers were all subject specific – literacy, maths, DT, science…

It wasn’t until I wrote a sentence starter as a prompt that the children, from both Year 2 at our Infant feeder school, and our own Year 3, gave answers that went, ‘How to …’

I only had time to collect a few, but the children got the idea – school is about much more than just tables facts and a grammar rule.

I left the board and pens in the Hall for lunchtime and came back to find it full – on both sides.

(I did have to rub out some disappointing / rude contributions – all in the same handwriting and pen colour, so I am not claiming our pupils are all just perfect, but they were brilliant in joining in and contributing.)

Photos attached.

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09 Jun 2019

The Right2Food Charter and how it isn’t that simple

I shall apologise right now for this blog – it probably will sound a little ranty.

This week all schools got a letter from Nadhim Zahawi MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families. He wanted to draw our attention to the food situation of disadvantaged children, and to highlight three things in particular. These points were:

                A positive lunchtime experience

                Avoiding stigma, and

                Access to free drinking water.

He called for examples of outstanding practice in these areas.

I felt compelled to write, not because I think our provision is ‘outstanding’ but because I think the vast majority of schools already do their utmost to address these points and because of the limiting factors that make a very uneven playing field.

Addressing those points in reverse order, we can demonstrate how they are simply not relevant to our school because we have eliminated the problems.

Water, in jugs, is provided on every table at lunchtime. The four cloakrooms in the main building have fresh water fountains (installed this year to replace old facilities). Children are encouraged to bring a water bottle that they can refill at school. We provide cups (reusable) that they can otherwise use. Sorted.

Even before the introduction of an on-line payment system there was no distinction made between paid for and free school meals, at either end. The choices on offer are entirely the same. No reference is made, or even available, to FSM entitlement on the dinner register. No child is aware of the distinction, the lunchtime supervisors are not aware and neither is the kitchen. All the children who take a school meal are free to choose from the full selection on offer. When teachers take the dinner register, to record that day’s choices, there is absolutely no information displayed or available to staff or children about who does or does not pay for their meals. The children do not sit separately, queue separately, or get served separately. I say this because Mr Zahawi’s letter suggests that in some schools things are not so.

Success in providing a ‘positive lunchtime experience’ is not so straight forward. The relevant research says that, ‘Children place a high value on affordable healthy choices, avoiding queues and having enough time and space to eat with their peers’. If we pick that apart we could easily say that all three elements are met.

Our school meals cost £2.00, as simple as that. It matters not one bit what choices or quantities children take, whether they use the salad bar or not, or take a dessert, or have vegetables, or street food on a Wednesday, or what filling they put in a jacket potato, the daily cost is £2.00. The meals for a child who qualifies for FSM cost £2.00 as well.

Every meal OFFERED meets the national School Food Standards. The menus have been developed by a professional team of nutritionists, who do take children’s input and preferences as part of the design process but the restrictions of legislation can over-rule these desires. Then, of course, it very much depends on what children actually take and then subsequently eat. I have written many times about this: many children do not take a vegetable or salad choice, and many restrict their choice of dessert to something similar each day. The amount we later pick off the floor or that goes into waste bins is frustrating, baffling and troubling. It does demonstrate the gulf between offer and uptake. The answer to this is far from simple: when I asked parents whether they would support school in placing restrictions on what could be sent in as snacks the overwhelming response was to reject the idea of me being the arbiter of what was ‘healthy’. I cannot imagine a good level of support if I wanted to enforce taking and eating the full offer of fruit and veg with each meal. Money, what a surprise, would help, but it would need to be substantial.  A purpose-built and extra dining room would benefit the lunchtime experience, but our annual capital funding of less than £10,000 is never going to provide that. The Government’s grant of £24 million is only actually supporting 1,700 breakfast clubs – I say ‘only’ because there are more than 32,000 Primary Schools in the UK – and they are targeted at disadvantaged areas. The chance of our pupils benefiting is close to zero.

We avoid queues as far as absolutely possible by having an unusual staggered lunch break. The school was built for 360 pupils and having 485 means we would have 125 children queuing for a long time if we just kept the one start / end time. Effectively we save 240 children a day from queuing for 20 minutes each – a staggering 15,200 hours a year saved!  We do not force ‘second sitting’ classes to queue – but they do anyway! We have tried to improve this further when we investigated a portable servery arrangement to go in the hall, but the physical layout and logistics simply make it impossible. We are concerned a little by the shortness of time children spend at the servery hatch; it is here that staff might be able to introduce something new, fresh, healthy or extra. A second servery might help that. We support the return of trays and plates through staffing to reduce or remove queues at the back end of things. Daily observation tells us that all children are out of the hall and outside playing for at least 15 minutes each day, and that the last ones out are last because they choose to stay and chat in the hall.

Governors, in discussion with our school meal provider, recently asked if we could increase the cost of meals if it led to an improvement in quality of ingredients or the quality of meal provision by increasing staffing. We were told they is no mechanism for this.

What made me reply to Mr Zahawi’s letter was not a self-evaluation as ‘outstanding’ but the idea that a blanket letter is appropriate and that the answer (to a not necessarily significant issue) is within the school’s control. I suspect that many of the issues are Secondary School based, so why write to Primary Schools at all? And with our one-hall-does-all what exactly can we do to improve the place children eat?

A copy of the letter from Mr Zahawi is available from this link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-responsibilities-around-school-food-a-letter-to-schools

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