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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 the School Governors, 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 Mrs Grimsley.We are also very lucky to be helped by Mrs Ainsworth, Mrs Cooper, Mr Jenkinson and Mrs Hornsey. 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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09 Jun 2018

Is there a future for School Uniform?

In the week that saw parents in a small region of France (Provins) vote to introduce school uniform (against that nation’s norm), and when our Year 4 classes are debating hot topics (Y4S/D were arguing the points around uniform), I’m asking your opinion.

Our Uniform Policy was introduced some years ago after over-whelming support by the then parent body. As far as I know, that group has not been asked for a confirmation since. The Policy statement talks about that parent support; but today’s parents are not those same people. So what do you think today? Is uniform still right? Is what we ask for practical, reasonable, suitable, reasonably priced? Setting the right tone? Open for enough individual variation? Helpful for children with specific needs? Non-discriminatory?

There’s a Survey Monkey link at the bottom of this blog if you’d like to comment.

Uniform will be one of the topics for our ‘Round Table Discussions’ next year.

Currently we ask for:

Dark royal blue sweatshirt, cardigan or fleece.

White or blue shirt or polo shirt.

Black, navy or grey trousers. Plain black, navy or grey jeans with no may be worn.

Headscarves should be blue, black or white.

Tights should be black, plain grey, navy or a neutral colour.

Sensible shoes, boots or trainers.

For those children who wish to wear something lighter in the summer months:

Gingham dress in blue & white, red & white or yellow & white.

Black, navy, grey or blue shorts (from above the ankle to just above the knee).

Sandals or crocs.

Jewellery – only watches and sleeper/stud earrings are allowed.

We have around 99% engagement / agreement, but we are having to be tight on this currently with some less-willing or less-aware pupils.

Questions:

Keep the uniform as it is?

Relax the uniform to ‘optional’?

Do away with a uniform totally?

Go for a standout colour instead of a plain-old blue?

Introduce a more formal code, such as blazers and shirt and tie?

Have four separate colours for PE kit, one for each Team?

Just click the link to take part:

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/RJY9FSV

 

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04 Jun 2018

People only do things as a matter of principle when they know they are simply wrong

We serve refreshments in plastic or plastic-coated paper cups at our assemblies and performances and parent meetings.

Why, as a matter of politics and principle, have we not switched to ceramic only?

The simple answer is economics: each ceramic cup would have to be used up to 1,000 times before the additional energy and resource cost of producing that one mug outweighed the costs of producing 1,000 disposable cups. The additional costs of hot water and staffing to wash, dry and store all those mugs make it even less likely that we will swap. We can tie-up staff in washing cups or they can work with children. We can buy a great many more disposable cups for the price of the 60 to 100 ceramic mugs we’d need.

The reusable mug is only ‘better’ for the environment is it lasts that long and gets used that many times. It is really unlikely to ever be so at current pricing and resourcing levels. If we used ceramic mugs and used them once every day it would still take five years to cover the energy cost difference.

Can we afford to be better principled, or is it one of Kant’s duty-based ethics? Must we, or is the choice money-driven? As things stand we make our choice based, not on parent or environmental pressure, but on straight economics.

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26 May 2018

School Meals - to sit in or take out

Let’s call a spade a shovel, shall we, and just talk about the problems we have in ‘the dining room experience’?

It is too loud, too much food is wasted, the Hall can be cold in poor weather, some children are behaving poorly despite repeated warnings, shocking amounts of food are dropped on the floor, cutlery joins it too often, little fruit or vegetable is taken, fingers are often the chosen implement for feeding, and the whole thing is rushed.

Despite a defensive tendency, I will happily argue that anything and everything is possible. We could surely address every one these problems, as long as we accept the costs involved?

To reduce noise we could carpet the Hall, use acoustic-engineering to dampen echoes, have individual tray return stacks instead of a single collection trolley with a piles of plates, bowls and trays, and cutlery lobbed in a tray, have far fewer children in the Hall at one time, use more spaces for eating (such as the IT suite or a classroom), or build an extra dining space on-site.

To stop food waste we reduce portion sizes, or increase the quality of food, or ban playtime snacks outright, or force every child to clear their plate at every meal.

We have a one-way movement scheme in place due to numbers and space, so the rear door of the Hall is used as the exit. It is a single barrier and heat escapes and cold enters every time it is opened. The solution would be a ‘heat curtain’ of sufficient strength or an extension beyond the Hall to act as an air lock.

This month’s Behaviour Incident reports from lunchtime staff show four occasions on which (Year 6) pupils have been admonished for throwing food, and a couple of taking someone else’s food and throwing it around, a couple for shouting in the Hall. Solutions include closer supervision of those children, reminders about behaviour expectations, sanctions including not sitting with their friends, separate eating time for those children, or exclusion at lunchtime, hoping it goes away, and not allowing these children in the Hall at all.

We had one incident where a pupil was standing on the seat and shouting across the Hall. I could simply exclude that child at lunchtimes (each lunchtime exclusion counts as a half day, and as I can exclude for up to 15 days without making it permanent the exclusion could last most of the next half term.)

Food on the floor includes whole pieces of fish, chips, grapes, slices of bread, sandwich filling, new potatoes, slices of fruit, crackers, sliced cheese, potato wedges, … As well as the waste and carelessness / selfishness of the act it means that the floor has to be washed each day after lunch and so the afternoon access for PE is delayed. With only the one Hall we could do without the delay. We try to spot it happening but very rarely do. Any attempt to persuade a child to pick it up is met with denial that it is theirs. Possible solutions include: eating in silence, facing the table squarely, having a place inspected before permission is given to leave, wearing pelican bibs, spoon-feeding, or children responding to our repeated requests to be more responsible.

Cutlery gets dropped all along the way, from the trays in the servery right through to the collection and disposal point, ‘Rosie’. It just doesn’t seem to get picked up by children – they perhaps do not notice it on the floor. Perhaps we need pots of cutlery on the tables, or wider trays so plate, bowl, cup and cutlery have a bit more room, a ‘count them out and count them back’ approach to issuing cutlery, or just to accept some spillage as inevitable when 477 are passing through for dinner.

School dinners have a 100% record of meeting the school food standards. It’s part of the contract with Taylor Shaw. But what is on a child’s plate, and what they actually eat, is not the same as what is on offer, because we do not ever force a child to take from the full range available. If they didn’t want any from the baked beans, green beans, cucumber, sweetcorn, cherry tomatoes, salad leaves, mandarin orange slices, fruit salad or fresh whole fruit on offer yesterday we did not make them take any. I do and will comment to children as I notice ‘no fruit, no veg?’ but it draws little more than a wry smile. We think that putting it on a plate regardless will simply create waste and friction, so we don’t. What’s to be done: accept it as inevitable (a recurring option), put veg / fruit on every plate, insist at least one portion is selected, do away with the School Food Standards, continue to prompt, advertise the offer to parents and see if generational pressure might work, educate, hide veg / fruit in pies, biscuits, sauces, custard, yoghurt, pizza topping, try to enforce buy in or opt out (take the full offer or do not take it at all), model by adults taking a school meal.

I do acknowledge the global creep of Americanisation in all things, including how we eat, and the rise of Street Food. But schools are supposed, and are expected, to teach more than just the core curriculum. So, old-fashioned as it may seem, we will continue to distribute knives and forks and expect children to use them. Not as ‘lollipop sticks’ either, with a whole sausage skewered onto the fork, but to cut up into bite sized pieces, and eat neatly. The ever-popular baked potato seems to defeat many attempts at using a knife to cut up food, with just the inner soft potato spooned out. We could go all-out on Street Food and finger food menus I suppose, and alleviate the problem of dropped cutlery at the same time, but it does little for manners. We could remind, expect, cajole, reward, praise, teach, demonstrate, assist, engage the support of parents, make food softer / liquid, not serve anything that is begging to be picked up in fingers (chips, wedges, biscuits, pizza, sliced bread, carrot sticks, pasta salad) and only serve broth, and soup and stews and casseroles.

An academic study by a leading nutritionist showed that children typically spend very little time at the hatch choosing their meal. The Sheffield School Meal Study (The School Food Plan and the social context of food in schools: Caroline Sarojini Hart, Mar 2016) wrote: many children preferred to eat quickly, or not eat the whole meal, in order to have more time to play. Time to eat was limited by the need to get many children in and out of dining spaces that could not cater to all pupils at once. (The photo of a ‘well-stocked, large, self-service salad bar’ (Figure 3) is from our school, by the way.)  We could build a second dining area, spread lunch break over two hours, making eating and playing separate times so all of one period was in the Hall, have a formal Breakfast Club then Snack Break and have lunch at the end of the school day giving a limitless period to go play, or continue to persuade children not to queue if they are on second sitting – they could go play first and be called when needed.

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/0305764X.2016.1158783

We will be working on this. Some are simply in the category of unacceptable and will be directly challenged. Some will go to School Council to get pupils support that way. Some will be part of discussions with Taylor Shaw, and others will go out to parents.

I have put out a call for parents to come and sample a school lunch and lunchtime, and then participate in a Round Table conversation on their thoughts and observations. That may also produce some alternative insights. In the meantime we have a legal duty to provide a hot meal every day, and to provide free meals for those that qualify. We will continue to work with children to try to make the experience of every child better than it has been recently.

 

 

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18 May 2018

Is everything ‘measurable’, and do only those things matter which can measured easily?

This was the annual ‘SATs’ week for 700,000 children in Year 6, including every last one of our 120 Year 6 pupils.

By Friday lunchtime every single one of our Year 6 pupils had completed every single one of the tests set.

 

And you might well think that this is just how it should be. But two of the children were sick on Monday and went home to miss the next day or two.  Another pupil attends a different setting for part of the week and so missed tests back with us on two mornings.

So here’s an indication of qualities and attitudes, rather than knowledge or skills: all three children, and their parents, wanted to complete the full suite of tests. There are systems available now that allow this to happen (as long as I apply for and gain permission) through a timetable variation.

When they returned I applied and gained the necessary nods of approval from the appropriate body. Though it was inconvenient for us and required some difficult reorganisation, we staffed it properly to ensure the secure running of their tests.

Just consider what they did; they had been off ill, or educated off-site, and none of them actually had to sit the tests, but all wanted to and asked to. There is no scale of resilience or determination, but if they are both binary qualities all three children score 1 in both measures.

I honestly have no idea how they will fare when it comes to marks and standards – for one thing I am not allowed to even look at the test papers once the children have completed them. I do know that these three (along with all the other children across the country who have tried so hard) deserve to get full marks. The external marker has no idea when each child sat the tests they are marking and so no allowance is made. The mark they get will only record their score in the test. So does the approach, attitude, stick-at-it-ability not matter nor get recorded?

Answer: yes and yes. We have noted it, and will report it to parents in the children’s Reports at the end of the year. That’s one of the things Reports do that raw test scores cannot. It is why we still write prose as well as report scores.

Proud of them, I am.

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11 May 2018

It cuts both ways – how one action can be seen in different ways

As the vast majority of our pupils leave school through the ‘top gate’ towards Manchester Road, and there are far more parents there, I made the change some time ago to be at that gate rather than on the top playground within the site at 3:15.

The literature on discipline, parent views, trust, happiness of staff and pupils and pupil academic progress all points towards school leaders being highly visible.

Professor and Dame, Alison Peacock (CEO, Chartered College of Teaching) references key leadership practices that build trust in her book Learning without limits. She lists visibility as sixth in her top ten ‘Leadership Practices’. She says that, ‘Headteachers have to be omnipresent and regularly seen in and around school by the whole school population’.

Visibility is a big issue in any school and Headteachers should not be noted for their absence at key points in the day when being seen really matters. Everyone notices this; parents, pupils and staff. If a Headteacher is rarely seen first thing in the morning or is office-bound at home-time then these are valuable missed opportunities to build trust, inspire confidence and communicate.

And so we, my Deputy and I, are at the gate as often as we possibly can, at both ends of the day.

By being at the gate we can welcome children, calm issues, assist parents, answer queries, and give an assurance to parents that we are in school, working hard each day to help their children’s learning and promoting the best behaviour and discipline.

All very well-intended and purposeful, well-thought out and researched.

Except some people read other things into our actions. Our being at the gate has been seen by some parents as a deliberate barrier and an obstacle to their talking to teachers.

Not sure what we are to do, but I have put a short piece in the Newsletter trying to allay this fear.

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