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....
School's current average attendance: 98.4%
National average for Spring term 2018: 95.8%
That difference is just plus 2.6%, hardly anything it might seem, but it means a huge amount.
It is 2,390 extra days of school for our pupils in a year.
That's the equivalent of 12 pupil school years extra attendance and learning.
- No wonder our results are good - we teach each child an average of 5 more days each year.
- No wonder we use this to justify our judgement as providing valued and valuable education - didn't like and value school and children would be off more.
- No wonder school feels full - because of that average extra 12 children each day.
- No wonder staff have to work hard and long - more marking and prep than in the average school.
- No wonder our resources are stretched - schools get paid whether pupils actually attend or not.
I choose to assume we are not seen as cheap and legally required child-care, but as the silver bullet to overcome poverty and the key to success. I choose to assume parents see us as doing a good job by their children. And when combined with the incredibly low 'mobility rate' (the number of moves in and out of school, on and off roll) - one fifth the Sheffield average - and we can see that parents and pupils like being here, value what we provide and are happy to stay.
Obviously it is far more complicated than that - parents work and need child care, parents who are well-educated and qualified themselves see the value of education, relative wealth brings better health, alternatives are actually limited in an area where all schools are full, and so on.
But daily attendance is very high - well done everyone who makes that happen.
Pupil Mobility is a measure of pupil movement during the academic year. The calculation is simple: add all the movements in and out and express that as a percentage of the number on roll. Our Pupil Mobility measure is at its lowest level in 7 years, at just 2.6%. It is now less than one fifth of the Sheffield average. There were just 11 pupils leaving or joining our school during term time in the last 12 months.
Parents can be worried about a negative impact on their children if they move during a key stage. They should be assured by the research evidence that shows that any negative impact is actually due to other factors, such as EAL, economic disadvantage and SEN. When simply accounting for prior attainment at the end of key stage 1, there is no negative impact on attainment due to moving schools.
The gross impact is much harder to measure. The schools with the highest levels of pupil mobility are also those with highest levels of disadvantage. There are correlations and coincidences in the data groups, but not necessarily any causal link. Pupil movement may be driven by four causes and circumstances and we can easily see how each might lead to both disadvantage and lower attainment:
- International migration — Children joining / leaving schools as a result of families moving from / to countries overseas
- Internal migration — Children joining / leaving schools as a result of families moving home within the UK, whether over long or short distances
- Institutional movement — Children changing schools without moving home, including exclusions and voluntary transfers
- Individual movement — Children changing schools as a result of moving alone, such as moves between separated parents or to live with foster parents.
Conversely and positively we can look at each of these factors as a factor likely to indicate aspiration and hope for improvement. International migration may be to escape hardship but is also a movement towards better, and presumably betterment. Which parent ever wanted less for their child than they enjoyed? Moving home and city (or just catchment area) can be as a result of new careers, career advancement and ‘making it good’. With it comes the chance to enjoy the schools offered in the new area. The vast abundance of data and other information about schools is supposed to allow parents to state their preference of school, and if they feel one is not right for their child then they have the right to seek a move to another. (This does require spaces to be available of course.) In an urban area parents often have to choose from many nearby schools, and they do do so for many reasons. Almost always it is sought for the child’s best interests. A child moving home does not mean a school move will have to happen, but hopefully the home change is also a positive one, and supports the child’s growth and development.
So, very few children leave Lydgate Junior School mid-year (maybe 5 or 6 in any 12 months), and a similar small number join us (coming in from a waiting list or via and Admission Appeal Panel decision). I remain convinced that the reason so few children leave is because we do provide a very good school experience for every pupil. We look after each well, and we promote very good standards of learning. That we always fill vacancies is for the same reasons: it is recognised that we do a good job for families and children. Sheffield is a great place to be. S10 is a great area within that city, with vibrant, welcoming, communities. People want to be here; they have made choices and, possibly, sacrifices to do so. When someone wants to move into the area, or get their child into a school in the area, it is because they want all these good things for their families.
Pupil Mobility can be used an indicator of other things. When it is low it indicates stable communities with all the advantages that brings. It is hard to find a downside to low Pupil Mobility in fact.
Social mobility is the movement of an individual or family between social strata relative to their current position. This is often linked to educational achievement and income. Unless all schools can give the same outcomes for all pupils, and then this lead to equality of opportunity at the next stage, parents will continue to look for a school that does better than the other so that their child has a better chance on life. Research suggests that we aren’t doing so well – children of rich parents stay rich and children of poor parents stay poor, by and large. The educational achievement gap can be as much as three years’ worth by the age of 15 between children from different advantage backgrounds.
That low mobility then seems to get in the way of the aspirational, ambitious parent. They perhaps see admission to a good school with good results as a passport to social mobility, but with no places available the door is simply closed. We are full, and at 120 pupils more than the school original design. We cannot simply take more pupils to support a social mobility goal as we have no room to take them into.
I do not have an answer other than the same line that has been stated over and over by politicians and education leaders at all levels for as long as I have been a school leader – every child deserves a good school, every community should have a good school, and every school should be a good school. (I suppose that most are just that already.)
A point of tension in reviewing our Homework Policy is what ‘supporting’ or ‘encouraging’ children to complete each homework activity looks like. Would the correct synonym be, ' offer', 'reward', 'challenge', 'prompt', 'help', 'enable', 'make', 'require'...?
We have had initial conversations at Senior Leadership level. Our collective view was that we should be expecting parents to support their child, us and the Policy, ensuring each piece is at least given a reasonably good effort.
The way School Admissions work came into the discussion: parents express a preference to have their children admitted to our school. We are always over-subscribed and never have children allocated places here other than as a choice of the parents. If parents chose to send their children here, can’t we assume they are ‘buying in’ to what we offer (and, by association, what we expect)?
We (the SLT) think that, if our published Policy on homework states that we give homework each week, including a minimum amount of reading time, then this should be supported by parents.
I have since wondered if we do not need to re-institute the ‘Home – School Agreement’ (H-SA), a contract of sorts that states what school will provide by level of service, ethos and commitment, and that parents also sign to show their commitment to their responsibilities. With our interest in ‘pupil voice’ we would have pupils sign it, too.
Would a separate contract be necessary, though, and could it potentially confuse and dilute agreements if an H-SA also covers things like attendance, uniform and behaviour?
The government scrapped a requirement for home - school agreements back in January 2016. First introduced in 1999 for governing bodies of schools in England, the H-SA set out a school’s aims, values and responsibilities, and expectations of pupils and parents. The obligation to publish and collect was removed in order to “cut red tape” and free schools of a “one-size-fits-all, prescriptive approach to engaging with parents”.
The change did not mean schools could not continue with home-school agreements if they wished to. (One of those situations where being told ‘you do not have’ to is not quite the same as ‘do not’.)
Before rushing into a process of writing, sampling, testing and approving, I thought maybe I should carry out some reading round an obvious question – did they work?
The definitive, published, national research is locally-sourced, coming from four academics at Sheffield Hallam University on behalf of the, then, Department for Education and Skills.
It is not a very positive report:
Bastiani, 199, saw it as a "no nonsense approach to sorting things out" and as a government attempt to deprive parents of their "freedom... to do things on their own terms and in their own way."
The contract was seen as a statement combining expectations and demands without much consideration to families' disagreement with expectations.
Schools (in the study) thought HSAs had had a positive impact on communication of school expectations and responsibilities, and 30% or more thought it had had a positive impact on parents and teachers working together, parents supporting their children’s learning at home, communicating the school role, pupil behaviour and homework.
Over three quarters of schools reported that at least 75% of parents signed the agreement.
70% thought it made no impact on homework.
The Report measured perception of impact, not actual impact. The researchers acknowledged this, but said it was impossible to isolate this one factor and its impact, when so many changes in system and curriculum have happened over the same period.
So I now hold a number of questions, and possibly one answer.
- What if parents don’t sign? Or pupils?
- What, then, if they do not carry out every expectation?
- Are there to be rewards and sanctions?
- Does supporting each Policy really have to be made explicit?
- What about each year, when we admit new pupils and their parents; do we have to go through the consultation process annually?
- What about things that change once you have ‘bought in’ (such as online behaviour in new forums)?
- If we can boil down all that School is about to one, one-page, document, why do we have all the 42-page ones?
- How do we accommodate the deeply-held, committed, view points of the dissenters? Are they not allowed to disagree?
- Is there a difference in how we support a child’s learning due to parents’ reasons for their behaviour? (The parent who chooses not to support the H-SA and the parent who cannot.) Does that not limit the child’s learning for something they have no control over? Is that fair to the child?
We (I say, ‘we’ when I mean I delegated) recently ran a toolkit check on our ‘website compliance’ and it threw up a few things to sort out, one of which was reviewing and re-approving Policies that had reached their review dates. We might just start by engaging parents and their representative Governors in reviewing the Homework Policy and sharing it over and over in an attempt to inform and persuade and to build commitment. Expect this to be the focus of a survey, the topic of a ‘Round Table’ and something we ask pupils about through School Council.
Would a negative Ofsted outcome at our next Inspection directly lead to a fall in pupil numbers? Would it threaten the stability of school’s budget, staffing and provision because of the subsequent loss of income?
Would a positive outcome lead to increased demand for places? Would it mean even less pupil, and staff, movement, and ensure a stable income?
Confidently predicting the future is near-impossible in even the simplest situations, with limited factors at play. In this sort of situation there are far too many factors involved for us to begin guess, or even to know what might happen.
I am already involved in meeting, and touring school with, parents of prospective pupils for Y3 in 2018. The closing date for applications is 15th January 2018, just nine school weeks away. What do these parents look for? There is a mass of information available for parents to use, and some interesting research on what actually influences decisions about which schools to put as 1, 2 and 3 on the application form.
The British Social Attitudes Survey ( http://natcen.ac.uk/our-research/research/british-social-attitudes/ ) reveals a great deal, and some of its findings are quite challenging.
School Performance (league tables) data has been published for many years. Ofsted reports for each school and setting are readily available on-line. ParentView is an online database that shows the views of current and past years’ parents to a short series of questions. Local communities have opinion. School admissions services can tell parents which schools are over-subscribed and which, typically, have spare capacity (a possible ‘empty pub’ phenomenon example for selecting a school). School put on open-evenings, tours, visits, handbooks, sessions for pupils to visit for lessons and experiences. Older siblings probably have tales to tell, and thus many parents have prior personal knowledge. In areas with very stable populations some parents may have attended the local school themselves.
One ‘make or break’ fear ahead of an Ofsted Inspection is that a negative outcome might lead to parents voting with their feet (or application for admission) and take their children elsewhere. The research suggests that parents aren’t actually that shallow.
NFER research, using that Social Attitudes Survey data in 2016, suggests that Ofsted grading was only the fourth top factor in their choice, after:
- A school that suits my child (48%),
- Location (46%),
- Behaviour that promotes learning (43%).
Examination results were a distant sixth factor, only influencing 32% of parents.
Because the Survey holds data in detail it also reveals much about differences in attitudes linked to income. With ‘disadvantage’ (generally meaning eligibility to Fee School Meals) very low at our school, around a third of the national average, we can assume that mean household incomes for our parent body fall above the ‘Lower Income’ bracket. ‘Higher Income’ parents are less influenced by location, the qualifications of teachers or a school’s reputation for taking parent views into account. They are more influenced than ‘Lower Income’ parents by discipline, exam results and the effectiveness of the school’s senior leadership team. ‘Lower Income’ parents are slightly more likely to let the child decide (a difference of 7%), and ‘Higher Income’ parents are far more likely to discuss choices with other parents (a difference of 19%).
A negative Inspection that nonetheless says learning behaviour is sound may have little or no impact,
A negative Inspection that highlights examination results that are not as good as they should be may have impact on the parents of the majority of children at our school,
A negative Inspection that says behaviour is negatively affecting learning would be the outcome most likely to trouble our parent body.
A positive outcome from an Inspection that nonetheless highlights some attainment or progress shortfall might still have a negative impact on the majority of our parents,
A positive outcome from Inspection that says that leadership and management could improve might still concern the majority of our parent body, and
A positive outcome that highlights good grades, good behaviour and a leadership team that are aware of the school’s strengths and weaknesses is possibly the only outcome that satisfies all sections of the parent body.
Realistically, however, it simply isn’t as simple as that. An Inspection grade can only impact on admission numbers and pupil on roll numbers when the parents have a real choice and available alternative option. When the nearest school with spaces is at least two buses or 2.5 miles and a couple of Sheffield’s hills away moving school is not really an option for more than a very few children and parents.
The only option, and the one we embrace, is making sure that we provide that good school locally that every family wants and every child deserves.
Our next Inspection will, we expect, lead to a positive outcome. It will not, however, lead to an increase in pupil numbers because we are full already, have been full for years, and our feeder school is full in the next three years. We do not expand to accommodate every application. Next week, at the Autumn Term meeting, I am sure the Governing Body will once again confirm the Indicative Admission Number at 120 pupils per year group for 2018 admission.
When asked, ‘Do you enjoy being a teacher / Headteacher?’ I could just tell folks about the Friday just gone. It was a privilege, a delight and an eye-opener to take part in the brilliant range of activities such as I did.
I spent half an hour before school setting up for the day, writing up some notes from the day before, and using the freedoms of Headship to have my daily fun when writing up the notice board in the staffroom. (I choose to post something quirky / me each day, often based on the news or an anniversary.)
A few brief chats followed, with staff back from absence, students on how their week is going, and colleagues with a need for an answer.
I watched, with a colleague, a colleague teach a maths lesson using the ‘mastery maths’ approach. Watching others at work is something that never loses value or disappoints, and allows us to make a difference. We find talent in unexpected areas at times and can then recommend the sharing of really good practice. Our knowledge increased.
After a review with the colleague who shared the observation I went to set up for the lesson I was teaching in Year 3 – RE lesson two, understanding that Christians are told to love their neighbours. I was to be watched, incidentally, by one of our teacher training students, so I needed to be good having watched her earlier in the week. Turns out that the children have heard and seen the story of The Good Samaritan a few times before – no surprise, and so I was ready for this. The children were delightful, amusing, keen, happy, engaged, on form and great to work with. The lesson used video, autobiography, pictures, pupil talk, question and answer, drawing, writing, modelling and me eating a few pre-dunked malted milk biscuits (instead of sharing them or giving the whole lot away). I enjoyed the lesson, the children enjoyed the lesson, the observer enjoyed the lesson, and the children told me exactly and articulately the learning from the lesson.
I spent lunch with a pupil, ensuring he had a safe time and could return to class ready for the afternoon. We ate, we chatted, we played a couple of games of Connect Four, we talked about my Easter Egg Maths Challenge. It worked just fine.
I rushed across to give feedback to the colleague I watch teach in the morning before she was due back in class for the afternoon. It is the best form of training we have available, perhaps, and certainly the one most easily available to us and most affordable. It makes a difference directly.
Then it was off to our Learning Partnership (S10LP) half-termly Headteacher meeting, at one of the other schools. We talked admission numbers, national funding formula, high needs crisis funding, Ofsted and Pupil Premium, the impact of local moderation working, suggestions for combined funding for lead Headteacher work in SEN, the PE Pledge, mental health training opportunities, a request to join us from another school (not in S10), Tracking data systems, vacancies and the coming retirement of two of those present. Frank, funny and friendly conversation with one or two decisions (rather than just a moan and groan session). Plus there were strawberries and chocolate pieces.
It was back to school by 3:30. I spent 30 minutes or so with one of the teacher training students who has an interview next week. We practiced a q & a session, helping her to explore her ideas, preferences and experiential learning. We talked through the possibilities of the practical task she has to do at interview, and how to make the best impression of her skills and abilities as a teacher by NOT talking all the time available. An enjoyable and fulfilling activity this one – the greatest thing we get to do is appoint staff, and when we do we change lives.
Finished off back in my Office, filing, sorting, wrapping up a few things, and dealing with a few of the in-box of emails. It was pleasing to see how much had been achieved in one week.
As I left (5:45 p.m.), changed and ready for a run up the hill to Ringinglow, I saw a colleague loading the boot of her car with the cross country team flag and vests. Saturday morning saw the Y3 & 4 team at Hillsborough Arena for the relays – another totally free and totally brilliant sporting event. And so Friday becomes Saturday, and on Sunday I bought rhubarb crowns for our soon-to-be-planted rhubarb triangular bed. Love it.