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 & Mrs Finney (3N/R) and Miss Wall (3AW). We have three Teaching Assistants who work within the team: Mrs Allen, Mrs Dawes and Mr Gartrell.
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....
On a day where the news was all about the day before’s General Election, the annual School Pupil Performance Tables were published.
Schools are far, far more than can be described in a simple set of results, but numbers can make for a good read and a bit of a puzzle over. I do urge everyone to consider context when looking at figures – they are simplistic and give very little contextual background. But here are some highlights:
Search for all Primary Schools in Sheffield, choose the radius of search and, for us, Primary Schools in the maintained sector.
By looking at the comparison group (My Schools – 85 schools) you see that Lydgate Junior School is / was:
First out of 85 schools on percentage of pupils attaining the expected standard in all three subject areas (reading, writing and maths),
12% to 23% ahead of national average on the same measure over the last three years,
Lowest funded per pupil,
Fifth best on reading progress score,
Tenth best on maths progress score,
Tenth best on percentage of pupils achieving the higher standards in all three areas,
5%, 6% and 7% ahead of national average on the same measure over the last three years,
Third best on average score in maths,
Third best attendance rate.
All this with the ninth highest Pupil : Teacher ratio in the comparison group (25.6 : 1 compared to a national average of 20.7 : 1) and in a Junior School (where, it is recognised, progress is lower on average).
One of the things that can exasperate parents is staff absence. We have had a little staff absence to deal with this week even though it is the first week of term. With fifty six members of staff it is unsurprising that some colleagues will be out of school in any one week. This week we have had colleagues undertaking training prior to their classes starting swimming lessons next week; developing Governing Body Clerking skills; attending a family funeral; keeping a hospital consultant appointment (in a part-time hospital department); continuing their maternity leave and being off sick. All of these are totally justifiable and unavoidable. (They add up to around 9.75 days, or 4% of working days this week. Pupil absence this week was around 4% as well.) On the plus side we saw part-time staff in school on days they do not work, to get set up for their own start of term.
We do have to accept that no-one wants to be ill, incapacitated or absent due to resolving some family crisis. And absence does, pretty much, have to be authorised, just as it mostly must be when pupils are absent.
We apply the same levels of justification for both – a pupil’s absence due to illness will be authorised, and so will that of a member of staff. The difference is most marked in the detail provided as guidance to Headteachers for the two groups – we have a full HR Model Policy for staff leave of absence whereas the Government simply said that Headteachers have discretion around authorising pupil Leave. I try to maintain a similar set of criteria and grant leave for the same reasons and durations.
We have, alongside the policies on granting Leave of Absence, parallel policies on managing attendance. Pupil absence can lead to Attendance Service (part of MAST) intervention. Staff absence can lead to discipline or capability proceedings. Both are formal proceedings and both have trigger absence levels.
While I am writing this. Radio 2 is playing ‘We’re in the Money’, which school certainly isn’t. Yet the financial cost of cover is not the first priority in making decisions about covering staff absence; quality and continuity are our top considerations. There are many cheap options we simply rejected a long time ago and do not even consider seriously, such as splitting classes, using teaching assistants to stand in for teachers, removing teachers’ entitlements to release, study leave, only engaging the cheapest possible supply staff, never training in school time, refusing all staff absence, misusing student teachers on placement and leaving them without supervision.
Instead, we make use of regular, trusted, supply staff who know the school and the children well, or our own staff who may be willing to work additional hours on top of their part-time contracts. The children will recognise these occasional supply staff as school staff because we use only a core few to meet the vast majority of our needs. We aim to make this seamless, whether we know about an absence well in advance (something like a professional development opportunity) or that same morning (something like staff illness). I believe we do a really good job of this.
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.
- how well a person, machine, etc. does a piece of work or an activity
- the action of entertaining other people by dancing, singing,acting, or playing music:
a performance (mainly uk informal)
- an action or type of behaviour that involves a lot of attention to detail or to small matters that are not important
DfE has published the annual ‘Performance Tables’ this week for end of Key Stage 2 assessments in 2018.
All the usual caveats must be applied when you read the data – are you comparing like with like, is it progress or attainment that matters, reading or maths, funding – does that matter, disadvantage levels, what does the data hide, why publish average teacher salary, what about the private sector, why are so many Academies excluded, how can you tell if small schools do well if their data isn’t published, Infant Schools have no data, is this a one-year snap shot or a three year average?
Dig back through this blog series and you will find me writing about a question at interview (how would you place the school) and about more important things than scores and gloating.
Well, we still are not top of the table, but we are doing very well, thank you. Out of Sheffield’s fourteen Junior Schools (surely a sensible comparison set) we have the:
- second lowest absence
- third highest percentage meeting the 'combined' (reading, writing and maths) expected standard
- second highest reading progress score
- third highest writing progress score
- second highest maths progress score
- fourth highest percentage for higher standard for 'combined'
- fourth highest average score in reading, and
- fourth highest average score in maths,
- AND all with the fourth largest pupil to teacher ratio.
Year 4 thrilled a hallful of parents with the annual pantomime this morning in a demonstration of a different definition of ‘performance’. Huge applause and appreciation was heard and felt because it was brilliant. The story was ‘Cinderella’ but with plenty of twists included. Cinderella was forced to change her life goals once she saw how shallow and desperate the Prince was, and found happiness somewhere else entirely.
The singing was amazing – harmonies and split parts, solos and choruses, actions and dancing. Words were clear as a bell, and jokes were delivered with comic timing.
This was the sort of performance I really wouldn’t mind being judged on.
I hope we didn’t make too much of ‘a performance’ in our organisation and control around FOLA’s Christmas discos. These are run by the volunteer parent team, with a good slice of staff support. They want to be safe and sure and confident they have all the bases covered, and so felt the need to have booking tickets available, and to put out an indicative limit on attendance numbers.
We had two very busy events in the one evening and a whole lot of fun was had, but the volume of email, text and message must have added enormously to their stress leading up to opening the doors.
I think they did an excellent job.
It’s been another really good week.
‘Do you come here often?’ is not the same as, ‘Do you come here regularly?’
The High Court decision this week on the ‘Isle of Wight holiday in school term time’ case (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-36292511) seems at odds with the dictionary definition of ‘regular’ at first glance.
The ruling, however, seems to be about whether ‘often’ is the same as ‘regularly’. Parents are required to ensure that their children attend school ‘regularly’. None involved in the case just at Court seems to dispute that piece of Law, but the argument was around what constitutes ‘regular attendance’.
The dictionary seems fairly clear to me – frequency is a subjective thing –though you can measure it and record it and state it, but what constitutes ‘frequent’ is arbitrary. Someone has to decide how often an event has to happen in order that it is frequent. The Government increased the threshold for what is known as ‘persistent absence’ from 85% to 90% (School Census Guide 2014/2015 April 2015). From this we might assume that Government thinks that frequent attendance at school is anything more than 90% of the year. That still allows any child to miss 19 school days a year, whether authorised or not, and still not be considered to be a ‘persistent absentee’.
‘Regular’ is somewhat different: regularity is the occurrence of a repeated event with the same time period in-between – every five seconds, 1,000 times per second, each hour, once a day every day, once every Preston Guild, on Wednesdays, when there’s an R in the month, and so on. The regularity of an event occurring is a statement of its frequency, but it does not follow that a regular event happens very often. Writing this blog every week – that’s regular but not necessarily what anyone would call frequent or often.
I like to extend arguments to the absurd limits to test the sense or otherwise of what is being proposed. Try that here and up come some pretty stupid thoughts:
- If regular attendance is what we are after, how about if a child attends school Friday only, but every Friday? It’s certainly regular.
- If you can miss a couple of weeks a year and still have attendance considered to be regular, can you miss 34 weeks?
- If Government increases the ‘persistent absence’ threshold to 95%, has it changed the definition in commonly-held meaning of ‘regular’?
- If a child misses only one day a year, but it is the same day each year (say, March 5th), is that not ‘regular non-attendance’?
- Do we apply the 90% threshold after just the first week (child misses one day), or wait until the end of the year (19 days), or at any point when it becomes impossible for a child to make 90% plus (having missed 19 days in total - allowing a five day absence in term time for whatever the parent chooses)?
There’s some thought that the threat of a fine or a court appearance and possible criminal record is driving parents to ensuring better attendance at school. Our school attendance rate is up (98.8% last week), yet we have not yet applied for the issue of a Fixed Penalty over unauthorised leave in term time. There’s also concern about there being another example of a ‘Postcode Lottery’ in all this – some schools and some local authorities are doing this differently (in Wiltshire the Code of Conduct says a Fixed Penalty ‘will’ be issued, in Bradford theirs’ says ‘may’ be issued and in Sheffield schools ‘can’ request one be issued).
And right at the heart of it all is the discretion of the Headteacher – the Headteacher gets to decide on every application for Leave of Absence on Term Time. The national guidance is only guidance, and is terribly vague, as it has to be because each application is based on individual circumstances.
How I (and it has to be ‘I’ as I am the Headteacher) apply this in our school is based on the guidance and local discussions (with other Headteachers in the area), the pupil’s ordinary attendance (this year and last), whether leave for the same purpose has been taken before (annual breaks are clearly not ‘exceptional), what choice the parent(s) has over dates (unless they are the ones getting married, they probably did not choose the date for a family wedding), the reason for absence (birthday is ‘no’, funeral is ‘yes’), the duration of the absence (never to take it over the persistent absence threshold) and the verifiable truth of the application (that you really cannot get a ’plane to the destination the next day).